Bryan Cahall

by Bryan Cahall

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akselstasny This one runs on an endless loop on my phone.
So clever, so well written. It's beautiful, Bryan. Favorite track: Battleground, U.S.A..
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released July 4, 2018

Words and Music by Bryan Cahall
Produced By Alessio Romano
Recorded at Studio 42 Brooklyn
Album art by David Litman
Photos by David Lee Black


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Bryan Cahall Providence, Rhode Island

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Track Name: Arise
Arise, ye time keepers and ye bearers of debt,
To those gone before us and who haven't come yet
Arise, or the moment shall pass to redeem
The toil of the nameless, their forfeited dream

Arise, all ye prayerful, and unfold your hands
And place your feet firm on the soil, on the land
Turn your eyes upward and if you must weep,
Ration your tears, for your savior's asleep

Arise, all ye martyrs, from history's cave,
The deep earthly scars that are your mass graves
Drown out the broadcast of silence and fear
Sing through our voices who followed you here


Dry your eyes
Arise! arise!
Dry your eyes
Arise! arise!

Arise, all ye makers of profit and law,
There is no second chance when your number gets called
The ones who possess all the power you seek
Hear in a language you no longer speak

Arise, all ye soldiers, and turn your guns 'round
Upon those who laugh as they order you down
To stomp out the weak and to trample the small
Arise and defend the most vulnerable

Arise, all ye prisoners, from your concrete hell
Dissolve, with one voice, the walls of your cells
And when the warden cries, "how can this be?"
Reply, "we are human and must act accordingly."


Arise, tall sequoia, through suburban streets
Take with you the vinyl, the asphalt, release
The birds from their cages and the kids from their tombs
Breathe out the plastic air from their rooms

Arise, gentle traveler, the northern star wanes
A landslide is uprooting map from terrain
The cardinals lay writhing and flightless and caught
The day is arriving for dangerous thought

And arise, ye young poets, from irony's chains
From sarcasm's prison to transcendent claims
Arise and recall with what clearness you wrote
Before you grew faded, before you grew cold

(Chorus) 2x
Track Name: One More Lonesome Cowboy Song
There's outlaws gathering at the crossroads
And they're laying all their booty on the ground
And crab grass is breaking through the sidewalk
And the first rays of morning are coming 'round

Tall Riley busted up his peanuts
And shelled them out to all his enemies
Then he swan-dived into the East River
And breast-stroked on out to sea


I'm finally willing and able
I'm ready to roll, can't you see?
Oh, Great Crap Shooter,
Won't you lay a bet on me?

Margaret told Sweet William
"I ain't fond of roses anymore
"Them briars are crowding up your tombstone
"And the aroma just don't live up to the lore"

The moonshiner sat down with his demons
That already took his father and his son
And you never heard the likes of what he told them
He said, "Kiss me one last time and then be gone"


Now I don't know much about bridges
But when I see a good one, I surely take a stroll
Cause there's no other way to keep my boots from soaking
And I'd gladly make a change and pay the toll

I'm plum tired of trouble
And I'm all done with running away
And if I hear one more lonesome cowboy song
I'll build a chapel and there forever stay

Track Name: Song to Joan
Well, a fire is spreading in the land where I live
And I'm looking inside to see what I can give
I'm an Island sometimes but I got my dear words
So I'll cast you a bottle and see if I'm heard

Hey, hey, Joanie Baez, I wrote you a song
It's humble and small but in my heart it plays long
It's here should I ever be run down by fate
Should I ever be bound to the things I create

There's no way I can say whether I'll follow you
But I'll march right beside you if you just ask me to
It's a wise man who humbles himself to the past
And it's surely too early to say "free at last"

Here's to Pete and Odetta and Old You-Know-Who
And all those whose names just never came through
And the stories they told that roll down from the hills
That keep me from crying or make the tears spill

Now I've seen some hard struggle but I'm still pretty young
And there's so many more of those songs to be sung
So I hope that you hear over my childish strumming
Since you've been singing, I've been overcoming
Track Name: Leave 'em in the Ground
Well, over Montcoal, there descends a black-gold cloud of mourning
The explosion, they say, erupted with no kind of warning
Now the hands are all a-fold that the Lord may spare the last four
But it never will come, the miracle they's a-praying for

It's heard that things ain't as bad as they were in the backwards years
Ain't no need for a union no more, those are old fashioned fears
"Naw, boys, be assured, you ain't alone down there
The company's gentler now, it'll take better care

But the cameras are hungry for a shot of some red, grieving face
And tomorrow they'll pack up and leave for some other place
For nothing sells quite like a image of pain and despair
Worst in forty years, but at least it'll fill the dead air

Oh, leave 'em in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground
Just leave 'em in the ground

