Our Maine Songs
OGR 8945 | Released 1999
Schooner Fare is a true Maine treasure.
On this CD, you'll hear more than three fine musicians, you'll hear the essence of Maine and what makes it such a special place. It's all here--the lighthouses and rocky coast, the stark beauty of "The County," the sailors, fishermen, and factory workers who give our state so much color and character.
Some of these songs will make you laugh. They will have you tapping your feet and singing along. Others will send shivers down your spine and bring water to your eyes. All of them will make you proud to live in a state as beautiful and bountiful as Maine. And if you're a visitor who hasn't yet experienced all we have to offer, Steve, Chuck, and Tom will take you there--without even getting your feet wet.
So cast off. Set sail. Listen to the sounds of the sea, the gulls flapping overhead, the buoys ringing in the harbor. And let the songs of Schooner Fare be your soundtrack. You'll have a wonderful voyage.
Governor Angus King First Lady Mary Herman
Portland Town | Big House, Middle House, Back House, Barn | The Kingfisher | Scuttlebutt | Leviathan | Salt Water Farm | Day of the Clipper | Quebecois | The Royal Tar | Boats of Stone | Fiddler's Green | The County Song
PORTLAND TOWN Steve Romanoff (from We the People) Steve wrote this song in the early eighties when Schooner Fare was first beginning to tour heavily. Since then it has become much more than Schooner Fare's signature song; Numerous individuals use it as their coming-home song--even fishermen pop it on the boat's cassette deck as they return to port. The song was covered by the Irish group Barleycorn in the late eighties and spent several weeks at number one on the Irish charts. I see the light across the bay, I see the light not far away, And I hear music all around, I'm gettin' close to Portland Town, So, Mother, won't you make my bed, I see the light of Portland Head, I see the light, I'm comin' 'round, I'm comin' home to Portland Town. Some years ago, out on my own, I set a course for parts unknown, Leavin' behind both friend and foe, Needin' to find what I've come to know, As I watched the islands fade away, And bid farewell to Casco Bay, Though it's been years and years since then, My heart has brought me home again. Of all the places I could go, She's still the fairest port I know, She works the sea and tills the farms, And holds her children in her arms, No place could know a prouder past, Here comes the future full at last, Here comes that beacon 'cross the sky, And when I hold my head up high... BIG HOUSE, MIDDLE HOUSE, BACK HOUSE, BARN Tom Rowe and David Crossman (from Signs of Home) Tom wrote this song one evening with his old friend David Crossman. Dave had the signature rhythm and bounce that starts the song in his head and Tom had a Big House, Middle House, Back House, Barn. The two took the extended New England farmhouse and applied the metaphor to the many families who grew up in one. "Big House" has gone on to become one of the group's favorite sing-a-longs. Through the big house, middle house, back house, barn, Goes the kitten with a mitten and a ball of yarn; All a'scitter and a'scamper, gonna upset Grandpa By playing under his chair. From the halls with the walls and the floors well worn To the room in the eaves where the kids were born; It's the place we grew 'til we finally knew We'd have to leave it all behind. And I can see like yesterday the smile on Grandma's face. And I can hear the love we shared as it echoes in this space. And though it's just a memory, it cannot be erased; For like the big house, middle house, back house, barn, We're connected to this place. In the big house, middle house, back house, barn, There's Dad with Mother on his arm. You can tell inside he's filled with pride; You can see it in his sparklin' eyes. When they built this house it was strong and stout, And it took a lot of love to keep the weather out. It held our faith and cradled our dreams And kept us warm and dry. In the big house, middle house, back house, barn, We still live here and life goes on. There've been a few changes and a few rearranges But the love remains the same. And we all meet here maybe once a year And we talk about the folks we hold so dear; And the kids make noise as they play with toys That come from another time. THE KINGFISHER Steve Romanoff (from Closer to the Wind) Steve wrote "The Kingfisher" while he was in the midst of his doctoral program in New York City. Steve jokes that New York is a perfect place to be if you want to write a song about Maine. At the time he was studying Chinese poetry and one line that stuck with him and became the thesis of this song was: "I take my water from my own well, fresh air from outside my door, and my food from my own ground; Kings can do no more." All alone on a pier on the foreside of town, He readies his gear for the day, In a soggy old watchcap he wears for a crown He studies the fog on the bay, ÔCause he knows how the sky and the harbor can lie, How the morning can