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GORDON BOK  

BECAUSE YOU ASKED

 

I keep a very large repertoire alive; I’m always learning or making songs, because they reflect my changing understanding of the world. They feel like a great herd of horses that need to be exercised. And I feel a strong need to do that, because they seem to exercise different parts of myself. That’s why I have never done two solo concerts the same.
           

I take about two hundred songs with me on a typical three-week tour and will practice and perform most of them.  On the next tour, about half of those songs will be replaced by others. So when you ask me for an old song in a concert, I may not be able to bring it to hand or voice in the time we’re given.


These are some of the songs you have requested or asked me to record. You’ll note the preponderance of chorus songs; I’m always proud that you and I are still part of a singing tradition. Luckily we’ve built a strong musical community at home, and enjoy helping each other with our various projects, so local friends are filling in for you on this recording. Here you go then, and thanks for asking. 

 

Recorded and engineered by Bruce Boege, Limin Music, Northport, Maine

With additional recording by Hamilton Hall

Mixed by Bruce Boege, Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson

Mastered by Grey Larsen at Grey Larsen Mastering, Bloomington, Indiana

Produced by Gordon Bok and Anne Dodson

Cover photograph by Gordon Bok

 

Programming by Carol Rohl

Graphic design by Ken Gross

 

Where possible, I print the oldest sources I have of these songs, no matter how much they differ from the versions that came to me.

 

In this recording The January Men and Then Some are:

Gordon Bok, Bill Huntington, Jamie Huntsberger, Bob Richardson, Carol Rohl, Langley Willauer, Ivan Stancioff, Judith Simpson, Dan Beckman, Kat Logan and Jim Loney

 

LONI

© 1986 Jan Harmon

Gordon – vocal & 12-string guitar 

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne –vocals

 

An early, off-season visit to Yosemite by Jan and a friend inspired this song.

 

High along the John Muir trail from Whitney toward Star King

Lon and I set pace to reach Yosemite that spring

And like some dream of Gulliver we spied El Capitan

Wild gables, spires and granite walls not shaped by any man

 

Night fell like talus from the stone and Loni said to me

Douse the fire, but keep the flame, 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

Douse the fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

 

Black bear roamed the tamarack from Cloud's Rest to Cock's Comb

Where silent snowmelts filled the streams that burst and tumbled down

And where Tananya caught the moon Loni said to me  

Douse the Fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

Douse the Fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

 

From dogwood and Sequoia stands we climbed the Vernal Trail

By Big-leaf Maple shine with mist we scaled the Bridal Veil

And when Half-Dome, the hooded hawk set her shadow free

We doused the fire but kept the flame 'til morning warmed old Tuolemne

Douse the fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

 

Now I know around Cathedral Peak the seasons cloud and clear    

And it seems I can't quite count the years since Lon and I were there

Still when all the darkness falls, it's Loni close to me

Douse the Fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

Douse the Fire, but keep the flame 'til morning warms old Tuolemne

 

 

 

ISLE AU HAUT LULLABYE

© 1965 Gordon Bok, BMI

Gordon – vocal & 12-string guitar  

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne –vocals

 

I made the tune when Capt. Havilah Hawkins pointed to Hay Island and said “Can you make a tune as simple as that island?” Hence the Hay Ledge Tune. Later, heading east toward Isle au Haut with a young friend asleep below who’d had a hard day, I put the words together.

 

If I could give you three things, I would give you these:

Song and laughter and a wooden home in the shining seas

 

            When you see old Isle au Haut rising in the dawn

            You will play in yellow fields in the morning sun

 

Sleep where the wind is warm and the moon is high

Give sadness to the stars, sorrow to the sky

 

Do you hear what the sails are saying in the wind's dark song?

Give sadness to the wind, blown alee and gone

 

Sleep now:  the moon is high and the wind blows cold

For you are sad and young and the sea is old

 

If I could give you three things, I would give you these:      

Song and laughter and a wooden home in the shining seas        

 

         

 

BROKEN DOWN SQUATTER

© Charles Flowers circa 1880s, from the Penguin Australian Songbook, compiled by John S Manifold [Penguin Books 1964]

Gordon – vocal & 12-string guitar     

Will, Matt, Anne – vocals

 

I think I first heard this from Dave de Hugard, whom I’ve never met, but whose singing has taught me a lot over the years. A sad commentary, but one repeated over the years in many countries. The last double verse was found a few years ago by Bill Scott of Warwick, who thought to look in Charles Flowers’s journals, which his family had kept.  It is not commonly sung.

