The Roads That Make Men Weary

by Simon Balto

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credits

released November 5, 2013

Simon Balto wrote and performed all songs. The album was recorded in October of 2013 by Ian Vaver, at Honey House Records in the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin. Vaver added mandolin licks to two tracks: "Murders" and "Willows and Songbirds (The Song of Molly Forest)." Balto and Vaver collaboratively mixed and mastered the recordings.

All album art is the work of the wonderful Minneapolis-based artist Joel Starkey. Persons liking the visual aesthetic are encouraged to visit joelstarkey.tumblr.com.

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Simon Balto Indianapolis, Indiana

Alt-folk. Midwest. Big voice, full heart, can't lose.

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Track Name: The Cut
At the year's first thawing, in a house up on the ridge,
You stagger to the window and squint across the bridge.
And then you close up all the curtains, and sink back into bed,
And sing a song into your pillow, one that's born inside your head.

And in your singing, you will heal your mother's pain,
It's deep just like the cut inside a mountain from which she came.

You'd climb the highest mountains, and burn the deepest seas,
To lie upon the floorboards with the world between your knees.
And there's a pistol in the cupboard that you put away, at least for now;
It used to bring you solace, but you don't need it now, somehow.

'Cause in your loving, you figured out your heart's true size;
It measures well against the mountain's cut from which you rise.

But when that light it fades out, and a sparrow comes rushing through;
It lights upon that cupboard, and turns its head to you.
And then you stumble across the distance between your weakness and the end,
To pry those wooden doors wide and see what wounds are there to mend.

And in your sinning, you will see your father's aged face;
It's shrouded like the cut inside a mountain to which you race.

And in the deepest winter, a sickness is taking hold.
And It conjures up your terrors, and turns your pretty eyes cold.
And then you hurl up a prayer, one that breaks God's heart in two;
And as he lies there crippled, a calm comes over you.

But at your dying, will you rise up with the Good Lord's call,
Or crumble like the cut inside a mountain into which you fall?

Yes at our dying, will we rise up with the Good Lord's call,
Or crumble like the cut inside a mountain into which we fall?
Track Name: Just Kids
Through June last year in this small Midwestern town,
It rained like hell most every day.
The silhouettes of marionettes of two aging kids
Had been dancing in the drug store window since early on in May.

The boy’d left home on the first day of that summer,
Said he was on the search for something true.
So he wandered out from town to town and on to Brooklyn,
Where he laid himself down with a new girl or two.

And the violence of his leaving brought the hard rain driving down,
It pounded every house and flooded every street in town.
The town it shrugged and said, “In time, he will be coming home,
Ain’t that just like kids to think that you can make it on your own.”

The girl stayed home all through that long summer,
Her rage burning up her mind.
Her anger drove her to the whiskey bottle,
And to a stranger’s bed inside.

And the fury of her drinking brought the hard rain driving down,
It pounded every house and flooded every street in town.
The town it heaved a sigh and hoped that she would be alright,
But ain’t that just like kids to sit upon a bar stool every night.

And by that fall, the boy’s heart had grown weary,
From months of searching for one to share.
So he started west along the same road that he traveled,
With a memory of home and someone there.

But the question of his return brought the hard rain driving down,
It pounded every house and flooded every street in town.
The town it whispered “Give her time, she’ll come round in the end,”
But of him said “Ain’t that just like kids to fuck over a good friend.”

June next year will be better than the last one,
Come hell or come the flood.
They’ll push aside the hurt and put on airs of glory,
And build a vision of something looks a lot like love.

But there’s a fear inside their love that’ll bring the hard rain driving down,
Pounds upon the houses and floods every street in town.
And the town’ll heave a prayer upon the young man and his bride:
Protect the kids both from themselves and from their selfish pride.
Track Name: Jacksonville
“There’s whiskey in a mason jar and cigarettes out in the car,”
She said, “Please drive me anywhere but here.”
Through a broke and unhinged screen porch door, seemed something like a metaphor,
But for what, at first, was not quite clear.

I’d loved her back since I was ten, she’d looked through me at least since then,
But they say it’s always hope that dies the last.
So I held and kissed her head and beyond saw two feet sprawled on the bed,
In a pool of blood at first I had looked past.

And by midnight, we’d hit the I-10 pass,
Her porcelain face pressed up against the glass
“There ain’t nothing for us here,” she said to me,
“Just keep on driving, until we reach the sea.”

I asked if I could ask what happened, she looked at me with two eyes blackened,
She asked me, “Do you really need to ask?”
With windows open wide, the smell of ocean coming in her side,
Glancing over I saw her sipping from a flask.

