Better Devil

by Austin MacRae

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1.
Horses of the Sea I’m poor ol’ Jimmy Lyons I was the captain of the freighter Liberty I used to be the man that folks would go to To get their horses cross the sea I sailed from Maine to England And back-and-forth for nearly thirty years Now I’m standing on the blade between this world and next I’m standing in the shadow of my fears Now I don’t know who I’m supposed to be And I’ve lost my hold on the horses of the sea My nightmares run from here to Fiddler’s Green And I feel the whole world rollin’ over me Yeah I feel the whole world rollin’ over me That night it was a long one We were just pawns upon the ocean’s pitch and swell The horses beat their hooves against the stanchion walls They knew it wasn’t gonna end so well And I tried to keep them gentle While the crew they stripped the skin right off their palms But the storm it would not let us go And I heard my ship go splintering at the hull Now I don’t know… My nightmares run from here to eternity I feel the whole world closin’ over me Morning... Morning found us clinging to a lifeboat With not a single horse around us to be seen But far on the horizon I felt those horses lookin’ back at me I’m poor ol’ Jimmy Lyons I was the captain of the freighter Liberty Now I’m standing on the blade between this world and next I’m standing where the shoreline meets the sea Now I don't know who I'm supposed to be Cause I've lost my hold on the horses of the sea My nightmares run from here to eternity And I feel those horses lookin’ back at me And I feel those horses lookin’ back at me And I feel those horses lookin' back at me
2.
Last of the Hollers I’m the last of the Hollers I'm the last of the Hollers And the last there will be Cause the bloodline is broke And it dies here with me I was born on the hard land With the crabgrass and nettles But we Hollers were harder And our hearts were all metal Yeah we Hollers were harder And our hearts were all metal I was raised in the light Of a lord I'd not chosen And the eyes of a father That left me all frozen I was raised to be bloodless I was raised to be quick I was raised to strike back And to not say Jack I was raised to strike back And to not say Jack Shhhhhhh But the words my mother swore I leave them at the door And the blues my father wore They don't fit me no more They don't fit me no more They don't fit me no more Now you’ve heard them all say How we beat that poor Miller boy Till you couldn't even tell He was a Miller no more They say that we snuck down Deep in the holler And we strychnine-d that well Over hardly a dollar Yeah we strychnine-d that well Over hardly a dollar Well I'm not denying Or admitting to Jack But I will say there's a roadmap Of scars on my back You can follow these scars Like the length of a whip Til you see for yourself How I never quite fit Til you see for yourself How I never quite fit And the bruises that I wore I leave them at the door And the silence that I swore Lies shattered on the floor And the blues my father wore They don't fit me no more They don't fit me no more They don't fit me no more I’m the last of the Hollers I’m the last of the Hollers And the last there will be Cause the bloodline is broke And it dies here with me Yeah the bloodline is broke And it dies here with me Yeah the bloodline is broke And it dies here
3.
The Faithful Ones I am the undertaker’s son I’ve dressed the old and dressed the young Word gets around This one-hearse town I always do what must be done I heard about poor Brenda May She came to us that cold spring day I brushed her hair Dressed her up with care I made her bruises go away They say light falls on the faithful ones Grace will shine like morning sun But how am I supposed to see that light When all I see is what her husband’s done She beat the boys who beat me down She kicked some balls and broke some crowns But the years flew by Went slipping from my eye And now my sweetheart’s underground I still see her tangled hair The lines she wore are everywhere The girl I knew With shattered eyes so blue Her fists keep flying through the air They say light falls on the faithful ones Grace will shine like morning sun But how am I supposed to know what’s right When all I see is what her husband’s done My father brought me up like him Straight and narrow and free from sin Each night I swear Try another prayer Try to keep the doubt from creeping in They say light falls on the faithful ones They say just wait for Kingdom Come But how am I supposed to see that light When every prayer dies cold upon my tongue Yeah every prayer lies cold upon my tongue
4.
