Music


“Captivating songwriting, powerful singing and fluent guitar work make Jack Harris’s album The Flame And The Pelican a treat.”

Tracks (click + for lyrics)

  1. The Rehearsal
    Today I saw a Pelican bowing the ocean,
    Elbowed and flailing for a pick at the fill,
    And the blue of a flame was the blue of the ocean,
    All of the rest that you could fit in a bill,
    And up on the desk was an island of papers,
    A volume of Lowell and a clutch of your letters.

    So maybe I’ll put the French Horn in a letter,
    Tell about the Pelican, tell about the Flame,
    Walk to the water with my fist in a fetter,
    Tied around an envelope burying your name,

    And maybe these old velum gulls will take wing,
    The boats in the quay or the sun in the evening.

    Oh I spent a year at the maw of a sonnet,
    With a woman so tender at the fore of the fray,
    The glory of Rome was a bow in her bonnet,
    And all of the rest they never built in a day,

    And her hair was the hue of the water I knew,
    The dark of a kiss and of faces at mourning.

    I knew a house, all clapboard and wicker,
    Down the years to a door,
    And these things we forefend,
    And if I’d have known how, I’d have gotten there quicker,
    But I didn’t know how.

    Today I saw a pelican bowing the ocean
    Elbowed and flailing for a pick at the fill,
    And the blue of a flame was the blue of the ocean
    And all of the rest that you could fit in a bill,
    And all of the rest that you could fit in a bill.

  2. Potato Flower
    If we listen to Potato Flower,
    thrown purple on the hill,
    We may understand the state of man,
    bowed to a lover’s will,
    If we listen to their peaty mouths
    all mingles in the meal,
    and the song therein their tubered voices
    Peeling –(Chorus):

    How low, how small, how base are we
    to flower here, most gloriously

    If we listen to the plumy stones,
    dropped damson on the dun,
    As they sing in balmy evening,
    Up t’wards a bloody sun,
    If we understand the game,
    The measure and the rule,
    And how the outcome fits the teacher to the
    Schooling

    (Chorus)

    If we clamour for the breathy tones,
    Breathed outwards of a gable,
    and how the lovers pass their confidences
    ‘Cross a burning table,
    If we circumscribe the mottled mauves
    Tongued tender to the throat,
    we may glean the song that sings inside the
    Doting

    (Chorus, end)

  3. Easter Morning
    In Easter Morning’s fledgling light,
    With the lingering stars still burning,
    I pulled myself into myself,
    And thought about returning.

    Though the manacles of night still held
    the watchman at his station,
    I thought of all I gave away,
    And of my reputation.

    On Easter Morning’s changing face
    was worn both hope and caution,
    I couched myself in the common pain,
    Considering then my portion.

    And I did confess some shade of doubt,
    And begged of it some pardon,
    But the mark of death was on the meal,
    Of Easter’s waiting garden.

    And I saw myself with fallen things,
    With Lucifer and Laurel,
    For I never meant to be the earth,
    Nor meant to be a quarrel.

    But Fresh was all the sedge and rye,
    The fragrant jasmine flowers,
    And I thought of all that was to wake,
    In these few waking hours.

    In Easter Morning’s fledgling light,
    With the lingering stars still burning,
    I pulled myself into myself,
    And thought about returning,
    I thought about returning,
    I thought about returning.

  4. Rider
    Saw you coming from them brogues that you wore,
    What you want to go wearing them for?
    Were you touched by the glamour?
    Do I know you from somewhere?
    Have you been here before?

    And I’ve known rooms that stood so empty and still,
    And when you came the wind took some of their chill,
    Are you the one from the paper,
    coming over from Boulder,
    with your crossed hatched score?

    (Refrain):

    Hey, hey, hey, You Rider,
    Hey, hey, hey, you Ride

    The old ones tell of games that’s played by the night,
    Of the root that speaks and the serpent that bites,
    Guess you’d know all about them,
    with your silver and shaman,
    and all the deals turned by fire,

    And remember Jason, strung fast to the bow
    and how the wind shook his body from the rafters and how
    Adie swore she saw someone,
    Coming low from the garden,
    Just a moment before,

    (Refrain)

    No one comes around that often,
    And the grass has gone to seed,
    But you got something gets folks talking,
    Maybe something people need.