promise the sun, And how promises made can be broken once day has begun. The seagulls will play as he gets underway, And makes for the mouth of the sound, This September morn is about to be born, ÔCause he knows where the fish can be found, As the islands grow thin and the Headlight goes dim, He points for the gray, open sea, And wonders again of the other men lucky as he. Hail to the kingfisher, out in the rain, Bow to his riches untold, Chasing the sun when the fishing is done, Counting the kingfisher's gold, Bringing home silver from kingdoms below, Knowing what he's living for, No kings of the world could do more, no more. He deals out his nets to Poseidon below, As over the transom they churn, In a bracelet of buoys they're riding in tow, And he hopes for a ransom's return, But the jewels of the sea are not taken for free, There's a battle that has to be won, And a price he must pay all alone before this day is done. The hours he'll log through the mist and the fog, ÔTil the rain has decided to fall, The calm of the dawn is long shattered and gone As he noses her into a squall, How his castle will fare even he will declare, Is a matter of fortune for now, So he'll challenge her blows, and ride her the best he knows how. Six more hours will pass 'til it's over at last, And the sky is beginning to clear, His nets have survived with ten thousand alive, And his boat is no worse for the wear. As the smile of the light eases back into sight, And the song of the bell buoy rings, He wonders tonight of the order of subjects and kings. SCUTTLEBUTT Chuck Romanoff (from For the Times) Chuck refers to "Scuttlebutt" as a three minute morality play. In it he uses the maritime expression that has come to be synonymous with gossip. A scuttlebutt actually was a barrel of fresh water--as fresh as water collected as it ran off the sails could be--carried on the old sailing ships, where the crew would gather to refresh themselves and exchange the news of the day. See the burly longshoreman, showing off his biceps, Heavin' and a'haulin' mighty freighters in and out. All of the townfolk think he's quite a guy, 'cept He don't lift a finger to help around the house. Scuttlebutt! Ain't it a shame? Nobody knows. Nobody's to blame. The truth ain't pretty. I think you'll agree. Just Don't ya tell nobody that you heard it from me. Do you see the dandy yachtsman, posing at the wheel, The picture of a regular marina buccaneer? But he doesn't know his rudder from his keel. It's a jolly good job he doesn't ever leave the pier. Yonder is a fisherman, wading in a brook On a weekend with the fellas, feelin' wild and free-- But the bold desperado's afraid to bait the hook He says "Will one of you people please do this for me?" Listen to the folk singer, feelin' kinda jaunty, Singin' out the chorus of a ballad sublime. He's a three-chord-wonder, thinks he's Belafonte You know he's gonna bore us with "one more time." Over and over, day after day Comin' and a'goin' like ever before, Gossip is so ugly, try as you may It comes innuendo and out of your door. LEVIATHAN Steve Romanoff (from We the People) Steve wrote "Leviathan" as the theme music for a television documentary produced by Tim Dietz about the whales of the Gulf of Maine. The undulating 12/8 time simulates the movement of the great beasts. The term Leviathan was taken from Herman Melville's description of the great whale. Once upon the land, Before the hour of Man, Creatures who, like me and you, Left footprints in the sand, Through the primal mud, Warm of milk and blood, Returned once more unto the shore, And to the sea for good, The humpback, the finback, the pilot whale, too, The right and the sperm and the blue, Sing me your song that I, someday, May sing it with you. Leviathan, King of the sea, Sing me your song and when I sing along, You may share all your myst'ries with me, Leviathan, King of the sea, Leviathan, King of the sea. As creatures swim and crawl, Our kingdoms rise and fall, We show our worth as kings of Earth By how we treat them all. From crocodile and crane, To hunters on the plain, We turn once more unto the shore And to the sea again. The humpback, the finback, the pilot whale, too, The right and the sperm and the blue, Sing me your song that I, someday, May sing it with you. SALT WATER FARM Tom Rowe (from We the People) During the Great Depression, many small Maine farmers were driven to factory work in order to make ends meet. Tom's grandfather, Hugh Tracy, was no exception. He spent his life working in the shoe factories while also running his small farm in Oxford County. His one lifelong desire was to simply farm his land. Tom extended that wish to a Salt Water Farm, truly the most idyllic existence for folks who love hard work. Tom's granddad lived to hear and enjoy "his" song before his passing in 1987. He was well into his sixties when I first heard Grampa's dream; A farmhouse by the sea and some roots in the land, He never got the farm, what he got was a machine, In a factory at the edge of town and broken, calloused