Joe Ross Lyrics


(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Don Owens' 8/14/60 Blue Grass Day at Watermelon Park in Berryville, Va., and Bill Clifton's 7/4/61 event at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, Va. planted the seeds for Carlton Haney's first 3-day bluegrass festival at Fincastle, Va. in 1965. Over the years, festivals have really helped the music grow, and what great fun they are! I wrote and performed this song in the 1970s with The High Mountain Ramblers. Hope you'll agree that it captures the festival spirit.)

Many, many miles to go, and early we will rise,
We'll be late a-gettin' home, time there really flies,
We'll take the longest route there, as long as we're not late,
Take the shortest route back home, jobs they just can't wait.

Well, look at all the festivals, bluegrass it's so sweet,
Already we hear music, it just can't be beat,
And friends will get together and pick all day and night,
Sharin' songs and memories, I saw the light.

It's festival time again, our spirits have revived,
Friends will come from here and there, some have just arrived.
We'll break out that old fiddle now, we'll rosin up the bow,
Tune up the ol' five-string, let's play some Bill Monroe.

I'm sittin' 'round the campfire, smoke a-floating by,
Sharing songs and memories, pass that jug of rye,
Yes, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, sing that tenor high,
Sing and play Œtil the break of day, it's bluegrass in July.

On Sunday we'll play gospel tunes, under an old oak tree,
Cleanse me from my every sin, the music sets me free,
When it comes time for leavin', it's over all too soon,
Stick around to sing and play, one more bluegrass tune.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Written while the U.S was in Iraq, this is a song that honors our soldiers who fight for freedom and liberty in foreign lands. It's so unfortunate that costs are so high. Please never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.)

I left in fall, to answer the call,
In that far distant land, I was so proud and tall,
They say I'm a hero, who helped keep them free,
Their country's been spared, from tyranny.

Come lie beside me, please don't be so sad,
Remember me, as a young daring lad.
Come lie beside me, your warmth's needed here,
Wear the scent of red roses, for your brave cavalier.

When I returned home, your eyes filled with tears,
You didn't even see me, after two lonely years,
I carried your prayers, now it's reality,
As I sleep in the ground, for eternity.

Come lie beside me, please don't be so sad,
Remember me, as a young daring lad.
Come lie beside me, your warmth's needed here,
Wear the scent of red roses, for your brave cavalier.
Blood of red roses, for your brave cavalier.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Just imagine a world full of kindness where we all help each other! A message that was primarily composed for presentation at children and family programs, but the missive could have broad, universal appeal. It's a sentiment that we adults could learn from as well. I hope that both kiddies and grown-ups will happily sing along together on this ditty.)

Rake leaves in a neighbor's yard,
Good deeds are not that hard.
Bake cookies for a friend that's sick,
Give your mom something artistic.

Help a classmate with their homework,
Be sweet and nice, don't be a jerk.
Take grandma's dog out for a walk,
Know when to hush, and when to talk.

Good deeds show our kindness, Good deeds make us friends.
Good deeds are so generous, Good deeds help others mend.
Good deeds come from the heart, And they are always sweet.
Like helping Grandpa cross the street, Good deeds just can't be beat!

There are many ways to do good deeds,
You go first, and plant the seed.
Help another and they'll help someone too,
A good feeling gets inside of you.

The rewards for doing good deeds,
Are sometimes very hard to see,
They're often just a small thank you,
A hug, a smile, or "Merci Beaucoup!"

Good deeds can be large or small, Don't expect to be paid.
Good deeds can be contagious, Good deeds are homemade.
When kindness spreads like wildfire, How nice would that be?
A world where we all help each other, It just starts with one good deed.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
Since 2003, I've played gypsyjazz with The HotQua String Band, named for the Hot Club of Paris and the beautiful Umpqua Valley of Oregon. Inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, this instrumental was written for the band. Hammered dulcimer is included to give the song a little more of a gypsy feeling.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(On January 2, 2006, an explosion shook the Sago Mine in West Virginia. Thirteen men were trapped. This song tells about the events that unfolded in their final, desperate hours. As their oxygen supply dwindled, foreman Martin "Junior" Toler's final words, scratched on a note, were "Tell all. I see them on the other side. It wasn't bad. I just went to sleep. I love you." Just letting their families know that they didn't suffer was a blessing. I wrote this song to pay homage to these hardworking, proud men. I hope this tribute brought some small amount of comfort and solace to the grieving families. Junior's wife wrote to say, "Although days may be lonely, I have the secure knowledge that I will see him again." With improved safety measures in the mines, let's hope this kind of event never happens again.)

My dad told me to have courage,
Anything could happen in the mines,
What moves men to dig day after day,
Two miles below the sunshine.
It's a tough and dirty, hard way of life,
I was so proud the day I was hired,
Time goes by faster down there,
Don't complain or you might get fired,
Look for me under yonder hillside.

It's what I do, what I've always done,
To support my wife and kids.
Living in darkness, who needs the sun?
It's pitch black by the ton.

Another new year had come,
When a blast shook Tallmansville,
Methane, coal dust, a cave-in,
One man was instantly killed.
I went down further, with my brothers,
Can't remember how far and how deep,
I prayed to again see daddy's little girl,
The hours went by, and I weeped,
It wasn't bad, I just went to sleep.

