Lyrics
All songs ©Mountain Redbird Music, BMI

From Barnstormin':

Kentucky River
(J.Reams/T.Aridas, BMI)

Chorus:
Kentucky River keeps on flowing
Pours from the mountains into my heart
Though I’ve left my home far behind me
The river and I never can part

I was born in east Kentucky
A river flows near my hometown
Its waters wash clean the souls of sinners
Its grassy banks are holy ground

As just a child, I took my daydreams
To those clear waters and that green shore
I dreamt I was leaving my lonesome valley
Now I dream of going home once more

As the shroud of dark night approaches
I hear the wind call my name
And I dreamt I was there by that lonesome river
My life will never be the same.


Coal Dust In My Soul
(J.Reams, BMI)

Many a miner in their cages descend
Down into pitch black, a new day begins
Headlamp, lunchbox, water for the day
Wives and children at home kneel and pray

Chorus:
Coal dust in my soul, aching in my back
Only life I know, old coal-town shacks
Cigarette in the morning, cold coffee at noon
Bourbon at quittin’ time, I’m digging my tomb

A number two shovel has seen its last day
A few pieces of scrip, another day’s pay
Down at the bottom the shadows of doom
The lamps blaze a trail through the darkness and gloom

Red clay coal camp, train whistle smoke
Diggin’ the black rock, coal for the coke
Pray to God that my son won’t come down
Takes the first dirt road out of this coal town


Buffalo Creek Flood
(T.Aridas/J.Reams, BMI)

The Buffalo Creek flood disaster occurred on February 26, 1972, in Logan County, West Virginia. On that day, 125 people died — men, women and children — and 4,000 people were left homeless. No family in the town was left untouched by this terrible event — an event that was man-made and could have been prevented.

Up on a hillside where a small stream ran
The coalmine owners they built them a dam
To clean off the coal and filter the sludge,
As God is a witness, so God be the judge.

Chorus:
The coal black water roared down from the hills,
Made Buffalo Creek a dark river that kills.
No act of God, no ordinary flood,
The water that did this was the Devil’s own mud.

The coal and the slag and the sludge and debris
Took away sixteen towns when it broke through Dam Three.

The thick black water came rushing through town
With the bodies of children, bones broken and drowned.

Up in New York the lawyers did claim
That God or the government or us was to blame.
What's left of our town is stained with black marks.
What's left of our lives is broke bones and broke hearts.


The Cincinnati Southern
(J.Reams/T.Aridas, BMI)

The Cincinnati Southern, Queen City’s finest line
Trains pull into Danville, delivering on time
Highball freight train rolling past old boom-town shacks
On its way to Tennessee, a full load on its back

The train roared south from Union brought tools to mining towns Took the black coal back up north in shipments factory-bound Through dark of night and blinding snow it toiled through many years
That sturdy iron workhorse was a rugged mountaineer

Chorus:
That last train out of town blew a long and lonesome cry
It carried away a memory, the steam train’s fading sigh
Those mighty locomotives that once roared down the tracks Snorting clouds of bellowing steam, now have silent stacks

That big hard-working freight train went roaring towards the bridge Its coal was loaded heavy as it rounded the last ridge The hill was steep, the brakes were old, the track in disrepair The runaway train was gaining speed, the brakeman said a prayer

The crash was heard five miles away by miners in the town The thunder of destruction as the train came roaring down The townsfolk heard a mournful cry, a whistle in farewell

It was the steaming freight train as it rang its own death-bell

At a depot in Kentucky, a farewell at the door
A porter put her bags inside, a conductor yelled “All aboard”

The train pulled out, the bell rang twice, the day had just begun

How many trains would leave before the setting of the sun

The water tanks are empty now, the fireboxes gone
The south-bound train has vanished and no longer sings its song

To stand beside the iron rails as the engine rumbles by
We watch it vanish down the tracks and sadly wave good-bye


Dogwood Tree
(J.Reams/T.Aridas)

A dogwood tree grew on a hill
Its petals white and pure
From its thick trunk a cross was formed
The cross our Lord endured

Chorus:
He was nailed on that dogwood cross
As the sky turned black as coal
He gave his life for all our sins
He died to save our souls

The blossoms in the springtime
Reveal the crown of thorns
The berries are a crimson red
But bitter when they’re born

A mighty tree was cursed the day
The stone sealed up the tomb
But glorious jubilation
When the dogwood is in bloom


From James Reams, Walter Hensley & The Barons of Bluegrass:

Crossing Jordan
(J.Reams/T.Aridas, BMI)

My family has gathered
Their eyes show their grief
The smiles on their faces
Deny what's beneath
Their sorrow's their burden
My troubles are done
Their struggle continues
My battle is won

Chorus:
Jordan I'm crossing
Jordan's waves tossing
Jordan, Oh Jordan, I’m coming home tonight

I'm meeting my Savior
At Heaven's bright shore
My life's been a hard one
But I'll toil no more
To God's loving presence
I'll journey tonight
The darkness will part to
Reveal holy light

Though death overtakes me
I've nothing to fear
The angels' sweet singing
Are the voices I hear
I'll soon leave this vessel
Of skin and old bones
The ship of Salvation
Will carry me home


From Troubled Times:

Troubled Times
(J.Reams, BMI)

Dawn till dusk out with the plow
Always pulled us through somehow
Dad would sit at the table and say grace:
"Lord, let us hold on to the old homeplace"

Chorus:
Hand-hewn beams held up the barn
Mom and Dad's dreams held on to the farm
Till it slipped like dust through their hard-working hands
Sometimes the devil has other plans
         ((subst. “banker” for “devil” last chorus))

Winter's chill went to the bone
Mom had made our house a home
Caressed us all with heart and hand
But troubled times had filled the land

Early spring brought hope and despair
Flocks of blackbirds filled the air
A muddy road led to our home
The man from the bank foreclosed on the loan


Eye Of The Storm
(J.Reams/T.Aridas, BMI)

In the final days of summer, at the last light of the day
As the withering heat was waning, and the sky was turning gray

Though I saw the dark clouds gathering, I hoped to wait it out

But a hard rain started falling and the wind drowned out my shouts

Chorus:
Now each way that I turn is blocked by misery
I’m in the eye of the storm and it’s knocked me to my knees

I didn’t heed the warnings, I was fool enough to stay
Now the road home is a dead end and the bridge is washed away

All my life I’ve been a gambler, even when the stakes were high

I was counting on good fortune, I was counting on blue skies

But luck collides with fate like storm clouds along the crest

Bad luck, like clouds, were gathering, and our home was repossessed

I lost my home and family. My story is not new
I’ll never see my love again, the sky will not be blue
The wind has blown me far away from all that I hold dear
And the storm clouds in my troubled soul I know will never clear


Hills Of My County
(T.Aridas/J.Reams, BMI)

Coal mining has evolved from the earlier method of digging deep inside mountains to the modern-day process of blowing them apart and throwing the remains into the creeks and valleys. Doesn’t sound like progress to me.

They tunneled deep into the hills of my county
The mules and the ponies went blind underground
The men and the boys got sick from the coal dust
A deadly affliction for pennies a pound

If God had not put coal in these mountains
If there had been nothing but rock, dirt and trees
My Daddy’d be walking these hills in the springtime
Not living a hard death of black lung disease

Now dynamite blasts off the top of these mountains
And big machines carve out the coal from the seams
They flatten the hills and fill up the valleys
And turn into black pools God’s pure mountain streams

If God had not put coal in these mountains
If He had blessed them with nothing to mine
The hilltops would offer their green domes to Heaven
Crowned with pink rosebay and blackberry vines

The strip mines that take off the tops of these mountains
Leave scars that won’t heal and make God turn his eyes
They level the hilltops that once reached toward Heaven
A mighty green skyline now humble in size

As God looks down at coal mining counties
At what has been done to this blessed land
I wonder if He ever wishes He never
Put coal in these mountains and gave them to man


From Wild Card:

Where No Heart Goes Hungry
(T.Aridas/J.Reams, BMI)

As a young man I journeyed from my home in the mountains

To reap from the city what my dreams had there sown
Behind me I put the hard rock of tradition
Thinking the city sprang up from rich loam

Chorus:
Back home to the loving embrace of my family
I’ll flee from this turbulent world to find calm
Where no one’s a stranger and no heart goes hungry
Where wounds too deep to heal receive balm

Adventure I sought and adventure I found
In the arms of a woman and the grip of the gin
When my pockets soon emptied I robbed the next mail
train

No gain from the deed beyond my mounting sins

In prison farm work I found some redemption
I done served twelve years, I’ve just eight years more
I’ll walk out of here twenty years older
Than the young fool who yearned for adventure before

Women and liquor and riches on mail trains
Are the fruit of the seeds of a restless young mind
No field or mine or mill can compare
With the hardships of life serving prison farm time

 

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