hands. It stole away his years and the music from his ears; And left him so he couldn't even hear the factory horn. Still he said someday he knew he'd get his way, And end up his days on a salt water farm. Salt water farm, salt water farm, A little bit of heaven, just a house and a barn. Mornins we'd go fishin', work the fields in the afternoon; And as the evening tide rolls in there'd be songs beneath the moon And later I would take you in my arms, And listen to the sounds of our salt water farm. He said he'd have a cow, some chickens and a hog; A barn filled up with hay and a boat down in the cove. Later in the fall he'd go hunting with the dog. Winter nights he'd sit around and read beside the stove. Well he was always kind of poor and he could have dreamed for more, Than a place where he would still have to work with his hands. But that never was his way and I can still hear him say, "Son, a man is at his best between the sea and the land." DAY OF THE CLIPPER Steve Romanoff (from Day of the Clipper) Steve wrote "Day of the Clipper" in the early years of Schooner Fare. It is the first of many Schooner Fare songs that labeled the group with a nautical theme. Later writing has changed that label somewhat. Schooner Fare tells the stories of Maine and Mainers and the nautical is only one element of those stories. "Day of the Clipper" was also recorded by Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy and is very often found in anthologies of traditional Irish songs. The song was written during the oil crunch of the seventies when a return to sail seemed like a logical idea. After all the wind blows free... Perhaps those days may return after all and "the sails will mend their tatters and the masts will rise again." You can see the squares of canvas dancing over the horizon, You can hear the chanty wailing to the heaving of the men, You can feel the seas up to your knees and you know the sea is risin' And you know the clipper's day has come again. To the men on high the bos'n's cry commands a killing strain, ÔTil every mother's son begins to pray. With a hearty shout she comes about and she heads into the rain, And the ship has never seen a better day. Sailing ships and sailing men will sail the open water, Where the only thing that matters is the wind inside the main. So all you loving mothers keep your eyes upon your daughters; For the sails will mend their tatters and the masts will rise again. Wooden beams and human dreams are all that make her go; And the magic of the wind upon her sails. We'd rather fight the weather than the fishes down below; God help us if the rigging ever fails. As the timber creaks the captain speaks above the vessel's groans ÔTil every soul on board can hear the call. It's nothing but the singing of the ship inside her bones, And this is when she likes it best of all. Where the current goes the clipper's nose is plowing fields of green. Where fortune takes the crews we wish them well. Where men could be when lost at sea is somewhere in between The regions of a heaven and a hell. Well they're sailing eastern harbors and the California shore; If you set your mind to see them then you can. As you count each mast go sailing past you, prouder than before, Then you'll know the clipper's day has come again. QUEBECOIS Tom Rowe (from For the Times) Tom wrote this song as a tribute to those of French Canadian descent who comprised 70% of the population of Lewiston-Auburn where he grew up. He was intrigued with their singular love of family, their hearty work ethic and their faith, and felt it was high time that someone recognized their contributions to the social structure of the state of Maine. My name is Levesque, I'm a son of Quebec, I'm a farmer and a Frenchman by birth. I am used to hard work and the sun on my neck And I raised what I could from the earth. But now I'm a weaver in some rich man's mill, Making blankets to earn a week's pay; And it's six days a week, dawn to dark, in this hell, But I'm goin' back home come someday. I'm Giselle Corriveau and I'm joining my beau In the spring when the log drive is through. He's a woodsman you know, and I do love him so, And for him there's not much I won't do. So I sweat all day long in this shoe factory To put a few dollars away To save toward a farm in our own country, ÔCause we're goin' back home come someday. It is work, it is family, it's church, it is God, (C'est le travail, c'est la famille, c'est l'Eglise, c'est Dieu) It is why we came here to this land, To make a new life and be what we are-- The proud and the strong Quebecois, The proud and the strong Quebecois. I'm Gerard Fournier and I cut wood all day. In the spring I am taking a wife. We'll go back to the land, it's our forefathers' way, To nurture the earth is our life. And on Saturday nights we will dance and we'll sing, Raise a glass to our family and friends, And it's Sunday to church and the solace it brings, And on Monday we'll start once again. Oh, we are the folk who quietly toil, In this new land of hope we have found In the