Above there was a vigil,
The enemy was time from the start,
Rescue guys weren't afraid of the devil,
My wife sobbed and tried to have heart.
Our families prayed for a miracle,
And then dozed off in their pews,
Just shy of midnight, the church bells rang,
As good word came from the crews,
"They're all alive" was thought to be true.

The jubilation was short-lived,
The company brought terrible news,
The twelve of us had perished,
Hopes and joy above turned to blues.
McCloy was the only survivor,
The rest of us died with our pride,
Why did they do this to our loved ones?
The last words I wrote as I died,
"I'll just see you on the other side."

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(While born in Virginia, I was actually raised a Navy "brat" overseas in Japan. My thanks to another Virginian and friend, James King, for singing this song. I sure respect James and his bandmates for their hard work, tireless efforts, perseverance and dedication to bluegrass music.)

Deep within the sunny south, where the sweet magnolias grow,
Are my home in old Virginia, and my friends of long ago,
A weathered old stained farmhouse, with the walls that still echo,
And the voices from my Mom and Dad, and a tune from my banjo.

I can hear the old farm calling me, back to her fields once more,
And once again to roam the hills, and help Mom with the chores,
Every time I see a rainbow, I wish that I could go,
To my home in old Virginia, and my friends of long ago.

The old barn is a place I love, to go play hide and seek,
I'd climb up in the hayloft, and I'd look upon the creek,
The barn would be a pirate ship, from the crow's nest on the mast,
I'd watch the sunbeam do a dance, it's a memory from the past.

I can hear the old farm calling me, back to her fields once more,
And once again to roam the hills, and help Mom with the chores,
Every time I see a rainbow, I wish that I could go,
To my home in old Virginia, and my friends of long ago.

Although I'm many miles away, I never will forget,
The walnut tree out front, or the wagon's silhouette,
The stairs that gently creak, to the room where sis was born,
In the ol' Virginia farmhouse, now abandoned and so worn.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(About 16 miles west of Caliente, Nv. lies Delamar ghost town with its ruins and a few facades of old buildings. Nearby is the ghost town of Helene. It isn't easy to get there but is worth the trip. The Pahranagat Valley gold rush began about 1890. Capt. John DeLamar of Montana established Delamar in 1893, and it became home to more than 3,000 people, stores, saloons, a theater and other businesses. The town was known as a "Maker of Widows" because of the "Delamar Dust" (silica dust) inhaled by the miners that led to many deaths. Surviving into the twentieth century, Delamar became a ghost town at the beginning of World War II. A very simple abandoned desert gravesite inspired this song.)

In a peaceful place forsaken, amidst the shifting sand,
Stands a headboard rough and hewn, for an unknown pioneer man,
This sun-bleached desert grave, in a place where winds blow hot,
Marks the place where fate was a man was shot.

Lonesome and forgotten, in the desert hot and still,
As the moon begins to rise, a coyote on the hill,
Howls a requiem, for the man that's buried there,
The winds provide a eulogy, and I provide a prayer.

If I could only know, the story of this man,
That came to find his freedom, in this harsh and arid land,
As the coyotes howl a dirge, the sun sets in the west,
The winds forever sigh, for this man whose soul now rests.

He came out to the desert, full of wanderlust,
To meet a sad misfortune, and be buried in the dust,
The sad tale of a pioneer, on this barren alkali flat,
And now he rests in peace, his headboard's a faded slat.

(Bill Blackburn - Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
Goldfield is a small, historic town in Nevada that our Las Vegas-based band (Sagegrass) often traveled through on our way to gigs in 1985-88. The band's banjo-player, Bill Blackburn, is originally from the D.C. area and played with Buzz Busby. His inspiration for this driving breakdown just might wake up this sleepy, little town.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Inspired by Wilson Rawls' novel and a 1974 movie set in Oklahoma, this ballad tells of a boy's fondness for his two hunting dogs, and how his experiences while growing up teach certain fundamental values -- responsibility, love, loyalty, friendship. It was fun to make a bluegrass song out of such a stirring book and poignant movie (G-rated of course) called "Where the Red Fern Grows.")

It was on that day I realized, that love can have a price,
For the love of Dan, for little Ann and I, led to his sacrifice,
And when the Ozark moon is full, I hear a whippoorwill,
Remind me love is endless, despite the winter's chill.

In the twilight of my life when I was just a boy,
In the Oklahoma Ozarks, I was happy, full of joy,
But something just was missing, one thing I needed bad,
So I pleaded with my mother, and said to dear old Dad,

A boy who lives out in the hills, just ought to have some dogs,
And he said to just work hard, cuttin' wood and sloppin' hogs,
My grandpa said the only way, to see my dream come true,
Was to meet God halfway and never to be blue.

I worked for over two years until I'd earned the fee,
To buy some coondog pups from up in Kentucky,
I trained those dogs to be the best, coondogs in the land,
To smell out every coon and obey every command.

It was on that day I realized, how much they meant to me,
The three of us would run and play, among the big oak trees,
And when the Ozark moon is full, I hear a whippoorwill,
Remind me love is endless, despite the winter's chill.

Mama made a cooncap from my very first coonhide,
And I became coon crazy when those dogs were by my side,
We'd run together through the woods, amidst the dogwood fair,
From here to Arkansas and back, those dogs were quite a pair.

Reuben Pritchard's redbones had worked for o'er a year,
To tree the old Ghost Coon, who'd just up and disappear,
My dogs were not outsmarted on that humid night in June,
We crossed the river three times and treed the ol' Ghost Coon.