She looked at me and sighed, then looked away out at the ebbing tide,
And pulled a strand of hair back from her face.
She said “I don’t feel joy or grief, just filled up with an odd relief,
And a wish to feel I’m at peace anyplace.”

And by three a.m., we’d hit the Georgia coast,
Passed a resurrection fern giving up the ghost.
We dug its babies to plant at our new home,
Set ‘em in the back seat, with the shovel and a stone.

We found a patch of sand out where the stars and ocean meet the land
I asked was it OK if I got drunk.
When the moon had settled down so far, she got up and walked to the car
I stumbled towards her as she opened up the trunk.

We put his body in a water tomb, she said “It will be first light soon,
We gotta get the hell out of this place.”
Drove northward through the shadows, on past miles of fields laying fallow,
And her head upon my shoulder felt like grace.

And by morning light, we’d hit the Carolina line,
Headed nowhere certain, so much as racing time.
“There ain’t nothing here for us,” she said again.
I figured out then how all of this would end.

In Myrtle Beach the sun came up, drinking coffee out of paper cups,
She smiled wry and leaned her head on me.
I held and kissed her head as the dawn turned the city skyline red,
And turned my eyes and looked out at the sea.

When the cops put us in separate cars, I stared out through the window bars,
And looked out at her looking back at me.
She smiled one more time and wiped a single tear out of her eye,
And mouthed the words, “Thank you. I feel free.”
Track Name: The Mills (The Ballad of Robert Forest)
Robert Forest was a good man, though a drinker and a fool;
He'd worked down at the mills on the river since 1982.
He married once to a girl he met when they were both sixteen;
The year then was '76, but by '83 she'd leave.

Underneath a canopy of trees in a small midwestern town,
With Rob wearing a rummage sale suit and his bride a secondhand gown,
They were wed by a traveling preacher who barely knew their names.
By all accounts it was an awkward service, though Rob loved it just the same.

And at the dance that evening Rob picked up his old guitar;
He didn't have much talent, but he played it with his heart.
He sang shitty couplets about love and knowing right from wrong;
And as his bride looked on distracted, he bathed her with his song.

The day she left was a pretty one sometime in the month of May;
She left her ring on the kitchen table and moved westward toward the bay.
Rob got home in the evening from a day working at the mills,
And found himself alone in the house they'd built nestled in the hills.

With everything inside him Rob tore down his old guitar,
And though he couldn't think straight, he played it with his heart.
He poured a glass of bourbon down, and another three fingers long;
Drunk and broken he spent that night trying to turn her into songs.

So it went for months and years, with Rob working at the mills;
Home at night with a song and a drink, and a stack of unpaid bills.
He never heard once more from his wife, though he heard she loved again.
The rumor floated on down the river and swirled 'round his head.

And as his hands grew crippled from years working at the mills,
Rob couldn't play his guitar, though every night he did try still.
Until one night it was nothing but a hunk of ash and rosewood;
Rob wrote his last song then, and he played it with his blood.
Track Name: Murders
Sweetheart, please, turn your weathered eyes up so they meet mine,
When they hang me from the gallows made of Carolina pine.
Hang the heavens in scarlet, and clutch a rifle to your chest,
And I’ll meet you where the weary be at rest.

And Peter, please, throw open those sanctuary doors,
The ones that let in God’s light from the ceiling to the floors.
Bathe me of my sins, and let me weep on Jesus’ chest,
And I’ll meet you where the weary be at rest.

There’s a murder of black crows dancing in the branches above my head,
They say, “Do not fear the fall now, we’ll carry you off to your pine bed.”
So children do not shake, don’t break, and do not bend,
When them black birds turn that blue sky red.

And demons, please, I don’t owe you a goddamn thing,
No longer will I listen to the sinner’s songs you sing.
You once caught me at my worst, but now I stand here at my best,
You can’t follow where the weary be at rest.

And wicked men, I leave you leaking out on this upturned soil,
The earth that broke my father as he broke it with his toil.
We will pull your gnashing teeth, ‘cause you’ve failed the good Lord’s test,
Ain’t no room for you where the weary be at rest.

There’s a murder of black crows dancing in the branches above my head,
They say, “Do not fear the fall now, we’ll carry you off to your pine bed.”
So children do not shake, don’t break, and do not bend,
When them black birds turn that blue sky red.

Sweetheart, please, turn your weathered eyes up so they meet mine,
When they hang me from the gallows made of Carolina pine.
Hang the heavens in scarlet, and clutch our youngest to your chest,
And I’ll meet you where the weary be at rest.

