Songs From Hwy. 15 (2006)

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Songs From Hwy. 15 (2006) 2016-10-23T15:06:06+00:00

Songs from Highway 15

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“Songs from Highway 15”

Producer Brian Moncarz / Recorded at Whirlwind Sound, Toronto
A collection of folk-pop songs inspired by people and places in the Canadian prairies. Backing vocals by Kat Goldman.

Stories behind the songs, and select lyrics too!


Track List

 

Maybe just one more day
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I have very clear memories of the local ‘Dine-a-Mite’ cafe that operated for years, in my hometown of Punnichy, Saskatchewan. There were juke boxes at every table and the coffee counter with its round whirly stools was where all the farmers would line up every morning to talk away the early part of the day. I can still kind of smell the crap on their shoes. I don’t really know what their conversations were about (and they’d likely bore me stiff!), but I bet they were laced with optimism about the crops they’d planted and about life in general. Prairie people are the most optimistic people you’ll encounter anywhere. This song sets out to capture that sense of optimism you’ll find around my rural home.

I still hear the voices of the old men, just talking ’bout the weather sippin coffee at the dine-a-mite cafe

And on the napkins they’d draw crooked lines,
From their fields up to the sun together
Fortunes told for the quarter that they paid
And in the clouds they’d see tomorrow, just like I see today
And they’d look off t’wards the west wind where the deepest secrets lay

And all that they could do, was wait and hope and pray
And turn their heads t’wards the sky and softly they would say

CHORUS:
Maybe tomorrow’ll bring new light
Maybe this all will turn out right
Maybe my clouds ‘ll slowly fade and wash away.
Maybe there’ll be sweet victory
Maybe this compromise’ll complete
If I can wait – oooooooh – maybe just one more day

Feels like a million years have come and gone
Since I left that place,
Angelic face all painted up with tiny, creepin lines

Oh and on them I can trace the dreams, I been watching slip away
While I’ve been comforting myself, say-in’ it’s alright
And there’s something in my churning blood that keeps me unafraid
I smile at my tomorrows, and like my old man would say

And all that I can do, is wait and hope and pray
And I turn my head t’wards the sky and softly I can say

CHORUS

oh oh oh I’ve spent
Many many moons watchin yesterdays
Fading into darkness, just like broken little stars
And if I’m waiting for tomorrows that never ever come
Then I’m glad all my todays have been worth while

CHORUS

Copyright Jeff Straker, 2005
All rights reserved. SOCAN

When the wind blows
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Being away from the prairies for a long time was what gave me a sense of what a great place it is. Sure it’s as cold as a deep-freeze in the winter, and can be hotter than hell in the summer – but it’s such a relaxing place to be – honestly!!! Having lived in Ontario, Ireland and Quebec over the last 10 years gave me a chance to see Saskatchewan from a distance – and really appreciate it more than ever. There are certain things that I encounter wherever I am – a breeze, a sunset, a blue sky – that really remind me of where I grew up. I wrote about that in this song.

Falling
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In October 2004 I had the chance to attend a songwriting workshop on the Aran islands – off the west coast of Ireland. During the week-long event, I was paired up with various songwriters to work on tunes. One pairing was with Eva Hillered from Sweden. We were given a task one afternoon, of writing a song with the line -‘unfinished rooms’ in it. When we sat down with our tea, the idea was to have it be a tune about a relationship and we started tossing ideas back and forth at each other. I think we came up with something good between us; we clicked really well on this one. She recorded it in Sweden with a band and released it on her latest album. She did a wonderful job. I decided to do an acoustic piano-vocal version of it. The mood and sound fit with the ‘prairie-theme’ of ‘Songs from highway 15’ so I couldn’t resist putting it on the album.

So here I go again, same old weathered walls
Peeling paint and rusty nails, a broken window in the hall
I run so far away, but you’re always near
I wish I could turn the page and never come back here

To this half cooked emotion, these soured tears
This luke-warm heart and to these childhood fears

CHORUS:
I’m fal——lin, just stay here and help me land
Stay with me til this ends
Old piece of me new, again
I’m fal——-lin, into this endless sea, this song without refrain
Let’s pick up the pieces, and slowly mend again

Listen to me now, so much I need to say
There’s dust on my story, time to wipe it all away

Time to open the door, to these unfinished rooms
To these haunted old hallways, time to show it all to you

CHORUS

Walk Away
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Almost everyone who grows up in a small town dreams of busting out when they’re done school. They just want to taste the big world that’s out there waiting for them. My first break-away from my hometown of Punnichy, was to live in Regina (about 80 miles away) – to be a room service waiter in the Regina Inn, while I studied piano at the conservatory of music for a year. It seemed like such a grand and far move at the time! Jesus – what was I thinking? I could practically spit home. ‘Walk Away’ is about this big break away…..