Now that I've grown old, I think back to that sad day,
When a mountain lion jumped old Dan, and he was called away,
It was hard to make myself believe, that old Dan was dead,
The pain was more than I could bear, and many tears I shed.

It was on that day I realized, that love can have a price,
For the love of Dan, for little Ann and I, led to his sacrifice,
And when the Ozark moon is full, I hear a whippoorwill,
Remind me love is endless, despite the winter's chill.

I was very grateful, I still had my Little Ann,
But God has his mysterious ways, so hard to understand,
The girl was never quite the same, now that they were apart.
Within a few short weeks, she died with a broken heart.

Today I often visit, that spot down by the lane,
Where my dogs rest side by side, and I still feel the pain,
There's a heart carved on a sycamore, and of their love we know,
For between the two small graves, a wild red fern grows.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(In 2004, the date for a "pickout" at a campground along the Umpqua River was chosen to coincide with a blue moon (a second full moon in the same month). I challenged the songwriters among us to pen some new blue moon songs that would evoke the same kind of bluegrass feeling that Bill Monroe did with his definitive blue moon songs. Here's my "entry." We still hold the annual pickout, and it's always on a weekend that coincides with a full moon.)

Many a blue moon will come and go,
Your letter said you'd found another love,
It wasn't long ago that I was in the throes,
My heart a-flutter for your love.

I fell for you like a thousand bricks,
I was moonstruck in a real bad way,
It happened one night, and oh so quick,
I was hoping with me, you would stay.

Oh many a blue moon will come and go,
My poor heart just can't say goodbye,
Sadness has replaced the pleasure and glow,
For you I was willing to die.

When you took me in, my heart was aflame,
You were moonlight and shadows all in one,
Now I find that it was all just a game,
I'm full of pain and wanting someone.

When we first met, you ignited a spark,
It didn't take me long to lose my heart,
Now the long days have turned gloomy and dark,
Since you've gone and we're here apart.

I remember that full moon and sittin' on your porch,
"Yours" and "Truly" were you and me,
I was the one who was carrying the torch,
Tomorrow will be a new day.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(After autoharper/philosopher Bryan Bowers came to do a concert in Roseburg, I finished up this song in the wee hours of the night and early the next morning. Then, we recorded it. A stylistic departure into Americana, I hope it's not too esoteric. Looking for a philosophy that's right for you? Need some invigorating, energetic reasoning that will help you feel good and think positive? Perhaps some ideas on how to live a tranquil life in the midst of a chaotic world? These feel-good-isms may help you cope and even get you smiling. My special thanks to Mitsuki, Radim and Bryan for their Zen-like musical wisdom on koto, whistle, and autoharp.)

Pleasure is the highest good,
But don't overindulge in drink, sex and food,
Simple pleasure in moderation is the best,
Eat, drink and be merry now is what I suggest.

Epicureanism makes us feel good,
To think positive and not fret about life,
To justify existence since childhood,
Keep your chins up and grin, without contention or strife.

Be consoled in the face of the void,
Existence before essence is what we enjoy,
With no given nature, we create it and say,
Be hopeful of salvation by seizing the day!
Existentialism ... (repeat chorus)

Everything is relative, it's not new,
No standards for what's good, right and true,
We determine our own to be understood,
And finally conclude that it's all good!
Relativism ... (repeat chorus)

When you feel that events are fated to be,
We control our reactions as our minds are free,
For a tranquil life now, accept one's fate,
For things are as they are, there's no reason to hate.
Stoicism ... (repeat chorus)

Knowledge is obtained through reason alone,
Our senses deceive us as we face the unknown,
Always be weary and willing to adjust,
Knowing change is impossible helps build trust.
Rationalism ... (repeat chorus)

There are many ways to do good and seek the truth,
Conceive the beautiful, experience youth,
Simply knowing that more than one view is right,
Breeds tolerance and love, to our great delight.
Pluralism ... (repeat chorus)

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(I give praise and thanks to our Lord and Savior for his love, mercy and salvation. His promise of life after death for those who believe in Him gives not only peace and comfort, but the promise that we will all be together again. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4)

One day if I'm allowed to pass, through Heaven's golden door,
I'll be in that promised land, on the other shore,
I won't need the pastures green, or to walk the streets of gold,
All I'll need is my sweet Savior, to have His hand to hold.

I'll hear the heavenly choir, on that evergreen shore,
But my only desire, is to see the folks once more,
The Lord will lead the way, and I won't hesitate,
I'll hear my Savior say, come forth through Heaven's gate.

One day if I'm allowed to pass, through Heaven's pearly gate,
I'll sing a song to show my love, to praise and venerate,
I'll see the jasper walls, hear the golden bells,
I'll look for mom and dad once more, in a home where angels dwell.

One day if I'm allowed to pass, to the Gloryland,
He'll welcome me to the mansion bright, to hear the angel band,
I'll hear the harps of gold, and see the angels fair,
All I'll need is my sweet Savior, there'll be no trials there.

Spirit of St. Louis

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(The Oregon woods are full of a hardworking breed - loggers and forest workers. They're straight-forward, honest, sincere and don't mince words. They work long hours in dangerous and often inclement conditions. They earn my highest respect.)