    (Refrain)

    The milk’s gone sour now, the water’s running dry,
    And you’ll mark your business then ride on by,
    And I’ll maintain this vigil,
    Watch the motes on my pistol,
    Count the Carrion as they fly

    (Refrain, end)

  5. Big Umbrella
    She’s got a big umbrella,
    But the sky ain’t seen a breath of rain,
    She’s coming home with this great big fella,
    Pocket watch and cane,

    She was hog-swill and still-house holler,
    Bowie blade and turpentine,
    Look at her now with her beaded collar,
    With her burdock and her dandelion.

    She turn her nose up at Grandpa,
    Turn her back on the old swing door,
    Turn on her heel and walk around this room,
    Like she never crawled on this floor,

    She’s from down home Alabama,
    Used to sing the medicine show,
    It was ‘Old Black Joe’ and her ‘Nine Pound Hammer’
    The old songs we used to know.

    He picked her up on a May day morning,
    She was walking by the railway line,
    She always did have the sweetest voice
    Could make the pennies in the ash tray shine,
    She sent my ticket for New York City,
    The evening of her big debut,
    It’s still sitting on the kitchen table,
    Just one more flight I never flew.

    Ah well, may it’s just pride talking,
    Lord knows I keep the front porch clean,
    Maybe she and I should just go out walking,
    And I’d tell her how long it’s been

    She was always her Daddy’s darling,
    Walking down the grocery store,
    Go in there now and you’ll hear ‘em laughing –
    “Too proud to come ‘round no more,
    Too proud”

    She’s got a big umbrella,
    But the sky ain’t seen a breath of rain,
    She’s coming home with this great big fella
    Pocket watch and cane,
    Pocket watch and cane,
    Pocket watch and cane.

  6. Red Weather
    Lately the hedge rows stand tongueless and borning,
    Un-stranged by the passing of sheers,
    These people so prim, with their button-down warring,
    Blanch with the heat of their tears,
    By and large I was dreaming in dances un-rhumbad,
    Wheels they were giving me queues,
    I was filling these hedges with flowers un-numbered,
    Ribbons and Red Weather shoes.

    Lady your satin is ringed all in purple,
    Tigers sleep bright in your eyes,
    Like the rings around Saturn which give him his title,
    Your pollen clings sweet to your thighs,
    I was filling my gourd with it, striking chord with it
    while tedious wheels went along,
    I was soaking my clothes in it, drinking deep of it,
    Filling these vials with song,

    (Chorus):

    To kick out all the normal,
    To have strangeness and order,
    I am catamount nimble,
    I am rock at your table

    Who are these others who peak from the awnings?
    What teeth are they trying to hide?
    How thread they their spittle through layers of yawnings,
    And how do their passions abide?
    My blonde is the colour of scythers at seizing
    The grain of another stronghold,
    These fists are the fury of dragons at sneezing,
    Turning these metals to gold

    (Chorus)

    And when come you over the muses take mantle,
    The riddle is born from the sands,
    How soft from the lantern envelopes the candle,
    And how we do busy our hands!
    This wine is the liquor of Bacchus at balling
    with every young nymph at his train,
    How bring you the spirits and all of their calling,
    mixing the grape and the grain

    (Chorus)

    (Variant Chorus):

    To kick out all the normal,
    To be rock at your table,
    There are cats in the mountains,
    There are snakes in the cradle,
    There are snakes in the cradle,
    There are snakes in the cradle,

    Oh and the red weather,
    Oh and the red weather,
    The red weather,
    and the red weather.

  7. Sylvia Plath’s Lullaby
    My Father was a beekeeper,
    I was born in thirty-two,
    And is a busy Motherhood
    that I lay down to you,

    I’ll sing you boathouse quiet,
    And stillness over corn,
    And the hushes breathed from matchbooks
    When the matches have all gone.

    New statues in the museum,
    New fabric in the art,
    New freckles tender-held so long
    about this blemished heart,

    And you are little hearts with fingers,
    Knuckled dear into my palm,
    And you’ll sleep through torrid darkness,
    When the daylight’s all gone

    (Refrain):

    For there is danger in this house, my angels,
    It is better if you don’t know,
    There is doom about this house, my angels,
    It is better if you,
    If you don’t.