woods, on the sea, in the hard, rocky soil, In the factories that clutter the towns. And we raised up cathedrals to the glory of God, They were built of our blood and our tears. And we made it through hard times and hunger and flood, And we'll be here for thousands of years. THE ROYAL TAR Tom Rowe (from Signs of Home) Tom first heard the legend of the Royal Tar in 1972 when he was frequenting Vinalhaven Island with his then-resident pal, David Crossman. Years later while Schooner Fare was doing a school residency on North Haven Island, the White family--Jerry, Jean and especially Sebastian--provided him with all kinds of research on this very real event. How the fire started was never really determined and there are conflicting stories about whether the Captain and crew acted nobly or cowardly. There is no dispute, however, that the people of North Haven who braved the weather and nursed the passengers back to health in the weeks following the disaster were true heroes. On cold and dark October nights when northwest gales do blow, You can see the Royal Tar off Coomb's Point all aglow. A sidewheel sailin' ship, she was, a packet of renown; She sailed from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, down to Boston town. The cargo was a circus, horses, lions, camels too, A leopard and an elephant, a tiger and one old gnu. Aboard her were threescore and twelve and a crew of twenty-one; And thirty-three would perish 'ere that fateful night was done. "There's a fire!" someone shouted, "Fire in the hole!" And a northwest wind across the deck to chill the very soul. Their courage would be tested 'ere that fateful night was through. Of cowards there were many, of heroes just a few. With only six months service she was just off Isle Au Haut. The Captain looked for shelter when the gale commenced to blow. Captain Reed dropped anchor in the lee of Haven's shore. He said we'll be protected here 'til morning light for sure. Then came the call of fire and a mad rush for the boats. There being only two seaworthy and one that would not float. The crew abandoned first with just three men from below. The Captain took the jolly boat and two more for to row. Seventy-two were left aboard in the fire and the gale. Captain Waite, a passenger, slipped chain and set the sails. He hoped to beach the Royal Tar and save all those aboard, But the sails then caught afire and she helpless drifted seaward. Then from North Haven harbor came Dyer and his crew, Aboard the Schooner Veto, close by the Tar they drew. They took off forty souls from the listing, burning wreck, And then could take no more as the fire consumed the deck. Twelve women died that night and eleven children too; Just ten men died in all and only three of them were crew. The folks out on Matinicus say they watched the Royal Tar As she drifted out to sea 'til she looked to be a star. Of the animals that lived it's said they swam to shore, And to this day on stormy nights you'll hear the lions roar. The elephant was found washed up on far off Brimstone Isle. And none who lived to tell the tale would 'ere forget the trial. BOATS OF STONE Steve Romanoff (from Signs of Home) A song of epic proportions, Steve wrote it to tell the story of the Maine granite trade which flourished from the period following the Civil War up to the 1920s. The granite was cut from the quarries of Vinalhaven, Stonington and Hurricane Island, transported on the great horse-drawn "Galamanders" down to the docks and loaded aboard leaky old schooners spending their last days being torn apart by these extra heavy cargoes. The song is a paen to the hardworking men and women who labored and sacrificed to build the great buildings and monuments that still survive today. The Washington Monument, Suffolk County Courthouse, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are but three examples of buildings constructed of Maine granite. Much of the statuary on the buildings was carved on Hurricane by immigrant Italian artisans. Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? Did you see them sailing south to honor Washington? From these silent quarries now so overgrown, Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? Tell me, Mister, did you see the city halls? Did you carve the marble monuments from humble mountain walls? And great colums for cathedrals we have known? Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? To a nation finally free in her new prosperity, Came a building boom for granite in the nineteenth century, And the finest source alone for this solitary stone Lay sleeping in the quarries of New England. The need for public buildings of a new magnificence, Gave Vermont and all her marble a new significance, And the growing need for granite on a monumental scale, Awoke the tiny island villages of Maine. Through every season of the year they sailed along the Coast of Fear, On a downest course for home you'd see them ride, Into the rising sun this schooner fleet did run, Sailing light to make the morning tide. To many green New Hampshire towns came this fleet of hand-me-downs, Having spent their buoyant youth on coal and lumber, They'd all seen better days before the killin' quarry trade, Now everybody knew their days were numbered. Up to the loading sheds the leaking hulls would edge, Ready for the rubble and the good rock, High above the groaning sledge the shrieking gulls would pledge, "You'll never make a round trip to this same dock!" It seems only yesterday, I entered the carving trade And now I'm so far away from all that I know, But word came to Italy of good work across the sea, And you gave your farewell to me for I had to go. So here, off the coast of Maine, on the island called Hurricane, I dream I'll see you again when the work gets too slow, Yes, here under pointed trees with marble and memories I carve lions and liberties through the long winter snow. You could see them from the shore always going back for more, A steady stream of stone to build a nation. Every capital and fort, the new library of New York, Every church of every known denomination. For the mansions of our dreams these humble schooners split their seams, Like shuttles on the wind they carried on, Some too cold to feel the granite columns on their keel, Bound for New York's new Cathedral of Saint John. To every green New England hill where we no more will hear the drill, Now the quarry men are still in peaceful slumber, To every bust and effigy in Boston, New York and D.C. And every city curb would be too great to number. To the hands and to the boats who cut the stones and pulled the ropes, To the children and their hopes in dark December, To the labor of the crew, their weary vessel would get through, We give the credit where it's due and we'll remember. Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? Did you see them sailing south to honor Washington? From these silent quarries now so overgrown, Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? Tell me, Mister, did you see the city halls? Did you carve the marble monuments from humble mountain walls? And great colums for cathedrals we have known? Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? From these silent quarries now so overgrown, Tell me, Mister, did you see the boats of stone? FIDDLER'S GREEN John Connelly (from Closer to the Wind) This is the only song on this recording not written by the members of Schooner Fare. It is, however, the first song they ever sang together as a trio and they credit it with having started them on the road to singing the brand of folk music that they do. The story is a universal one and it certainly could have been written about Maine. As I walked down the dockside one evenin' so fair, To view the still waters and take the salt air, I heard an old fisherman singin' this song, Saying, "Take me away boys. Me time is not long." Wrap me up in me oilskins and jumper. No more on the docks I'll be seen. Just tell me old shipmates I'm takin' a trip, mates And I'll see you one day in Fiddler's Green. Now, Fiddler's Green is a place, I've heard tell, Where fishermen go if they don't go to hell, Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play And the cold coasts of Greenland are far, far away. Yes, the weather is fair and there's never a gale, And the fish jump aboard with one swish of their tail. You can lie in your hammock, there's no work to do, And the skipper's below makin' tea for the crew. Now, I don't need a harp nor a halo, not me. Just give me a ship and a good rollin' sea. And I'll play me old squeeze-box as we roll along With the wind in the riggin' to sing me a song. THE COUNTY SONG Steve Romanoff and Anne Jepson (from the cassingle The County Song) After many trips to Aroostook County Steve penned this song with his wife, Anne Jepson, who is from New Sweden. The song was originally released as a single to raise money for an eye wing at Caribou's Cary Medical Center. The members of the group truly treasure the time they get to spend with the warm folks of "the County". Did you say you're from The County, where the sparklin' rivers shine, Did I hear you say you're from The County, Then you must know this friend of mine, Where your eyes can see forever, through the skies so big and blue, Did you say you're from The County, Hey, I'm from The County too. In the warm September breeze, I worked the long rich rows upon my knees, Now those days are in my mind, every time I dream about the Houlton line, Although that child has grown past those signs of home, And this life I own is not the same, All your hills and farms wait with open arms, Every time I wander home again. If there's one thing I have known, it's that the Forts of Kent and Fairfield are my home, If there's one thing I could see, I would watch the County sun rise just for me, And hear those church bell sounds over Sweden Town, As I wander down to Caribou, Now you chance to say you're from up that way, How I fancy bumping into you. By our hearts and hands and harrows, In this land we did remain, Now the hopes of our tomorrows, Are here in the Crown of Maine.