It's four o'clock and time to rise, the cookhouse door is open wide,
Some pancakes, eggs and bacon, to start the morning right,
A chainsaw hanging by my side.
Hear that call of the woods, as the sunlight's rays begin to shine,
Daylight's a-dawnin', it's time to go to work,
And I'll spend my day a-fallin' pine.

I'm an Oregon logger, the forest is my home,
With my coat, my axe, and saw, from camp to camp I roam.
Every day's a challenge, that provides me with a test,
I'm a timber faller, in the land of the Great Northwest.

Out west in the hills of Oregon, the trees reach up for the sky,
The douglas fir and ponderosa, seem to call my name.
As tears come flowin' to my eyes.
These trees are God's handiwork, you just can't help it now but wonder,
Why we fall these sentinels, Nature's monuments,
That come crashing down to earth, just like thunder.

I'm an Oregon logger, the forest is my home,
With my coat, my axe, and saw, from camp to camp I roam.
As I roam the high Cascades, along the mountains' crest.
I'm a timber faller, in the land of the Great Northwest.

A metal hat, some cork boots, some pegged off pants, are the logger's year-round uniform,
No matter what the weather, I just cut the trees,
Through summer's heat or winter's raging storm,
Set that, choker bell, the yarder's whistle starts to blow,
Stand back, the cables pull the logs,
And stack them side by side in rows.

I'm an Oregon logger, the forest is my home,
With my coat, my axe, and saw, from camp to camp I roam.
I believe in a good day's work, and don't know how to rest,
I'm a timber faller, in the land of the Great Northwest.
I'm a timber faller, in the land of the Great Northwest.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Homesickness often sets in when we first head out on life's journey, but as years go by, the longing for those days past often subside. Nostalgia is good, but it's also important to rekindle that traditional spirit and feeling for the homeplace and our loved ones before it's just too late to do so. At certain times in one's life, moving away from home seems like the right thing to do. Rekindle that calling to return. Keep the homefires burning.)

As a boy I stood by the millstream,
And watched as the waters flowed by,
Life was a joy, the sun shone bright,
I never thought the roses would die.
The little creek used to entice me,
To see what the world had to say,
I left the old farm and now that I'm grown,
I miss those childhood days.

The candle stood tall, At its heart was a wick,
That beat to an uneven song.
And just like my memories fade away,
The homefire no longer burns strong.

I can see my Dad in his old flannel shirt,
Plowin' fields and pitchin' hay bales,
I should've stayed to help on the farm,
I was called by the song of the rails.
I moved to a job in the city,
And lived my life as a game,
The years passed me by, then I suddenly saw,
A homefire no longer aflame.

I stand here at dusk as the light grows dim,
To the old farm I had to return,
I see Dad with his plow and Mom alongside,
For those days of the past, I now yearn.
I questioned my mother and father,
As they taught me my ABCs,
But here by their graves on the hillside,
Their answers are lost in the breeze.

(Bill Blackburn - Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
There actually was a one-legged wild turkey that loved to roost at night on the roof of our house in Oregon. While his hopping around up there could be a little annoying, my wife and I felt sorry for the bird. After about 3 weeks, we never saw him again.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(National River Cleanup Week comes around every May. In July, River Appreciation Day is staged in our neck of the Oregon woods. In September, the Umpqua River Cleanup enlists the help of about 300 volunteers to clean up about a dozen stream reaches throughout our County. Our rivers are the lifeblood of the land so please protect them.)

The sun peaks over the sylvan ledge, the wind cries like a dove,
I've come to ride the flowing tide, on a river that I love,
Some birds fly past as I float along, there's a doe with her young fawn,
I've always called this river home, the river in Oregon.
River, oh river, the river in Oregon.

Berries grow wild along the bank, grand firs stand on the shore,
Round river's bend there's a rapid ahead, I can hear the water's roar,
Glidin' ahead toward the sea, dodgin' rocks shining in the sun,
I've found a place that's full of bliss, on the river in Oregon.
River, oh river, the river in Oregon.

We've got to save the things we love, the river and the land,
We often lose the things we hold dear, and call it the progress of man,
So pray for the river, and damn the men, tomorrow will be a new dawn,
Where waters flow free and our children will know, the river in Oregon.
River, oh river, the river in Oregon.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(I always enjoyed singing this song for my mom and dad, although I could choke up at times. My father said it made him sad. He passed away on April 29, 2004. My mother always reminded me that we'd all be together again someday. She went to Heaven on December 24, 2005. I felt very honored that "Mother's Songs" was a winner in the 8th Annual Portland Music Association Songwriters' Contest (1995). My special thanks to the fine band Cedar Hill for stopping by and recording this one for me. Mel Besher does a fine job singing it.)

I can see my mother sitting, in her old, red rocking chair,
The glow of a warm wood fire, shining from her hair,
She would love to knit and sew when winter nights were long,
And when we'd all get quiet, she'd often sing a song.

She sang about the mountains, and her home in Tennessee,
Of whippoorwills and better days, God's love for you and me.
Someday I'll hear my mother, sing her songs once more,
When our family meets in Heaven, on that evergreen shore.

Mother's songs were often happy, sometimes she sang of pain,
But she always told a story, gave me courage to sustain,
When mother sang of sorrow, her eyes would fill with tears,
Her songs of the Heavenly Home above made beautiful visions appear.