    Now I have laid your sheets with sentences,
    Put the linen to the loom,
    But it seems as much as I can do
    to stem the gathering gloom,

    But I’ve lathed for you your sleeping,
    And tooled for you your song,
    A love strain from your Mother,
    When your Mother’s dead and gone

    A love strain from your Mother,
    When your Mother’s dead and gone

    (Chorus, first verse, end)

  8. Tea Meeting
    (Chorus):
    I’m gonna take you to the Tea Meeting baby
    When my workaday week is through,
    I’m gonna take you to the Tea Meeting baby,
    Gonna Talk real sweet to you,
    I get up in the morning, lay down in the evening,
    Ain’t nothing more a fella can do,
    I’m gonna take you to the Tea Meeting baby,
    Gonna talk real sweet to you.

    Chairman Rolly had a daughter was a shy little thing,
    Never was the talking kind,
    When she rolled down the street all the boys on the corner
    never paid her any mind,
    I was down at the cooler with my Panama on,
    I was trying to keep my natural tone,
    I was proud as a lion in the heat of the day,
    In the evening coming home alone.

    (Chorus)

    Chairman Rolly in the bar about six in the evening,
    Drinking Mariposas over ice,
    Rolled him out in a barrow ‘bout three in the morning,
    Guess every chairman got a vice,
    Well he had a little daughter when she hit thirteen
    gave all the neighbour boys some hope,
    They used to run out of doors in their Sunday drawers
    Just to watch the little girl skip rope.

    (Chorus)

    Chairman Rolly had a daughter used to never-wanna-oughta
    Was as skinny as she was flat,
    Now the boys on the corner can’t keep their eyes off her
    since she figured how to walk like that.

    (Chorus, end)

  9. Wedding Dentures
    They dressed me in lace, they hemmed me in white,
    They pulled in the coins for a carriage,
    Like a deed signed in ink and enveloped quite,
    The day I was issued for marriage.

    And they saved for my teeth with labour and skill,
    And certain some few misadventures,
    And to a man I was taked, and by straining of will,
    I smiled through wedding detures.

    And I wore the same grin as the years entered in,
    With ner’y a chip or a splinter,
    And of children we’ve two, though scarcely I knew,
    The eldest to wed in the winter.

    (Bridge):

    Some of us choose the styles of our shoes,
    The place where the dice gets to fall,
    Those who’s left here when such choices are clear,
    Who are we to make choices at all?

    He showed me the girl he was taking to wed,
    Fair faced and stout limbed to the bargain,
    His Father thinks too her a fine girls to woo,
    He never could look to the margins.

    And her teeth are her own, like beacons they shine,
    The meanest out glittering my timbers,
    But something in her smile still makes me recoil,
    Something dark, and too easily remembered.

  10. Donegal
    Well it was all on the eve of St. Agnes,
    And you were touched by the fading day’s sun,
    And all the boys at the port called you Maha,
    All for the way you did run,

    And your Labours were lithe as you danced ‘bout the harbour,
    You gave me your kindness and all,
    And you were gone ‘fore the moon reached the top of its ladder,
    Back to your fair Donegal.

    Well they sold my ship in November,
    But you were gone before that moment fell,
    Yes the boys at the harbour bars warned me about you,
    But they never did warn me so well,

    And as soon as I raise up a claim all of gold,
    I’ll set six stealthy ships all to creep,
    To the place where your lips kiss away a man’s reason,
    And sing all his tempers to sleep.

    Now it has been seven years since your leaving,
    But your glamour is constant as steal,
    And at night times I dream that I see you,
    Climbing over my garden wall,

    And I follow you over the top of the ocean,
    my feet never falter nor fall,
    And I run ‘cross the reddening and shadow of Ulster,
    and chase you back to Donegal,

    I run ‘cross the reddening and shadow of Ulster,
    And chase you back to Donegal.


Tracks (click + for lyrics)

  1. Oast Houses
    I could show you stuff ‘round here perchance might make you pause’
    I could take you walking.
    Show you certain things that move like wind upon the conifers,
    Hear the seasons whispering.

    I could show you oast houses, look like crooked witches’ hats,
    And moss-broken barns frequented largely by stray cats,
    A kiln no one thought was there, a willow like and woman’s tear;
    There’s a hill outside of Gloucester like the small of your back
    Swooping like the small of your back.