Weasel Robinson They call me Weasel Robinson But I’m better than my name Yeah I’m not the one to blame For all those barn fires Well they pulled me out of bed that night And slapped me into chains Yeah they drug me down the street That’s when a bad bad man I became Well the judge said I was born all wrong And he took me out to hang But I slipped the noose like a shadow And I slithered far away Now I’ve bled on every corner Been kicked off every train And I’m lookin’ for a savior In this simmering and sinful rain Oh by and by Before I die I will sail upon the river I will turn the cold clay over Til I find My angel in disguise Til I burn The tongue that told such lies Til I hold Two pennies for my eyes They call me Weasel Robinson But I’m better than my name Yeah I’m not the one to blame For all those bone fires I’ve been bitter as a blizzard And venomous as Cain But I long to be the better man Pressed against your windowpane Now I’ve fallen for the shadows Of all the sinners that I’ve slain And all the cheaters that I’ve lain beside In morning So you can call me what you want, my friend You can hold me to the flame I’ll be the hunger in your bones I’ll be the whipping boy for all your shame Oh by and by Before I die I will sail upon the river I will turn the cold clay over Til I find My angel in disguise Til I burn The beast that told such lies Til I hold Two pennies for my eyes They call me Weasel Robinson But I’m better than my name Yeah I’m not the one to blame For all those bonfires So you can call me what you want, my friend, Cause I’m dying to be changed I keep lookin’ for my savior Would you like to be my savior? In this simmering and sinful rain In this simmering and sinful rain In this simmering in sin Full rain
5.
Better Devil 04:29
Better Devil You know me as the man Who raises hell all through Bethlehem With a flicker in his eye With boots all split and a look that’s mean Some days I’m bursting at the seams To hide the beast that lives inside And every now and then I let my tongue slip out again And it lashes you somehow But I’m telling you right now My hands are on the table I got my spirit stable I’ll be your better devil now I’m dealing halfway level I’m more good than evil I’ll be your better devil now You know me as the man Who took his lover by the hand And swore that he would change With all my tricks and hidden schemes You took my coat and took me in And my stars were rearranged For years I just hung around Waiting for my heart to be changed somehow But I’m done with waiting now And I’m telling you right now My hands are on the table I got my spirit stable I’ll be your better devil now I’m dealing halfway level I’m more good than evil I’ll be your better devil now
6.
The Ballad of Delbert and Bill i.m. The Ward Brothers, Munsville, NY This is the ballad of Delbert and Bill Two brothers who farmed in the Munsville hills They were threadbare as scarecrows and stunk to high hell But no one was offended by Delbert and Bill No one was offended by Delbert and Bill They’d fire up their Farmall and head on downtown Get some butter and Wonderbread, then turn right back round They labored like oxen on hardscrabble land Did I mention they washed all their livestock by hand? Did I mention they washed all their livestock by hand? Now the troubles all started when Bill spat some blood We feared that the good lord would take him for good Old Delbert was shaken, and he babbled away His eyes were all wild to see Bill in such pain His eyes were all wild to see Bill in such pain I was woken one morning with terrible news Delbert stood crying, said “Billy ain’t movin’” I called the authorities to come fetch ol’ Bill When they looked at the body, they smelled mercy-kill When they looked at the body, they smelled mercy-kill Well the troopers poured in, and reporters did too They pressed Delbert hard in the name of the truth Connie Chung flew in next cause a neighbor had said That Delbert and Bill enjoyed the same bed Yeah Delbert and Bill enjoyed the same bed Well a jury was called and the battle lines drawn The doctor feared Delbert wouldn’t last long How he shook like a leaf as he climbed to the stand And his tremors they rippled all over this land Yeah his tremors they rippled all over this land So here ends the ballad of Delbert and Bill With a not-guilty verdict, and a show of good will We locals we showered Delbert with beer And said that he’d shine for a million more years Yeah we said that he’d shine for a million more years Some folks say that Munsville gives them the chills But I loved those poor boys like I love my own hills Their farm is still standing but Delbert’s long dead And the stars still deliberate up overhead Yeah the stars still deliberate up overhead Yeah the stars still deliberate up overhead

credits

released July 1, 2019

All songs written by Austin MacRae
Recorded live at Electric Wilburland Studio in Newfield, NY
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Cass Medcalf

Austin MacRae: vocals, guitar, tenor guitar
Devon MacRae: tin whistle, banjo, guitars, harmonies
Jen Cork: melodica, harmonies
Sophie MacRae: fiddle, nyckelharpa
Casey Widger: upright bass

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Austin MacRae Ithaca, New York

Austin MacRae is an Ithaca-based contemporary folk singer/songwriter.

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