Today the winter's breeze, or the cries of a loon,
May remind me of a song, or the fragments of a tune,
That mother used to sing to me, so many years ago,
That now I sing for mother, as she rests beneath the snow.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Individual salvation is a primary theme found in many bluegrass gospel songs. Appalachian migrants to urban settings found that gospel music met many of their needs for religious expression. Fundamentalist Protestantism taught that church attendance was not necessarily needed for salvation. Instead, expressing daily faith, reading the Bible and singing gospel music provided a certain type of individualized "old-time religion." In his book, Bluegrass: A History, Neil Rosenberg conceptually reinforces this when he describes bluegrass gospel music as "discourse about the sacred within a secular context.")

Wandering down the lane, I hear a sweet refrain,
Of the old church bell a-ringin' in the air,
As I grow near I see, from behind the old oak tree,
The sound I hear is nothing but my prayer.

For the church bell now is silent, the people come no more,
The church it is all boarded, the people they ignore,
The calling from Jesus, falls upon deaf ears,
Where will you find salvation? The church bell no one hears.

The bell would toll and chime, every Sunday Œbout noon time,
To call our prayers to Heaven up above,
Like autumn leaves adrift, the echo would uplift,
In the old time way we'd pray for peace and love.

The ringing of the bell, from the town in which I dwell,
Would call the folks from many miles around,
The whistling of the breeze, a-singin' through the trees,
We'd often stop to hear that welcome sound.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Lindbergh's famous flight across the Atlantic in 1927 is put to music here. What an evocative story of hard work and determination that was!)

In the year of twenty-seven, they said it could be done,
To fly across the ocean, headin' for the sun,
So a group of men and women, worked for sixty days,
On a plane that would make history on the 20th of May.

They called upon a young man who called Detroit his home,
To fly the mighty Spirit that shone like polished chrome,
The man was tall and slender, Lindy was his name,
And he would fly the mighty plane as if it were a game.

Oh the Spirit of St. Louis, it was a mighty plane,
It could do loops in the air or ride a hurricane,
On that day in twenty-seven, the plane made history,
By crossing the Atlantic from New York to Par-ee.

When the time came for their takeoff, he boarded with a prayer,
As the sun reflected off the prop and cast a shiny glare,
He wondered what would lay ahead and why he'd took the dare,
To cross the wide Atlantic, in sleepless solitaire.

One man wished him luck, he answered with a swear,
"I hope my plane will make it, for I haven't got a spare,
I only hope this plane will fly and that I won't get wet,
For if I do then I'll have seen my very last sunset."

From that muddy, sodden airfield in the state of New York,
The plane began to climb, the propeller with its torque,
Pulled the Spirit of St. Louis into the breezy air,
For over thirty hours they would ride a wild mare.

It was ten o'clock at night when he landed in Par-ee,
The French were very happy for he'd cross the mighty sea,
He climbed out of the cockpit, so brave and debonaire,
Thanked the Spirit of St. Louis for getting' him safely there.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Recorded live at Pro-Arts Studio, Eugene, OR. on 9/11/94 with my bluegrass band, Cold Thunder. Ted Grant plays some fine banjo on it, and the song is dedicated, in loving memory, of him.)

My heart remembers yesterday, I only had one heart to give,
And then you said "I'm goin' away," Now I no longer want to live.
I had two arms to give to you, To hold you tight and to caress,
I did my best to bring to you, A little joy and happiness.

And when you left I felt the silence all around,
The night was dark and drear, I heard not a sound,
The colors of your love have turned black and gray,
But my heart remembers yesterday.

My heart remembers yesterday, All paths I walked led right to you,
And now the flowers bright and gay, All hang their heads so sad and blue.
The days go by so black and white, I gaze upon the moonlit sky,
And look for hope out in the night, That you'll return before I die.

(Traditional - Arrangement by Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
Among my top ten favorite jam tunes, Bryan Bowers and I decided to pick "St. Anne's Reel" at a moderate tempo, with a couple harmonies, and some unique instruments like Japanese koto and whistle in the mix. Many thanks to Mitsuki Dazai and Radim Zenkl for their virtuosity.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Vic Wolberg tramped the Hi-Line back and forth from Seattle to Minneapolis about forty times. He is one of hundreds who ride the rails looking for work. Not your average poor street person, Vic is a wagon train man who's always moving Š toward hope Š looking for things he never finds. Murray Morris, a streamliner, is a Œbo who travels with no gear except for the clothes on his back, a watch to keep track of trains, and a motorcycle helmet. With no bedroll, he finds "thousand-mile paper," heavy-duty packing material, to sleep in. Riding freights since 13, Murray was banged up a bit in some derailments. Worried about getting hurt worse, Murray now always wears his helmet. I thank fellow Oregonian Jim Stoffer for sharing some of his excellent photographs, including one of Murray, taken during train travels in the 1980s. In true streamlined fashion, this bluesy song was kept nice and lean (played primarily with one chord) to capture Vic and Murray's stories.)

When I was just sixteen, My dad told me to go,
I hopped aboard the Northern headed west.
Now thirty-six years later, I'm still at the ol' crossroads,
Moving' back and forth is what I do the best.
I'm a streamliner, forever passing through.

I hear a lonesome whistle, Ridin' on these rails,
Montana is where I will be by nine.
Lookin' for some work, Just three weeks outta jail,
Nothin' but a coat To call mine.
I'm a streamliner, forever passing through.

I've been across the Hi-Line, Forty times or more,
Usually on a train to Lord knows where.
Walkin' down the cars, I look up to the sky,
With a prayer to find some work when I get there.
I'm a streamliner, forever passing through.