    I could show you boughs of trees like great, commodious bones,
    Weathered hearts a-beating.
    Fisher planks spread nimble o’er a river’s width of stepping stones,
    Waves un-tethered moving.

    Do not be so timid, put the water to your toes,
    Move out the rocks shining green their weedy throws
    Like you’ve never done before, the glimmer of buried ore,
    The waves across the pebbles like your body ‘neath your clothes,
    Moving like your skin beneath your clothes.

    I could show you stones that ache with years of being still,
    In the fields just standing.
    Spider webs are holding all the dew’s autumnal rill,
    All the leaves are burning.

    A trinity of hours, a through-England race
    Make up the miles and darted things less commonplace
    Like the burning of bonfires, the roses and tangled briars,
    The sap from off the sapling like my blood toward my face,
    Rising like my blood toward my face.

    I could show you stuff ‘round here perchance might make you pause’
    I could take you walking.

  2. The Dance
    Grandmother, young Mother, Mother-to-be
    Do you rise so cautiously?
    See the lighthouse, take your stance
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner, join the dance.

    “I saw the fortune teller,” said she,
    “He laid it all in front of me,
    Mirrors smoking, eyes askance,
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner, join the dance.”

    But I woke up to a fever
    It was redder than blossom
    Woke to uncertainty snatching the bosom
    Wake to the shackle or wake to the key,
    Wake to the pangs of identity.

    Far from the maddening moment stands She,
    Choices lined so markedly,
    Maybe moonlight, maybe chance,
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner,
    Take a partner, join the dance

  3. Bird Song
    Says the Robin as he flew,
    “When I was a young man I’d choose two,
    And if one didn’t love me, the other one would,
    Now, don’t you think my notion is good?”

    Says the Blackbird to the Crow,
    “What makes the white folks hate us so?
    For ever since old Adam was born
    It’s been our trade to hoe up corn.”

    “Hoots!” say the Owl with his head so white,
    “A lonesome day and a lonesome night,
    I thought I heard some pretty girl say
    She’d court all night and sleep all day.”

    “Oh, no, no, no!” cried the Turtledove,
    “That ain’t no way for you to gain his love.
    If you want to make him your heart’s delight
    You must keep him awake by day and by night.”

    Says the Robin as he flew,
    “When I was a young man I’d choose two,
    And if one didn’t love me, the other one would,
    Now, don’t you think my notion is good?”

  4. Pomegranate
    When in windy she walks me out my door
    Into springtime, ring-a-ling time, tumbling from her pinafore,
    Her keepsakes frame the blossom,
    Sunny shot through dusky drear,
    And I want her more,
    And I want her still,
    And I want her forthright this time each year.

    When she tells me of maybe-so’s fallin’ around
    In the midnight, in the half-light, shakin’ from her eiderdown,
    Her breath arrives sirocco,
    Maple to her skin adhere,
    And I want her more,
    And I want her still,
    And I want her forthright this time each year.

    Oh, the pomegranate, she’s the bitterest of fruits,
    Contrariwise to what you may believe,
    Sunrise tequila’d wistful regret sown in its juice
    That flows from chin to toe each time you leave.

    Dappled amber, she paints me southern sky,
    When tomorrows and the sorrows framed in her bye-byes,
    November flows remorseless,
    Red from mortal wounds of May,
    And I want her more,
    And I want her still,
    And I want her more each waking day,

    Just to hold her close,
    And to pull her near,
    And I want her forthright this time each year.

  5. Merciful Heavens
    How’m I gonna make nice if the barber takes my tresses?
    Lord, that’s a given and, Merciful Heavens, the moths have got my dresses;
    They say we had a revolution, and I’m wondering where I been;
    All I know is Martin’s coming home and I’ve got to catch the eye of him.

    How’m I gonna make right all these wrongs that so confound me?
    Lord, I have striven but, Merciful Heavens, still they will abound me;
    My hands all gnarled from the coal shed, hair already worn thin,
    And it scares me so, for Martin’s coming home, and I’ve got to catch the eye of him.