That's where they are now
And that's where they've been kept anyhow

Now, the blood from black veins lights up all the Emperor's towers
So long, they've been gasping, choked by two forms of power
While the children are told, be consoled, there's an investigation
While fire burns deep in the earth as it does in Damnation

'Tis a stale old tale, what's happened in poor West Virginia
Shut your eyes, point your finger, and you'll find the primary sinner
In a flash, the blood's wiped away from the struggles they fought
And I lay stunned at all the tears them wives have still got

Now the steam shovel pounds for the bodies of twenty-nine men
And they'll pull 'em out, just so they can bury them again
The steam shovel pounds for the bodies of all twenty-nine
But it seems like a joke, a cruel and obscene waste of time

Just leave'em in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground

Leave it in the ground
Just leave it in the ground
Leave it in the ground
Leave 'em in the ground

It's fine, it's fine, it's fine
For there's a line of young miners behind them

Oh, it's fine, it's fine, it's fine
For there's a line of young miners behind them
Track Name: So Go I
Wherever go the wretched, so go I
Wherever go the beaten and despised
Whose beds are made of rubble
Who war has horrified
Wherever go the wretched, so go I

Wherever go the thirsty, so go I
Wherever go the parched, unsatisfied
Whose oases are barren
Whose springs have all run dry
Wherever go the thirsty, so go I

Wherever go the stricken, so go I
Those wounded in the flesh or in the mind
Where illness is the order
And death is always nigh
Wherever go the stricken, so go I

Wherever go the rootless, so go I
The refugee and wandering exile
Wherever legs are weary
From endless dreadful miles
Wherever go the rootless, so go I

Wherever go the shackled, so go I
Be they within the dungeon or outside
Where cruelty is rewarded
And justice deemed a crime
Wherever go the shackled, so go I

Wherever go the naked, so go I
The cold and unprotected and defiled
Where openness is shameful
And truth, undiginified
Wherever go the naked, so go I

Wherever I shall go, let there be light
Let there be those whose dreams are made of fire
Whose wings are all enfolding
Whose visions pierce the night
Wherever go such angels, so go I
Track Name: Certain Days
There's certain truths that I'd have just as soon denied
And certain dreams I just as soon do set aside
Certain days that I'd just as soon've died
When even dying didn't mean nothing

Leave it to the wolves to show the path upon this place
Where I followed him up to the grassy ridge to graze
And little could I see for as far as I could gaze
How I've longed for the eyes of painters

I heard the shepherd when the shepherd told his wife
My darling I have wished to lead a quiet life
But I am the son of father time and mother strife
And I have known no parent other

In the barn out at the east end of the grange
Peer through the boards and you will find a poet change
Into a beast of cloven foot and dance deranged
Will you kill or flee or join him?

There's certain truths that I'd have just as soon denied
And certain dreams I just as soon do set aside
Certain days when I'd just as soon've died
When even dying didn't mean nothing.
Track Name: Battleground, U.S.A.
I was waking from a slumber, I'd been sleeping like the dead
I had stars inside my vision and a pounding in my head
I was hungry, I was aching, and my brain was full of fuzz
But worst of all I just could not remember who I was
I rubbed my eyes and wondered how it was I came to sleep
On a rock-hard, dusty mattress in the middle of the street.

I believe I caught amnesia, but the details slip my mind
There must have been some warfare or some mayhem of some kind
I laid out on the asphalt, trying to recollect
But all that I could picture was this mean old architect
And I heard the horns a-blaring, I heard the sirens scream
Folks were yelling, "Get a move on! Can't you see the light is green!?"

I struggled for my bearings and to catch a breath or two
The road sign up above me said "Battleground Avenue"
I stared at it and scratched my head when I seen this passing man
I said "Sir, could you please help me to remember where I am?"
He just laughed and shook his head, said "Son, just look around
"There's a Battleground in every American town"

I was needing help real bad and so I found a shopping strip
Some kids were out there smoking, talking shop and looking hip
I asked to bum a cigarette, and all of them refused
They said "we don't tolerate no leeches, man, ain't you heard the news?
I said, "well then where can I catch a bus? I've got to roam!"
They said "We been here since the cows left and they ain't ever coming home."

The voice inside my belly told me first things must be first
So I scrambled for some sustenance before things could get much worse
I hopped into a cafe, crazy neon sign aglow
Said "open 24 hrs, but not all in a row"
The waitress said "we're closing, all I got to serve you, hon,
"Is a bowl of roof tar gumbo and a side of Orwell's tongue

I went outside to vomit in between the yellow lines
but I was rudely interrupted by this posted self-help sign
Said "Did you wake this morning in a storm of mystery?
"If so, come on in, have a talk with the Doc of history"
By the time I found the Address, I was bordering on tears
And I sat inside that waiting room for 15,000 years

The Doctor showed me diagrams and said, "As you can see
"History is a disease that afflicts the memory"
He asked me for my birthday, I told him 1984
He said, "Well there's your problem, it's in the stars, there is no cure"
And as the session ended, I was filled with grief and shame
And the Doc said "Lets get started now, first tell me, what's your name?"