I'm just a streamliner, Forever passing through,
Got nothin' to my name but a can of chew.
I'm just a wagon train man, At the end of my rope,
I don't need no bedroll if I got hope.
I'm a streamliner, forever passing through - 3X

(J. D. Brant - Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(John "J.D." Brant was a good friend, guitarist, and singer in our Las Vegas-based group called Sagegrass. About six months after I moved from Nevada back to Oregon in 1988, J.D. died at age 52 from a heart attack. This song is a tribute to him.)

Somewhere down the road, I'm gonna lighten my load,
I'll be checkin' those greener pastures, I've heard about before,
I'll be clickin' my heels in the sunshine, somewhere down the road.

I feel like tomorrow, might be the day,
I'll pack up my suitcase, and make my getaway,
I've tied up all the loose ends, I've told all my friends,
I'm lookin' for a new life, that's alright to the end.

Headin' someplace warmer, somewhere that's green,
It'll be a paradise, I've never seen,
Where there's peace and harmony, no pollution or crime,
I'm lookin' for some good luck, a woman to call mine.

I might take an airplane, I might take the Amtrak,
I might get on the Greyhound, maybe push my thumb back,
I might go to Scotland, or sail to New Zealand,
Any place away from here, Oh what a feeling!

Somewhere down the road, I'm gonna lighten my load,
I'll be checkin' those greener pastures, I've heard about before,
I'll be clickin' my heels in the sunshine, ...
I'm livin' my life in the sunshine, somewhere down the road.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Ralph Stanley was once asked by if he felt a little like a preacher when performing a gospel tune. Stanley replied, "Yeah, yeah, I do. You have a different feeling in the gospel. I can put more in a sacred song than I can just an ordinary song. I can feel more. I feel like I'm doing myself, and maybe other people too, more good." To play this song, the verse chords are E C#m A B, E G# F#m B, while the chorus chords are F#m B E C#m F#m B, E C# F#m B. I love Ronnie Stewart's fiddling on this.)

He fashions our life with a hand so divine,
With care and thought and serious design,
Each day as it passes goes up and goes down,
So we laugh and we cry and occasionally frown.

He gives us our strength to live for today,
And the courage to drive all our fears away,
We thank you, Oh Lord, for the hope in our hearts,
Like the cast in a play we all know our parts.

His hand is divine, His direction is clear,
He's kind and forgiving and for Him we revere,
He opens our eyes so that we may see,
And when we're in need, He answers our plea.

Much happens in life that is a surprise,
Like falling in love or a blazing sunrise,
And while it just may, be circumstance,
His hand is divine, and I doubt it's by chance.

Bluegrass Alphabet

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(When presenting a "Roots of Bluegrass" solo show, I often play a rollicking sea song called "The Sailor's Alphabet" on English concertina. The idea for a completely different song that captures the bluegrass spirit, from A to Z, was a natural offshoot.)

A is Appalachia, where bluegrass began,
B is Bill Monroe, the man with the plan,
C is the cabin, that sits in the pines,
D's the dobro, make the sun shine.
E are emotions, of sorrow and pain,
F are the festivals, in sun and rain,
G is the guitar, a box with six strings,
H is Heaven, where angels sing.

Hi-Dary, Hey-Dary, Ho-Dary Down,
Just listen to bluegrass and nothing goes wrong.
So happy, so happy, so happy are we,
When we're together, in harmony.

I are the instruments, that make up the band,
J are jam sessions, held Œcross the land,
K is Kentucky, where bluegrass is king,
L's high lonesome, the way Bill sings.

M is for Big Mon, a father to us,
N is newgrass, now just what's the fuss?
O is for old-time string bands and such,
P's the pickin' we love so much.

Q are the quartets, their tenors so high,
R is the rhythm the guitar supplies,
S are the strings, we've busted a few,
T's traditional, Œgrass that's true blue.

U is unlimited, a great magazine,
V is Virginia, with its hills so green,
W are the women, their music's divine,
And X, Y and ZŠCan't get a line.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(This song was actually written to capture the feelings I experienced when visiting my wife's homeplace in central Ohio. I love the big old farmhouse near London that she was reared in. Her father was a farmer, and one of her brothers plays banjo.)

Down by ol' Willow Creek, there's a winding country lane,
Where my memory often wanders, looking through the window pane,
There's a soft, green mountain meadow, and birds that sing so sweet,
An old farm house, a big oak tree, and fields of winter wheat.

The creek flows gently by, an old decrepit fence,
As the smell of biscuits baking, captures every sense,
I see the friendly folk, and the bloom of white buckthorn,
As my memory wanders back, to the place where I was born.

And when the rain begins to fall, my heart returns to home,
I see the sun dance through the trees and the lane on which I roamed,
The scent of fresh cut hay and fields of harvest corn,
Is the memory of my home, the place where I was born.

I often walk that country lane, on a quiet, rainy day,
To hear the ol' creek whisper, and seem to softly say,
"It's good to see you old friend, where have you been so long?
Stay with me for awhile, and sing a happy song."

My memory wanders back, to that little ol' country lane,
To see my Mom and Pop, and hear the birds' refrain,
I feel the breeze a-blowin', on a cool October day,
In that place where I was born, I dream of yesterday.