    Call me homely, I know they do,
    Saints bestow me eyes of powder blue
    Fair complexion, sweet inflection,
    And a dimple too;
    I am want of these things;
    I am want of these things.

    How’m I gonna compete with the neighbor girls and their fashions?
    Sister, help to pinch my cheek, put some rouge into this ashen;
    They say the revolution seen enough blood swim;
    Don’t care none, Martin’s coming home, my blood is flowing for him.

    How’m I gonna make nice if the barber takes my tresses?
    Lord, that’s a given and, Merciful Heavens, the moths have got my dresses;
    They say we had a revolution, and I’m wondering where I been;
    All I know is Martin’s coming home and I’ve got to catch the eye of him.

  6. The Archer
    Red Ribbons strung around a lighthouse
    Ten thousand feathers at the helm of an arrow
    Eyes to the stars that say The Archer
    All upon the needing you

    We tied our targets to a windmill’s arm
    And couldn’t train our aims on you
    I razed my mansion to the sandy ground
    All upon the needing you

    Four colours crimson at the hillside’s brow
    Red wine or whiskey sipped from a chipped coffee cup
    We took all the lampshades from the lightbulbs’ eyes
    All upon the needing you

    Five horses tethered to the muzzled roll,
    Along came six with tricks all so sleeveless,
    Breathless at the mounting of the mountaintop,
    All upon the needing you.

  7. See How the Bronze Horse Go
    Take out the stone from the valley’s mouth,
    See how the broad brook flow,
    Take out the bridle and wash out its mouth,
    See how the bronze horse go,

    Take out the plough from the shoulder’s weight,
    See how the oxen won’t tow,
    Take off the reigns and open the gate,
    See how the bronze horse go,
    See how the bronze horse go.

    Chorus:
    Cruel rider, cruel rider,
    See the horizon and know,
    Cruel rider, cruel rider,
    See how the bronze horse go.

    Die for the woman, cry out for her love,
    See how the passions they stow,
    Retire all the whip crack and take off the glove,
    See how the bronze horse go.

    See the swallow careen through the trees,
    See from the winters in snow,
    See from the mercy and down on your knees,
    See how the bronze horse go,
    See how the bronze horse go.

    Chorus

    Just lie o’er the saddle and let yourself be,
    Feel how the agonies slow,
    See yourself humble and know you are free,
    See how the bronze horse go.

    How low now the head, see the bend of the ears,
    Feel the footsteps solemn flow,
    Come down from his back; you have rode him for years,
    See how the bronze horse go,
    See how the bronze horse go.

  8. Tampa Red
    Tampa Red put his National away,
    Hung up his coat tails and his shirt by the door,
    And he stared at her gold name, and he looked at her picture,
    Said, “Frances, I can’t do this no more,
    I can’t do this no more.

    “Tampa Red cried in church on a Sunday,
    Was lost Monday morning with a bet twice as wide,
    And he sat in his kitchen, couldn’t stomach the coffee,
    And he looked in the mailbox, only bad news inside,

    Chorus:
    Crying, “Take me back to Georgia where the cotton fields sing
    The blues blow so carnal, oh, and I am the king,
    Hokum so fine, sweet Georgia moonshine,
    Whippoorwill blue on the wing.”

    Now Tampa Red sits up late on a Friday,
    TV lights blaring, the nurses have gone home,
    And nobody’s calling, nobody left no message,
    Just Tampa and his memory alone,
    Tampa and his memory alone,

    For it was you in each blue note, it was you in each song,
    The soul of this National was the fire in your eyes,
    It was you in each dance floor, and the suits I was wearing,
    You were each woman that I’d rhapsodize,

    Chorus

    Tampa Red put his National away,
    Hung up his coat tails and his shirt by the door,
    And stared at her gold name, and he looked at her picture,
    Said, “Frances, I can’t do this no more,”

    Chorus
    Whippoorwill blue on the wing.

  9. Happy Song for Baltimore
    And when I get to Baltimore gonna draw me out a heavy sigh,
    And when she sees the mess I’m in, gonna hang me out to dry;
    Tempers bay when soft she whispers, the sleeping dogs all lie,
    So I’m going back to Baltimore, tear drops in my eye.