I ran out of that man's office about as fast as I could
Outside, bushes were burning, but they didn't talk too good
I was dying for some rest, I couldn't take the pace no more
So the next place I stepped into was a stationary store
The manager said "take what you like, there's nothing to be bought"
So i snatched a pen and diary to record my fleeting thoughts

I think that it was working, stringing verbs along with nouns
I was starting to recover, I was starting to calm down
Bit by bit, I was piecing things together
When this cop come charging at me, though I didn't know no better
He said I seen you with that lightbulb and I seen you with that pen
And I'm booking you for vagrancy, your mind's a-wanderin'!

He took me to the jailhouse where he dragged me by my sleeves
There were murderers and miscreants and arsonists and thieves
But sitting in the corner, all peaceful and serene
I saw this person and all the dirt beneath their fingernails were clean
And I approached them and asked "Hey what ya in for, what ya done?"
And they said , "I'm a political prisoner but it don't bother me none"

They said "I found the secret to plugging up all these black holes
"To making a little meaning without too much rigmarole
"You must become a gardener, it's just better for your health
"You got to find some place where you can leave part of yourself
"You can't hold onto memories, no matter how you toil
"So set 'em free and let 'em grow and plant them in the soil."

I said "We gotta bust you out and spread your message wide!
"The end times are a-comin', there's hysteria outside!"
They said, "No, I'd better stay here. I know it to be true,
"That in the morning they'll drag another cat in here just like you.
"But you better get a-goin', and see what it's all about
"And no need to break a thing, I got the key, just walk straight out"

So I guess I'll be sticking round this here battleground land
And build a little space that's worth giving a damn
Though the architect is still threatening to undo all I've done
I'm sure I'd find the same thing if I were to run
And I know it might sound strange but it helps to think this way
That there's probably a tomorrow, but there ain't no yesterday
Track Name: All that's worth much
One morning as I was waking
Somewhere in this sorrowful land
My legs, they felt like porcelain
And I rinsed my bleeding hands
The mirror asked me questions
But I hadn't much to say
My dreams been buried in the night
They ain't worth much today

For a while now I've been wandering
No place to call my home
But once I had some money
And a house my very own
But a banker shook his head at me
Said "You may as well walk away,"
He said, "I seen you got your papers
"But they ain't worth much today"

I had the finest paramour
With a girl who was wise and strong
I told her I'd always love her
And keep her well and warm
She said "Keep your promise to yourself
"And let be whatever may
"Everywhere I hear assurances,
"But they ain't worth much today"

My hourglass is broken
Crushed up in some machine
I mourn my dying minutes
For they don't belong to me
I asked the boss man, "Please dear sir
"Won't you give a bit more pay?"
He said "The line behind you is nine miles long,
"Boy, you ain't worth much today."

On the podium, the well-dressed men,
Tin bells of freedom ring
I pray I ain't the only one
Sees their limbs are tied to strings
And the other end pulled by the ones who own
And who spin the lies they say,
In my pocket there is a voter's card
But it ain't worth much today

Heard tell from over the ocean
Of a saint, what was his name?
In the last recourse of peaceful me
He set himself aflame
'Neath the power and steel that rule this world
Does a rebel still remain
My prayers go to the pit with him
But they ain't worth much today

I do not blame the lord above for this piling mound of needs
But each day my mouth goes watering
And I lean toward evil deeds
I went to the monseigneur
To confess I'd gone astray
So I have my faith and my clean soul
But are they worth much today?

In June, I wed my sweetheart
By her mother's thirsty well
And soon a child was born to us
Her name, Hope Annabelle
Now like flowers, I gather parables
And the songs from better days
And nightly pass them on to her
They're all that's worth much today.
Track Name: Praised be the Ragtime Band
Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the rambler's thumb
Praised be the mislaid plans
Praised be the flood if it comes

Praised be the fat and lye
Praised be the worn-out chair
Praised be the wheat and rye
Praised be the spiral stair

Praised be the fallow hill
Praised be the loner's sigh
Praised be the drunkard's will
Praised be the laugh lines

Praised be the flaunted wound
Praised be the letter sent
Praised be the next new moon
Praised be the dove's lament

They asked the poet once,
Do you believe in miracles?
And he did reply with this
That's all there is.

Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be our mislaid plans
My eyes are dry and they are open
I keep my grief in my hands

Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the ramblers thumb
Praised be the mislaid plans
Praised be the flood if it comes
Praised be the flood if it comes
Praised be the flood if it comes
Praised be the flood if it comes

Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the mislaid plans
My eyes are dry and they are open
I keep my grief in my hands
I keep my grief in my hands
I keep my grief in my hands
I keep my grief in my hands

Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the ragtime band
Praised be the ragtime band

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