A peaceful lake, so calm and blue, is down the lane a ways,
There friends and I would swim and play, on hot and humid days,
And the road from Seven Corners, to the one-room country school,
Is one I traveled often, past meadows sweet and cool.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(This song was the bluegrass category winner in the 7th Annual Portland Music Association Songwriters' Contest of 1994. Jamie Kruse's beautiful singing sends a wintery chill up my spine, and this arrangement tries to reinforce that both parties in a breakup often ultimately suffer and feel the pain of separation.)

The winter is the loneliest season of all,
The trees are bare, the skies are gray, the cold wind calls,
A whisper I hear, like a voice in the trees,
My days are dark, my tears like snow, fall on the leaves.

Oh why did you leave me? I long for you dear,
Now I've been destroyed, this season's so drear.
I walk in the snow, in sorrow and pain,
When spring comes, the fleeting snow will turn to rain.

The shadows do a dance, and I can barely see,
Now I'm alone, just like a leaf, upon a tree,
You left me, my darling, I sit in my room,
My heart is sad, that you are gone, I live in gloom.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(This gospel song was written back in my high school days. I was an apprehensive (but optimistic) kid about to embark on life's adventures away from home. I reckon that the message is timeless and still applicable, relevant and meaningful to me today.)

His ever-loving hand creates,
An avid, eager seed,
Which blossoms, opens, decorates,
That shining path, indeed.

Oppression sows seeds of despair,
You're guised in weary form,
Foes seek you out and strike, beware
On paths of rage and storm.

As you trudge, don't give up hope,
Charity, God makes divine,
Will help you climb, that endless slope,
One day soon the sun will shine.

There's heavy mist and I see that it,
Engulfs and proves to me,
That fateful path is infinite,
No way to break man free.

The sun now sets, you start to run,
Stumbling over sinners lost,
Trust in God, you've just begun,
That path of holocaust.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(A real beggar's tale of woe, what a hard-luck story this is! Rather than turning on the weeps, I encourage us all to look for proactive ways to help the poor, homeless and hungry.)

When I take the long fall, am up against the wall,
Rock bottom is the place where I'll land.
Pride and pain will keep me there, with sorrow and despair,
A hard luck, a lost soul, just looking for a hand.

Down and out, sad and lonely, I don't know how or why.
I took the wrong fork in the road, I've said my last goodbye.
Down and out, sad and lonely, It's hard to stand up tall.
Some just think it's bad luck, It's just no luck at all.

My family has gone away, I pray for the day,
That I can find a job, to get me by.
The streets aren't all that fun, I'm looking for someone,
To pick me up, and set me straight, from the gutter where I lie.

I've been in and out of jail, never able to raise bail,
They say that I did things I can't recall,
But I rise and face the day, and try to find a way,
I'm a weary pilgrim, Just headed for a fall.

I'm here because I'm lazy, Some say a little crazy,
Bad habits and misfortune took me down,
I've been weak, I've been strong, Feelin' right but always wrong,
I guess it's time to pack the bag, and find another town.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Living in Nevada from 1984-88 was a moving experience. There are plenty of bluegrass songs about cabins in the mountains, but I wanted to write one about the desert. Back in 1986, friend and bluegrass songwriter Randall Hylton wrote to me from Lebanon, Virginia to say, "The descriptions in your songs are just wonderful. I've never seen the desert. I've never been to Nevada. In ŒMy Desert Home,' you paint me such a vivid picture that I feel the heat. What you write about not many have experienced. In your songs, I was struck by the extremely good imagery and description.")

There's a sunrise on the desert, the wind is blowin' free,
And a thousand miles of sagebrush, Just as far as I can see,
It's mornin' on the desert, There are flames up in the sky,
And a thousand miles of cactus, Just to greet the weary eye.
My desert home.

In this great state of Nevada, I can smell my fire smoke,
And my coffee starts to sizzle, as the coals I slowly poke,
It's mornin' on the desert, I'm not lonesome, no-sir-ee,
For I've got my old horse Keno, just to ride this endless sea.
My desert home.

I sure do love the desert, with its stretches wide and brown,
I hate those crowded cities, even the smallest little town,
Its mountains and wide valleys, coyote, elk and deer,
In a land of God's creation, where the breeze is all you hear.

I'll ride the range Œtil sunset, I'll fight the blowin' sand,
In this land that knows no master, that can be so tough on man,
As the sun sets on the desert, I'm a man that knows no home,
For this barren land of sagebrush, is the land I'll ever roam.
My desert home.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Recorded live at Pro-Arts Studio, Eugene, OR. on 9/11/94 with my regional bluegrass band at the time called Cold Thunder. The theme of love-gone-wrong is a common one in bluegrass music. This song is dedicated to an excellent musician and friend, Ted Grant, who is no longer with us. He could play all the bluegrass instruments and does a fine job here on banjo.)

I once loved a little girl who said these vows to me,
To love and to cherish, we'd never disagree,
But one day as the morning came, she heard the cold wind's song,
When I awoke that winter day, I found that she was gone.

She wanders through life's journey, her feet are never still.
Not knowing where she'll rest tonight, she follows her free will,
For she is a vagabond and has a gypsy heart,
No sooner were we married, than we were apart.

Four walls would never hold her, the call was very strong,
To climb atop the mountains, although the road is long.
Over hills and through the meadows, to the tune of a gentle breeze,
Her feet have wings and she can fly, just like the birds so free.