    She cook fine beans and cornbread mash, and her kettle’s always on the boil,
    Her garden soothes when first I run my fingers through her soil;
    If I break down, as I am prone to, I know she’ll change my oil,
    So I’m going back to Baltimore, never more will I toil.

    Circle, circle, circle, dot; she dances lie the tall maypole;
    She in the circle and I ain’t not; Lord, make to shine my soul;
    Through her kindness he will always remind me of my role,
    So I’m going back to Baltimore, she gonna make me whole.

  10. Cotton Dress Love Song
    Come to me in the cool of a cotton dress,
    Billowed sheer in the sun is the fit that’s best,
    Do the crossword waiting on a train,
    Raise the paper high to summer rain.

    Come to me in the wind-swept hollow, Sunday morning start,
    Climb into the taxi I’ll arrange,
    Come with all the sweetness I have harbored in my heart,
    Let me know that sometimes things can change.

    Come to me when my spirit’s in a mess,
    With your balmy humour’s heat and a cotton dress,
    In eagerness I’m waiting at my gate
    And even lateness I will tolerate.

    Come to me when February’s faded springtime into March,
    Let me know the wonderments you’ve had,
    Come to me whose thirst so desperate lingers to be parched,
    Show me that things cannot be so bad.

    And if the train lets you down, as trains are prone to,
    Have no fear, darling, think it through…

    You could come to me in the rust of an old sedan,
    Quite low key, honey, just as you had planned,
    The house is big and the rooms are seldom full,
    You just wear that dress woven wild with slavery’s wool,

    So come to me, darling, quickly as you can,
    For man needs woman and I hope you need this man,
    Come to me in the cool of a cotton dress,
    Billowed sheer in the sun is the fit that’s best.

  11. Red’s On the Bed
    Red’s on bed in the shape of ardor
    Loomed from the cotton of exalted water
    Looks like beulah but it smell like sin
    Open up the door, honey, come on in
    Red’s on the bed in the shape of ardor

    Red’s on the room with the big box beating
    Trenched in loam, your touch entreating
    Tempered to the treaties of Romeo’s schemes
    Mirrored in the blushing there at fevered dreams
    Red’s on the room with the big box beating

    Red’s on a roll like the aisles at prom time
    Shinin’ from the silver sheen and shaken from the night time
    She open all the curtain let the day break in
    She took me down to the roses where the heart red swim
    Red’s on a roll like the aisles at prom time

    Red’s on the checking of the traveler’s bindle
    Prickin’ of the finger on the sleeper’s spindle
    Barrellin’ round the labyrinth of an old dirt road
    Bearin’ up a burden lookin’ to unload
    Red’s on the checking of the traveler’s bindle

    Think of danger, think of fashion
    Think of fondness, honey, not obsession
    Think of colour, baby, think of passion
    Think of colour, baby, think of passion

    Divining red from your salted finger
    Spring from a source deemed well at singing
    Down in the darkness where the shadows roll
    Shackled to the shifting of the undertow
    Red’s on the bed with your salted finger

    Red’s on bed in the shape of ardor
    Loomed from the cotton of exultant water
    It looks like beulah but it smell like sin
    You just open up the door, honey, come on in
    Red’s on the bed in the shape of ardor

  12. One by One, the Buffalo
    See the Buffalo fall together in a row,
    One by one, falling down,
    See the Skeletons strewn white below the Blackfoot runs
    Where once had fell the Buffalo

    See the hollowed caves, dark and open to the braves
    When came snow, falling down
    Overheard, the plunge, sweeping danger like an iron hinge
    One by one, the Buffalo

    And down, down, down, down and down we go
    Down, down, down, down and down we go
    One by one….

    See Many Mules crying silent from the spools
    Of ransacked plains and Diaspora
    See the hills of red bearing witness to tomorrow’s dead
    One by one, the Buffalo

    Hear the hollow bone beating hungry on the stone.
    The many, many feet all flocked and flying,
    Hear the flinch of steel, arrowed darkly through the smoke and teal,
    Skin and bone, the Buffalo

    And down, down, down, down and down we go
    Down, down, down, down and down we go
    One by one….

    See the ridge of cloud, broken yellow by the corn flour shroud
    Forming shapes, the Buffalo
    Feel the wisp of wind pull apart the forms and bear them to an ending,
    One by one, the Buffalo,
    One by one, the Buffalo