 

Come, Stumpy, old man, we must shift while we can

All your mates in the paddock are dead

We must say our farewells to Glen Eva's sweet dells

And the hills where your lordship was bred

 

Together to roam from our drought-stricken home

Seems hard that such things have to be

And it's hard on a horse when he's naught for a boss

But a broken-down squatter like me 

 

            And the banks are all broken, they say

            And the merchants are all up a tree

            When the bigwigs are brought to the bankruptcy court

            What chance for a squatter like me?

 

No more shall we muster the river for fats

Or spiel on the fifteen-mile plain

Or dash through the scrub by the light of the moon

Or see the old homestead again

 

Leave the slip-railings down, they don't matter much now

For there's none but the crow left to see

Perching gaunt on the pine as though longing to dine

On a broken-down squatter like me

           

            And the banks…

 

When the country was cursed with the drought at its worst

And the cattle were dying in scores

Though down on me luck, I kept up me pluck

Thinking justice might soften the laws

 

But the farce had been played, and the government aid

Ain't extended to squatters, old son

When me money was spent, they doubled the rent

And resumed the best part of the run

 

            And the banks…

 

It’s a mighty hard ride till we reach the divide

With the plain stretching out like the sea

But the chances seem best in the faraway west

For a broken down squatter like me

 

Well, they left us our hides and little besides

You have all I possess on your back

But stumpy, old sport, when we boil our next quart

We’ll be out on the Wallaby Track

 

            And the banks…

 

 

 

MY IMAGES COME

© 1983 Don Cooper, New Mutant Music

Gordon, Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne –vocals

 

I got this song from my old friend, Bob Stuart.  Only this year did I have the chance to hear Don’s singing of it – that’s well worth a listen.

 

My images come

From the people who do the work

From the people who sing the songs

From the people who live the life

From the people who get along

            A bottle of rum

            For the demon what always lurk

            For the demon what do me wrong

            For the fury what is my wife

            For the struggle what is my song

 

Chorus:

            It get me down sometime

            It get me down but only

            A little look around and I find

            That I am not so lonely

            We in the same boat brother!

 

My images come

From the pleasures I had before

From the pleasures I'm still to know

From the pleasures my dreams provide

From the pleasures what I bestow

            A bottle of rum

            For the trouble what's at my door

            For the trouble where' ere I go

            For the misfortunes what I abide

            And for the courage I'm trying to show

 

My images come

From the woman what's on my knee

From the woman what's in my head

From the woman out in the sun

From the woman what shares my bed

            A bottle of rum

            For a broken love's misery

            For a love what has grown so dead

            Expectations my life's undone

            For illusions what I've been fed

 

My images come

From the world in which I live

From the world I love so well

From the world of change and light

From the world of which I tell

            A bottle of rum

            For the feelings I cannot give

            For the feelings what fears impel

            For the screams of a fraughtful night

            And for the time what is spent in hell

 

 

 

WILLEM

© 1985 Gordon Bok

Gordon – Spanish guitar  

Carol – harp                     

 

I originally made this tune for a film pilot with my friend and colleague, Eton Churchill.  Our local instrumental group “Small World Orchestra” enjoyed playing it and polished it up some, and I named it after one of our number, Will Brown, a shipmate of many musical (and other) voyages, because it felt like the way he seems to dance the days with such grace and kindness.

 

CHANGING TIMES

© 1985 Dan MacArthur, BMI

Gordon – vocal & 12-string guitar

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne, Holly -vocals

 

From my dear MacArthur family of Marlboro VT, whose love and work has kept so many traditions of music, building and land care alive and healthy in the world that feeds us all.

 

first chorus:

            The grasses grow tall until the hay it is mown

            Then the fields lie still till the new seed is sown

            Many children standing here have watched the grass wave in the wind

            We're the ones who stand here now but many others will again

 

Long, long ago these fields and the crops that they grew here

Might decide a family's fate for another coming year

Like the grasses that grow tall and get cut down for hay

So generations moved in here, made their marks and moved away

 

second chorus:

            And the fields lie still till the new seed is sown

            And the grasses grow tall till the hay it is mown

            Many children standing here have watched the grass wave in the wind

            We're the ones who stand here now, but many others will again

 

After clearing off the land and piling up their long stonewalls

They walked for miles for the seed, then they hoped the good rains fall

And when the rains come down right and all the crops grew tall and strong

Families had enough to eat for another winter long

 

            (first chorus)

 

Perhaps the time will come again when these fields will mean more

And we'll learn to care for them as others did so long before

And like the seed that's newly sown and springs to life with sun and rain

People's lives may grow to know the value of these fields again

 

            (second chorus)

 

We're the ones who live here now, but many others will again

 

 

 

EASY AND SLOW

Traditional

Gordon – vocal & Spanish guitar 

Carol – vocal                                      

 

I probably got this from the great British American singer, David Jones. I thought I got it from Tommy Makem – but when cornered, he denied that. So much for memory.