She said the blue sky up above, and the birds that sweetly sing,
Would guide her through this weary world, through winter, fall and spring,
I still recall that lonely day, she left me to go west,
With just a star to guide her, her soul will never rest.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Written for an Oregon Council for the Humanities Chautauqua program, this song refers to the "Dread Canyon of the Umpqua." Along the Applegate Trail (a southern alternative to the Oregon Trail), steep terrain between Canyonville (once known as Knott's Station) and Azalea, Oregon was extremely difficult to traverse. Emigrant Jesse Quinn Thorton wrote, "The day we undertook passage of the Umpqua Canyon we passed household and kitchen furniture, beds and bedding, books, carpets, cooking utensils, dead cattle, broken wagons, and wagons not broken, but nevertheless abandonedŠ.near the entrance of the close canyon, we came to where many most miserable, forlorn, haggard and destitute-looking emigrants were encampedŠ" The hardships and suffering were enormous along the "southern route" in 1846. The trail was improved in 1847, and until 1853 it saw great use by the thousands who poured into southern Oregon to mine and settle this region.)

Through the canyon of sorrows, I'm following a track,
To a land of hope and promise, there'll be no turning back,
The winding path is rocky, along the canyon floor,
Like a man in a broken army, I'm knocking at death's door.

It's a lonely, dismal canyon, with walls so steep and high,
A bird would have no problem, how I wish that I could fly,
The steepest hill ever known to pass, is where you disembark,
It's every man for himself, to make six miles by dark.

I rough-locked all the wagon wheels, before I started down,
A jungle lay before me, a creek so cold and brown,
Into the savage wilderness, but yet I felt no fear,
King Providence was watching, to me the way was clear.

The captain was of fighting blood, but yet so old and frail,
He kept the wagons moving, despite the banshee's wail,
He said his life was nearly spent, and ours had just begun,
One day he prayed for mercy, and then his life was done.

Abandoned hopes and wagons, so many cattle lost,
To survive the mountain prison, but how high is the cost?
Nearly to Knott's Station, no food for many a day,
A child dressed in calico, death summoned her away.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Gospel messages and feelings are an important part of living, and this song makes a joyful noise unto the Lord to bring us light on the cloudiest of days. Our gracious God may not always keep bad things from happening to people, but He always helps and delivers them according to His gracious will.)

I don't have all the answers, there is much I do not know,
As why the grass is green or why the wind will blow,
I can't tell you what makes mountains or why the sky turns gray,
But I know who has the answers, it is God who knows the way.

Life is far too big for me, for I am just a man.
The earth, the moon, the Universe are hard to understand.
But I know these things are wondrous and can change a cloudy day,
And it's God who has the answers, only He can show the way.

All things in nature co-exist, and help each other live,
But man wants only to possess, and rarely does he give,
He's selfish and so full of hate, as he goes from day to day,
But God has all the answers, and He can guide the way.

A teardrop in my eye, glistens like a drop of dew,
I may not have the answers, but I think I've got a clue,
The questions come from wretched men, who walk the road of sin,
But the answers are in Heaven, and He will take you in.

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(This song was inspired by President Bush's State of the Union in 2000 where he called for increased volunteerism and community service among Americans. I work as a volunteer program coordinator for a public land management agency, and Bush's idea certainly hit home. In 2005, at Calvin College's commencement in Grand Rapids, Mich., the President also asked "As a generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision: Will you be a spectator or a citizen?")

You can make a difference now,
Find some time to lend a hand,
To make our world a better place,
For our rivers and our land.

Grab a shovel, use a rake,
Protect our streams and our lakes.
Build some trail, plant the trees,
Clean up trash, and pull some weeds.

Now you can make a difference now,
Get on out and show your pride,
That we are all Americans,
Down upon life's riverside.

Grab a shovel, use a rake,
Protect our streams and our lakes.
Help the sick or fund the arts,
Feel the sunshine in our hearts.

Now you can make a difference now,
Help some others who are in need,
When tragedy, misfortune strike,
Step on up and do good deeds.

Grab a shovel, use a rake,
Protect our streams and our lakes.
Feed the poor, teach kids to read,
Only you can plant the seed.

Grab a shovel, use a rake,
Protect our streams and our lakes.
Helping others is our creed,
Step right up and do good deeds - 2X

(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
(Growing old can be the pits, but try not to forget those fond memories you harbor from your younger days. New, exciting experiences are nice, but it's too bad that we often upload those at the expense of those wonderful memories from years and years ago.)

As we've gone through life, there's been happiness and bliss,
I still remember your sweet smile, the day that we first kissed,
Walking hand in hand, against the ocean's breeze,
And on that moonlit night beneath the tall pine trees.

But with each passing day, those memories tend to fade,
Just as the sun goes down, they cast a darkened shade,
New experience is the price we pay, for memories turning gray,
To lose what we hold dear, becomes tomorrow's yesterday.

I remember my hometown, and the little candy store,
Where my change would buy three gumdrops and sometimes even four,
I remember all the flowers along the country lane,
And the first time I ever flew in a silver, jet airplane.

(Traditional, arranged by Mitsuki Dazai-Radim Zenkl-Joe Ross/Hop High Music, BMI)
(Far across the Pacific, this Zen-like rendition of a common western folk song has Celtic, Oriental and Western sensibilities. Try feeling the song itself rather than feeling something about the song.)

Copyright. Joe Ross. 2007