Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 2003 Dave Nealon

Story

I started fooling around with these guitar licks in 1982, sitting on the porch steps of AO house in Charlottesville, Virgina. It only took me 20 years to get around to writing some words. Doug Day had taught me Mississippi John Hurt's "Sally, Where'd You Get Your Liquor From?" No doubt you'll recognize a lick from it in this.

Lyrics

Proverbial Rag Words and Music by Dave Nealon Copyright 2002 Dave Nealon All Rights Reserved. They say you can’t go home, but I never went away. And if I ever get on the road, I wouldn’t last a day because I’m late to bed and late to rise; I’m sick and poor, and, moneywise, I’m another day older and deeper in debt, and I got bills to pay. I leapt before I looked. I didn’t stitch in time. I hesitated and lost, and now I popped all nine. Well, I wanted because I wasted and wasted because I hasted. I started from scratch when I should have cut and pasted. As the saying said I made my bed, but now I won’t lie. You can’t make a silk purse from the ear of a sow no matter how you try, so don’t throw your precious pearls on the ground in front of the swine. You get irked if you try to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the critter, and he don’t learn a thing. You might as well jump out of the pan and right into the fire. I couldn't even boil water because I watched the pot. I put my idle hands to work in the devil’s workshop. Well, it’s worse to be sorry than to be safe, but I cut off my nose despite my face, and it looks like I spoiled the child when I spared the rod. You can lead a horse to the water trough, but don’t look it in the mouth. That’s like shutting the barn door after the horse is out. They say that pride goeth before a fall, but it feels so good when you finally stop knocking your head on the wall. I woke a sleeping dog and tried to teach it new tricks. There’s more than one way to fall off a log, and oil and water don’t mix. Well, I counted my chicks before they hatched, and I put all them eggs in one little basket. I should have left well enough alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 1986 Dave Nealon

Story

Mostly glimpses of sun, cloud, and wind on the Atlantic shore, but some scenes from the garden harvest and camping on Beagle Gap, too. Author Hannah Hurnard described the falling creek as a picture of the servant seeking the lowest place and yet mystically experiencing the high country. I remember almost feeling the ocean spray and smelling the campfire and hearing the whippoorwill while hidden away in the basement studio in the wee hours of the morning.

Lyrics

Stream Descending Copyright 1986 Dave Nealon It was only a moment disappointment flickered in your eyes but I could see And in that same instant I saw forgiveness in your tears Like stacks of clouds against the sunrise I'm washed in glory a guilty man Tear back my skin, crack open my ribcage, beat my sleeping heart with your hand With you hand And let the freedom roll around you Firelight glow around you Feel your soul start to sway And let the sea spray blow around you High tide flow around you Southwind tow your heart away The truth of our happiness isn't like my tired mind, my wandering eyes Or the bad taste of the day's events and the things I said still in my mouth We're clean as sky And we're feeding from the garden in the year of the drought, but we're not dry Love is like a stream descending, leaping down the mountain; it feels high It feels high There is a pleasure that's not in the pleasant moment It's in the memory of struggles of the past A trip to the top involves a slide to the bottom The way to win is racing to be last We spent the night on a baldhead peak The wind that swept the mountains brushed us, too And the whippoorwill called all through the night Till just before the first pale light filtered through We hiked back down and hurried home, backpacks filled with the breath of mountain sky Love is like a stream descending, leaping down the mountain, it feels high It feels high
Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 2003 Dave Nealon

Story

From my unauthorized autobiography.

Lyrics

Cleaning Up My Act Copyright 2002 Dave Nealon Well, this time, baby, I'm cleaning up my act I'll break away from the pack, go on the attack And I won't relax till it's established fact That this time, baby, I'm cleaning up my act Last week's clothes are lying on the floor There's shirt and shoes and my wallet blocking the door It's hard to find a place to walk I say I'll do better, but that's just talk And the mess just piles up ever more and more Every flat surface becomes a shelf instead The chair, the table, the sofa and the bed The papers are scattered all over the rug I just hope the mice chase away the bugs And the piles of books I still haven't read Well, I got so excited when I finally got it straight I called her and invited her to see my spotless place But she said she was looking for clean of a different kind What I really want is to clean your dirty mind Well, this time I won't leave no sack unpacked About time I straightened up this ramshackle shack I'm gonna extract, detract, weedwhack, ransack Leave nothing intact that might serve to distract In fact, to be exact, I'm cleaning up my act
Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 1999 Dave Nealon

Story

Branches of Smith Creek drain the dales of our neighborhood into the North Fork of the Shenandoah. I wrote Over and Around while riding out a fairly mild hurricane on Chincoteague Island. Something about my daughters' fear and excitement and trust worked on me. The last stanza is for a good friend who stayed loyal despite my poor judgment.

Lyrics

Over and Around Copyright 1999 Dave Nealon Lacey Spring, Virginia Waves surge over me, rush toward shore I dive quiet just below Rip tide pushes; currents pull In the power of ocean flow Over and around, Over and around Over and around You’re washing me Over and around, Over and around Over and around like foaming seas Inspiration is spirit-wind Breathes a word that’s always true Endless space behind the sky Deep black fades to windy blue Over and around, Over and around Over and around, You brush by me Over and around, Over and around Over and around October breeze Sway of hammock rolls me to sleep Sunshafts fall through lens of green Oak and poplar, locust, beech Quilted canopy for my dreams Over and around, Over and around Over and around, You shelter me Over and around, Over and around Over and around like spreading trees I never noticed, I’d just heard the poets And phrase catchers but I listened to the real thing this time Oaks rustle warnings and pines whisper calming And I want their message to change my mind Now I miss you every day since I’ve gone Never give up though you know me best You’re beside me in the storm I treasure most your forgiveness Over and around, Over and around Over and around, You comfort me Over and around, Over and around Over and around You’re my family
Nealon
01/01/2004
Copyright 2002 Dave Nealon

Story

Made this up by singing it to myself in the car on the way back to North Carolina after hearing a professor's presentation on her work in Africa. Somehow it brought into focus the intersection of failing to take risks and yet never being satisfied with what I've got.