 

It was down by Christchurch that I first met with Annie

A neat little girl and not a bit shy

She told me her father had come from Dungannon

And he'd take her back in the sweet bye and bye

 

            And what's it to any man, whether or no

            Whether I'm easy or whether I'm true

            As I lifted her petticoat easy and slow

            And I rolled up me sleeves for to buckle her shoe

 

Now, in city or country, a girl is a jewel

And well built for gripping, the most of them are

But any young fellow would sure be a fool

If he tried it the first time, to go a bit far

 

We wandered by Thomas Street down by the Liffey

The sun was long set and the evening grew dark

And along Whiteman's Bridge, and by God, in a jiffy

My arm was around her, out there in the park

 

So if you go down to the town of Dungannon

You may search till your eyeballs are empty and blind

Be it sitting or walking or running or standing

A girl like Annie you never will find

 

GO EAST

© 2003 Nadine Laughlin

Gordon – vocal & Spanish guitar

 

Nadine lives with her family in the woods of New Hampshire. She made this astonishing song for her daughter, who had lost her best friend. I thank her for writing it, and I thank our mutual friend, Alouette Iselin for knowing to send it to me when I needed it. Nadine sang it on a CD called “Beautiful Mystery.”

 

You should go east, into the day

There’s nothing left to do, nothing to say

But go east into the light

Nothing in the world can make this right

 

You should go south, into the heart

To the love that brings us here and tears us apart

But go south, into the fire

Watch the ashes fall and the smoke go higher

 

            And I will walk beside you as far as I can go

Let your tears baptize me as they flow

Let this path of sorrow let us know

We are always together, and alone

 

You should go west, into the dream

You don’t have to know what it means

But go west, into the dark

Look into the night for a guiding star

 

No north, into the cold

Find a mountain stream and look for gold

Go north, right into this loss

Climb up to the top and look across

 

            And I will fly beside you as far as I can go

            Let your tears baptize me as they flow

            Let this flight of sorrow let us go

                                Where we’re always together, always home

 

 

JOCK STEWART

Anon

Gordon – vocal & 12-String guitar

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne –vocals

 

My name is Jock Stewart – I’m a canny-goin’ man

And a roving young fellow I’ve been

 

            So be easy and free when you’re drinkinwi’ me

            I’m a man you don’t meet every day

 

I’ve got acres of land, I have men at command

And I’ve always a shilling to spare

 

I take up my gun, with my dog I do go

Along by the banks of the Tay

 

So fill up your glasses with brandy and wine

And whatever the cost I will pay

 

OLD FAT BOAT

© 1976 Gordon Bok, BMI

Gordon – vocal & 12-string guitar 

Anne - vocal

 

For some reason people have been asking for this song recently.  It’s about a boat-delivery from Connecticut to Maine.  You can read the whole soggy story in the Folk Legacy songbook Time and the Flying Snow.

 

Here I am, man, all alone again

Anchored away the hell and gone again

Another mile from another town

Wind Northeast and the rain coming down

Home is the sailor, home from the sea

A home for the mildew, friend to the flea

 

I don't care, man, I'm happy

I got an old fat boat, she's slow but handsome

Hard in the chine and soft in the transom

I love her well; she must love me

But I think it's only for my money

 

            And I don’t mind staying and I don’t mind going

            But I’m some dam tired of rowing

 

No more tobacco, no more cheese

I'm sprung in the back and lame in the knees

It's a damned good thing I'm easy to please

There ain't nothing in town on a Sunday

 

You know, I got milk and I got ice

I got home-made bread, a little old, but nice

Everybody puts their cooking hat on

When you tell 'em you're leaving in the morning

 

Yes, I got coffee, I got tea

I got the beans and the beans got me

I got tuna fish, I got rum

I got a two-pound splinter in my thumb

So I'll take my toddy and my vitamin C

And the radio for my company

Oh, me. I got the hydrogen peroxide blues

 

“Well mercy, mercy, I do declare

(If) half the fun of going is the getting there”*

Mercy, Percy, you better start rowing

'Cause the other half of getting there is going

 

*Quote from Ken Hicks

 

A SONG FOR ANGELA

© 1995 Bill Gallaher, SOCAN

Gordon – vocal, 12-string guitar & viol da gamba

 

Bill Gallaher says, “The NFB docu-drama For Angela, told the story of a young First Nation Cree girl in Winnipeg who was on her way to school one day on a city bus, with her mom, when they were harassed by three white teenage boys. This was done with such utter cruelty that it put thoughts in the little girl’s mind no child should have to bear. That night, feeling profoundly ashamed of her heritage, she slipped quietly into the bathroom where the scissors were kept, and cut off her beautiful braids. The scene was so moving it stirred my soul.”