I’ll wait for you where the weary be at rest.
Track Name: Avery
Take me down to Avery Hospital,
And lay me down in the graveyard in the back.
Shelter me there from the jackals and the ghosts out in the weeds;
There among the overgrown tombstones, we can plant the seeds.

The seeds that grow -- the ones that grow the kids.
The kids that seethe at the airing of my sins.
Shrug your dress from your shoulders, let your hair fall to your chest,
Loosen up my necktie and button down my vest.

Take me down to Avery Beach,
And lay me down in the riptide's breach.
Lay your head upon me, put your cheek against my chest.
Tighten up my necktie and button down my vest.

Of these few things -- the few things I have left,
I'll give everything to you.

Of these few things I still have, I give them all to you.
Track Name: Winters
There are times that I remember when the spring turned into winter,
And the winter turned from spring and then to fall.
And it blackened out the sunshine, and it snuffed out all the fireflies;
The summer breezes never came at all.

And I stood upon some shorelines at the dawning of some springtimes,
Looking for a ship I could know best.
And I prayed to God I'd see it, and when I did not see it,
I hoped someone would keep my name inside their chest.

But I know now that those winters, that those were the last winters,
And this year will be kinder than the last.
As she throws her bony arms around my broad and sunburned shoulders,
Her grip it feels so good and strong and fast.
Track Name: Willows and Songbirds (The Song of Molly Forest)
Well the Spanish moss sags heavy
Here on this Carolina coast,
But perhaps a little lighter
Than this memory of a ghost

Of a kid who took me in
When we were lost and then again when we were found,
Of a boy never knew the difference
Between the echo and the sound.

I was that poor man’s ocean
And he the night above my sea.
Well I sought to see the world
But his was only big as me.

Tell me who now is the strongest
The one who leaves or the one who stays around?
And tell me how far is the distance
Between the echo and the sound.

I ain’t got much time now for regrets
But perhaps I should’ve never worn that old white dress.
But if you say I shouldn’t have let him take me in from the cold,
Don’t everyone deserve to try their hand at mining gold?

In that house up in the hills, I’m told
He sang a song was meant for me.
But I never heard the words, no,
I was out sailing my seas.

There was never any malice,
No hatred or no rage swirling around;
There was only the wide gap
Between the echo and the sound.

And now the willows weep as gently
As the songbirds in the trees,
For a man now dead and broken
By the meanness of dreams.

And tell me who now bears the burden:
The one who lives or the one buried in the ground?
Maybe in the end it’s neither
And we’re both the echo and the sound.
Track Name: The Tower and the Bloom (For Ma)
Last night deep in the woods,
Two kids in winter hoods
Argued over heaven.

One tall and plain to see
And one faded just like me
As they trudged blindly through the snow.

And the whippoorwill in the forest
Sang a lonely chorus
For the questions they asked there.

With their faces to the ground
They listened for a sound
To come floating ‘cross the air.
For some kind of sign that they might find her there.

At dawn the sun it came,
And the snow did not remain,
And the kids took off their jackets.

And as the dew burned off the hill,
And the forest stood quite still,
One grabbed a stone and began to stack it.

And the whippoorwill in the forest
Sang a lonely chorus
For the labors he did there.

And while the other cried and shook,
The Driftless birthed a brook,
And it matted down his hair.
And he looked for her eyes in the rushing water there.

They built a tower to the skies,
Past where the bluebird flies,
And sat upon its highest peak

They stayed there throughout the day,
And here and there they’d pray,
Otherwise too scared to speak.

And the whippoorwill in the forest
Sang a lonely chorus
For the prayers they whispered there

But on that mountain made of stones,
A fear crept in their bones,
As the sun beat in their hair;
That they may not find her in the clouds up there.

And at dusk they looked around,
And still heard not a sound,
So they started down the tower.

One wept into his hands,
And said “The question of heaven still stands.”
The other pointed to a flower.

And the whippoorwill in the forest
Laughed a perfect chorus
For the smiles they shared there.

For that bloom in all its glory
It sang their mother’s story
As the trees gathered to stare.
And they laid her down to rest in the forest there.
Track Name: The One For the Coming Home
This is one for the shuttered home;
This is one for the drifting snow.
Braid your hair up, darling, I'll see you in the spring;
I'll murmur my way home on a starling's wing.

Out of the city, I'm coming home;
I'll meet you where the west wind blows.
With backbone up, I'm coming home;
I'll lay you down where the willow tree grows.

This is one for the July fire;
This is one for the celebration pyre.
Autumn always comes like the springtime flood;
And I'll sleep with you in a little room awash in love.

Out of the city, I'm coming home;
I'll meet you where the north star glows.
With backbone up, I'm coming home;
I'll lay you down where the willow tree grows.