Lyrics

Break Away Copyright 2002Dave Nealon

My life reminds me of that woman who impressed us with her slides Of the month she spent in Africa adopted by the tribe But there's synapses in her network with her global village friends And when she landed back in Virginia, it left too many loose ends

The poets all urge us to seize the day, but I step so cautiously By the time I make a decision the day seizes me And I'd need some initiative to leave here, but I'm stuck in my inertia so I stay Besides, it's me, not my surroundings; my own mindtrap I can't escape

I'm gonna break away tonight

I'm like that man with few talents Who's so afraid of risk That he buries all his potential And loses that little that's his And I'm chafing at the collar That keeps me jailed in fear An electric fence that's buried so no-one else even knows it's here

Just once I'd like to meet the challenge; tonight I'll take the dare To make something from nothing and reap where the ground bare Faith is insurance on your longings, down payment on your dreams And love defeats ambivalence, and hope is more than it seems

Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 1989 Dave Nealon

Story

Glimpses of the Caribbean and of citizens with sledge hammers at the Berlin Wall. Vague memories of reading a diatribe on colonial agriculture. Strange how ideas weave around each other.

Lyrics

Appearance give no indication Water blue and tropical sun But I hear whispers of desperation Mother sigh for her little one Aftermath of colonization Who survive this intrusion Land tied up in sugar plantation Institution of seclusion Institution of exclusion Each man pass through tribulation Recognize Lord of creation Brother and sister in jubilation You join I this celebration Blind and hungry developing nation Put the horse behind the cart Subdued with token occupation Revolution in they heart Evolution of delusion Watching walls of freedom fall Observers draw their own conclusions A hand is writing on the wall See the writing on the wall
Nealon
Copyright 2003 Dave Nealon

Story

I don't always do what I wish I would.

Lyrics

How can I feel so empty When I stuffed myself so full?
How could I drift so far And not even feel the tide's pull?
I change my heart, I change my mind Can I change my hands and feet?
Make a vow, reform my life Till I forget it next week

Like a panther in its paces You roam and patrol
Or a leopard's leap of bloodlust Out to devour my soul
But you can't have me I'm no-one's victim anymore
I was a man of peace Until you declared war

I don't want it I don't need it
I'd feel so much better if I didn't feel so good

You measure the merits of everything you do
I'm sure the irony is not lost on you
I waste my time when I have time to do as I please
Or I'm too casual to be at ease

Like a brick through my window That's your voice in my ear
You invade my every situation How'd you even get in here?
You overindulge my desires Take the place of my plans
A breadcrumb trail of might-have-beens Falls from my hands

Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 2000 Dave Nealon

Story

I was sawing on the fiddle in the back yard on a clear fall day and caught this one on the breeze.

Lyrics

The freckles flash beneath your eyes, the wind tosses your hair As you climb the ladder reaching for the apples way up there You toss them down to me earthbound till our basket’s past the brim I figure, hey, not a bad way to spend the days we’re in And there’s something in the fall sunshine As it blows across the orchard, and the cider smells like wine You know it won’t last long like this fading song But you long to hang on to fall sunshine The final flap of canvas as the wind fills up the sail We make no sound but splashing and leave nothing in our trail These hours of ease—the gift of the breeze—we take just what she gives I figure now I know somehow this is where my spirit lives And there’s something in the fall sunshine As it flashes on the lake and dances in your mind You know it won’t last long like this fading song And you long to hang on to fall sunshine But autumn doesn’t guarantee an easy time If you’re not splitting wood you’re always raking leaves A hurricane might bring the flood that sends your crops downstream Or you might resign yourself to the coming winter freeze But there’s something in the fall sunshine It’s just the eye of the storm, but I don’t mind You know it won’t last long like this fading song So you long to hang on to fall sunshine And there’s something in the fall sunshine Like a friend who can only stay here a short time You know it won’t last long but it gives your heart a song And you long to hang on to fall sunshine
Nealon
2004-01-01
Traditional

Story

We used to gather in a big circle in Prism Coffeehouse on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to jam. I'll never forget the sound of 5 or 6 fiddles echoing around that room.

Lyrics

Cindy Swiatlowski taught me this tune in Charlottesville in the early 1980s.
Nealon
2004-01-01
Copyright 1995 Dave Nealon

Story

Contemplations from my basement in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Lyrics

When you come back for me I’ll be waiting When you descend I’ll be the one who’s jumping toward the sky When you return to sing and make the forests laugh in echo When you come back I’ll be here waiting Where is the green and warmth of summer? My body’s whipped like shocks of rye chastened by the winter wind Mind is muddy and cold like the creek that drains the stubblefield When the pond is frozen over I’m an abandoned farmhouse—empty Petty greed and jealousy like kudzu climbing over me Once they laughed and cried inside but now they’ve died—it’s quiet Screen door slaps against the frame I’ll wait for you I want you to come to me I can’t come to you When you congratulate the losers When you leap off your cloud to celebrate the helpless child When you reach out and dry the grieving eyes stained red with crying I will remember all your kindness I’ll wait for you I want you to come to me I can’t come to you When you come back for me I’ll be ready Plummet through the atmosphere, I’ll stir at your first cry Tensing muscles raise my arms in two-fisted shouts of satisfaction Plant your feet in bloodstained soil