 

A cold wind's blowing, Angela

Do up your coat against the chill

And pay no mind to things you hear    

They're mindless calls of whippoorwills

 

I know some hurtful words were said

And that they made you feel ashamed

They've got you tangled in their web

Don't let them cause you so much pain

 

            But believe that time can heal the hurting

            The shadows disappear, and so will the scars

            One day you'll look inside and know just who you are

            Thought sometimes the seeing isn't easy, Angela

 

Angela, those pretty braids you wore

As shiny black as ravens' wings

Lay cut and scattered on the floor

One day you'll grow them back again

 

One day your pride will rise and soar

And you will let them grow again

 

 

TURNING TOWARD THE MORNING

© 1975 Gordon Bok , BMI

Gordon – Vocal & 12-String Guitar

The January Men And Then Some - vocals

 

This is probably my most requested song in concerts. I tend to sing it as a seasonal song, but those who request it tell me it’s not. It started as an attempt to answer a letter from a lady I did not know well, who was having a hard time facing the thought of winter.

 

My singing of this has been influenced by my friends Dave Mallett, who sang it faster than I, and Megan MacArthur, who left off the last verse. I have taken their folk process (folk wisdom) to inform my present singing.

 

When the deer has bedded down and the bear has gone to ground

And the Northern goose has wandered off to warmer bay and sound

It's so easy in the cold to feel the darkness of the year

And the heart is growing lonely for the morning

 

                        Oh, my Joanie, don't you know that the stars are swinging slow

                        And the seas are rolling easy as they did so long ago?

                        If I had a thing to give you I would tell you one more time

                        That the world is always turning toward the morning

 

Now October's growing thin and November's coming home

You'll be thinking of the season and the sad things that you've seen

And you hear that old wind walking, hear him singing high and thin

You could swear he's out there singing of your sorrows

 

When the darkness falls around you and the Northwind comes to blow

And you hear him call your name out as he walks the brittle snow

That old wind don't mean you trouble he don't care or even know

He's just walking down the darkness toward the morning

 

It's a pity you don't know what the little flowers know

They can't face the cold November, they can't take the wind and snow

They put their glories all behind them, bow their heads and let it go

But you know they'll be there shining in the morning

 

Now, my Joanie don't you know that the days are rolling slow

And the winter's walking easy, as he did so long ago?

And, if that wind should come and ask you, "Why's my Joanie weeping so?"

Won't you tell him that you're weeping for the morning?

 

LUZ DE LA LUNA

© Papi Galan

Gordon – Spanish guitar  

Carol – harp

 

My wife, Carol and I always have requests for this kind of music, and this is one of our favorites. It was recorded in 2003.

 

                       

IF I WAS A DOG

© 1995 Colm Gallagher, ASCAP

Gordon – Vocal & 12-string guitar

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne –vocals

 

I got this song from Tommy Makem. I think he told me that Colm used to play bass for him in NY City.  Colm also made the words for “I Held a Lady,” an old favorite of mine.

 

If I was a dog I’d wag me tail, I’d sit me down beside the fire

And the girls could pat me on the back or anyplace else their heart would desire

I wouldn’t be after chasing cats, I wouldn’t go baying at the moon

I wouldn’t have time for things like that

If I was a dog, what I’d be doing!

 

Oh-ho, oh-ho, if I was a dog I’d have me day

Oh-ho, oh-ho, wouldn’t I be waggin’ me tail

 

If I was a dog I’d eat of the best and only the best that money could buy

I’d go down to the butcher’s shop and I’d lick the leg of the butcher’s wife

I’d be dining on filet mignon and pelican fingers and lobster fins

And delicate frogs, if I was a dog I wouldn’t go rooting in nobody’s bins

 

I wouldn’t be after chasing sheep, I wouldn’t be after hunting hares

I’d prefer to be home in me sleep or digging a hole to God knows where

I wouldn’t be after pulling the sled like huskies up in the Yukon do

I’d prefer to be home in me bed with a Pekinese, Poodle or Kerry Blue

 

And woe betide the fool that tried to spay the wife or neuter me

Before I’d let him away with that, by God I’d show me pedigree

I’d put up a hell of a fight and wouldn’t that be a sight to see

One strategic nip, the neuterer becoming the neuteree

 

