The Last Bird To Sing

This song was with me for quite a long while before I managed to round it off and smooth the edges. We usually hear unemployment talked about with statistics and figures, cold and clinical. It has a stark human, social side to it that is rarely mentioned by the talking heads who tend to be insulated from its woes. As with a lot of songs, though it’s fictional, the fragments and images came down from memories and from the tales of those I’ve known.

 

Guitar tuning: Csus2 (CGCGCD)

Lyrics

(Ewan McLennan)

As the winding path takes me down

In the dust where the air grows still

Past the shattered sills to where the broken bricks

Lie tossed at the foot of the hill

 

To the gentle hum of the engines far

And the cry of the bird through the air

With the falling grace of dull light on my face

To the city I vacantly stare

 

Down at these hands that hang by my side

To the times they have twisted and bowed

For the graft they’ve done, the thousand tasks been run

To lie still and idle now

 

As a boy I would sit here and whistle my tune

And watch the world role on by

From the heat of the red-brick factories roar

The smoke spun soft in the sky

 

My boyhood dreaming waned as I grew

No more watching the race from afar

With steel-toe boots and a coarse boiler suit

A lad amidst the furnaces scars

 

I learned my trade, how I listened and watched

I worked as hard as hard can be

But with passing years I grew proud with hope

Of a future that was never to be

 

Late in the day as the Autumn turned pale

A figure watched us work from the door

Into burning air his words spoke clear

In a haze our jobs were no more

 

I awoke each morning days stretched into nights

And I lurched through a hollow routine

In the queues each week with companions I’d stand

But our fortunes had turned on our dreams

 

For two sons and a daughter we had to provide

My wife worked long into the nights

To escape the stale air of a room with four walls

I skimmed stones at the quarry till light

 

In the years that followed things picked up and shone

And I hustled a job where I could

Re-skilled and re-tooled with a home of our own

In a strange shifting world we were stood

 

As time wore on our children grew tall

And I taught them all that I’d learned

In and out of trouble, the same as their dad

Dodging cots, running streets at Pikes turn

 

As some strangers say, we’ve carved our own way

In a world that still lists and turns

But once again there’s no work for the young in this town

And the queues form in air that still burns

 

With the dusk tales said, as the evening light ebbs

My son walks off into the night

With only dull flapping wings of the last bird that sings

He skims stones at the quarry till light

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The Last Bird to Sing

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Upcoming gigs

  • 11/09/14 Loughton Folk Club, Essex
  • 12/09/14 Folk at the Pumphouse, Watford Folk Club
  • 03/10/14 The Foundling Museum, London