And sooner or later I’d father a litter and teach the little ones how to be

And if any of them tried to get smart, be-God, I’d chase the lot of ‘em up a tree

 So if you’re walking along the street and an elegant dog you happen to see

Steppin’ it out, give us shout; you could be you and that would be me

 

 

WALTER’S GARDEN

Written by Garic Barranger © 1998 NARP, BMI

Gordon – Vocal & 12-String guitar

Will, Matt, Kat, Jim, David, Anne, Holly –vocals

 

I learned this from the singing of Rose Anne Bivens, one of Garic’s musical partners, on the delightful CD, Rose Anne Bivens’ “Walter’s Garden.” Garic says, “the song grew out of litigation in which a group of Louisiana prisoners sued the state as a result of appalling conditions at Angola, our state prison. I represented a good number of the parties plaintiff and Walter was one of them. Walter was our “mole” inside the prison campus (poetically referred to by the residents as “the Farm”) and kept us informed about just what the officials were up to from day to day, until he became so sufficiently annoying that the powers that be stopped his [asthma medication.]… [Y]ou know the rest.  The story in the song is mainly true except that part in the last verse that refers to “a suit for wrongful death” following Walter’s passing; the fact was that he had no heirs to file a suit on his behalf, so the song is his only memorial.” 

 

We are planting Walter’s garden in the coming of the spring

When the fear of frost is over, we are plowing over clover

To be planting Walter’s garden where the sweet birds sing

 

I read the file on Walter Smith who died inside the jail

His breath was made of ashes and his cheek was colored pale

His teeth were amaryllis except where they were black

And his morals were as crooked as the pretzel of his back

 

Now he had always had the asthma in his file it said

And the only thing that helped it was the fresh Columbian Red

So he planted half an acre and watered it with tears

Til the sheriff caught him hoeing it and gave him seven years

 

            Now we’re….

 

So they threw him in Angola in a rusty, rolling chair

Where he could suck to heart’s content the un-Columbian air

But with every breath that Walter took the phones around him rang

In the offices of journalists where no birds sang

 

He filed lawsuit after lawsuit til the courts concerned themselves

With our Devil’s Island prisons in their Devil’s Island dells

And he made the state spend money on medicines and brick

And for doctors in the hospitals to heal the prison’s sick

And he made the state remember, for a little while at least

The forgotten men in prison in the belly of the beast

 

 And we’re planting….

 

So in Technicolor language Walter Smith reviewed the tales

Of the day to day atrocities that populate our jails

Til they took away his medicine and set his asthma free

And he breathed his life out on the phone while he was calling me

 

So I review his folder and remember Walter Smith

I file a suit for wrongful death and seem to catch a whiff

Of the crop that Walter planted in his half acre of ground

And reaching for my Dictaphone I try to turn the world around

 

            And we’re planting….

 

JENNY IN THE ROADSTEAD

© 2011 Gordon Bok, BMI

Gordon – Vocal & Spanish guitar    

 

Inspired by a carving I did years ago showing a young woman on the foredeck of a workboat, staring into the wind. Finally got curious enough about her to explore it with a song.

 

Jenny's anchored off in the roadstead[1], now, lying to a three-inch rode[2]
She should have been gone on the morning tide but now the whole damn day's grown old
She's sitting on the foredeck, windy and cold, with the west wind making on
And that dumb-fool deckhand she's dreaming on has slipped his cable and gone
        

Oh, Jenny, let the damn-fool go, there's a good man down the line
            You're bound to meet him on the next short-tow, and he's going to treat you fine

All those years growing up on the water, working in your daddy's crew
You've been barge-hand, deckhand & engineer: there ain’t a damn thing you can't do
So now you're the skipper and your own damn boss, but the boss gets lonely,too
She gets to thinking that any young buck is the best that she can do

 

Oh, Jenny…
        
You're strong and able, canny and kind, you're the best thing he'll ever know
And that west wind's strolling along your deck, singing: Come on, Jenny, let's go
Now you're the skipper and your own damn boss, and the boss gets lonely, too
But don't you be thinking that any young buck is the best that you can do

 

Oh, Jenny…
     

Hit the air[3] now, fire up the Cat, throw in the gear to the windlass 
Haul that big old anchor on board, and go on about your business

 

Oh, Jenny-with-the-wind-in-your-hair, just lay this day aside

Lay your head on the cool west wind, and catch your own sweet tide                    

 



[1] An anchorage

[2] Anchor line

[3] Compressed air to start engine