I said good-bye, and I jumped a flight
Oh way out west, see where the sun goes when it sets
Runnin, from my delusions ya
Tryin’ to rise up, from this heap of confusion

Gonna break on out tonight
Gonna look the moon in the eye
Gonna blow with the wind, aint nowhere left to hide

CHORUS:
What should I do, Where should I go
I’m telling you I just don’t know and baby, I gotta walk away
Right out’a this old town, I’m slowin’ down,
I’m fallin fast, I’m on the ground and baby, I gotta walk away
From here

Lookin round, Under my skin
It’s a pretty place, but storm clouds are creepin’ in
Pretending, with a smile from ear to ear
But it won’t take long, til it’s creepin outta here – ya

Chorus

Should I run off from this place, Break the fall from grace
Or stop what I’ve begun, What am I runnin from?

Chorus

Copyright Jeff Straker, 2005
All rights reserved. SOCAN

I wanna go
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A Saskatchewan man who made the Canadian news in a big way over the past years was Robert Latimer – when he took the life of his daughter and was sent to prison for his act. His daughter was severely handicapped and apparently in great pain and he argued that he ended her agony. Some think that what he did was right, and some think it was wrong. And that’s certainly not for me to decide. Rather I wrote about what he was possibly thinking & feeling around the time when he did take Tracy’s life, and what he might be thinking now.

Shadows in the sun
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I’m very lucky to have all my grandparents still around me, in great health, and great spirits. My grandmas are the best perogie makers this side of Winnipeg, and my grandpas can both spin a yarn like you wouldn’t believe (and most of the time you shouldn’t…..). But as the years creep on by I find myself thinking of all the things I still have to say to them and the people around me. There will come a day when it’s too late. So why not talk to everyone and say everything now?

In your pockets, or under your bed
Lies a tied up wad of everything unsaid
All the answers to a million questions ‘why’
Oh the truth is waitin and there aint much time

Chorus:
I don’t wanna watch you fade away,
Straying to the past
I don’t wanna watch you walk away
Your footsteps made of broken glass
Feel a little like a half a man – things we were scared to say
Now your shadow’s in the sun all painted yellow

Don’t know how, or even where I should begin, to pry these
Feelings off my chest, dissolve ’em from underneath my sorry skin
Almost feels like this is how it’s s’posed to be
With the silence and the blame colliding somewhere between you and me

CHORUS

For Years and years I held back the tears
And we moved on and on
But now I’m cryin, cuz finally talkin to you, just took too long

CHORUS

Copyright Jeff Straker, 2005
All rights reserved. SOCAN

Wonderful Mrs. Bell
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Mrs. Bell was a lovely, lovely woman who lived in my hometown of Punnichy, SK. Her background was East Indian, so in our prairie town of 270 people she stood out. I knew her because she was the mother of a good friend, and wife of my high school chemistry & physics teacher. However, unfortunately being different in a small town wasn’t easy. She had some friends indeed, but I recall people generally not mingling with her, despite her being the loveliest lady. I wrote about how I remember this wonderful human being. Mrs. Bell – this one’s for you!

When the tree by the big house on main street
Got a new swing, a rope and a tire
She was one of the first ones to see it
She walked that way all the time

Mrs Bell was just a bit different
It mighta’ been her colour, her clothes
In a cast of under 300, it showed

CHORUS
There were so many things that she never said
Left ‘em all up there swimming round in her head
There were so many times that we would meet
Trading silent smiles, passing in the street
I think that small town was hell
Oh the tales her thoughts could tell
Oh the wonderful, the Beautiful….Mrs. Bell

Grand things like church teas and bingos
Her life in a dimly lit room
A bird in a cage, inside lookin’ out
Really, has only one view
You could see her dreams dancing in her dark brown eyes
Hear her heart as it beat the tune
Walkin in the streets, watchin her old soul
Turn a deeper shade of blue

CHORUS

She stood on a hill at the edge of town
Threw back her head and laughed
Smiled as she gazed at it’s smallness
She laughed last

CHORUS

Beautiful Boy
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My brother (Jason) and his wife (Joni) had a baby boy (Jacob) pop into their life recently. I’m sure Joni would argue that he didn’t pop – rather he was squeezed and pushed with bull-dozer force. Anyway, he’s amazing. It’s cool to see how their life has changed with him around. I e-mailed the lyrics to this song my brother when I first wrote it. He typed this back: “Nice. Where’s the verse about shitty diapers and screaming?”. I created it from their perspective. And I did omit the crappy diapers…

The light is fading, we’re all alone
I sing you a lullaby
Stars winkin at us, a smile from the man on the moon
I look you in the eye, and every single time time
My heart is a bird in the breeze
Flyin far out from me, roundin you, and landing between

If I only had breath for one more sigh
I’d be callin it out to you
Singin’ bout, what you do —– oh

CHORUS:
My beautiful boy , You take me, To a place
Far beyond the point
Where my doubts, can hold on
My beautiful boy

I’m a little boat in the water, the rain in the summer,
You’re my river and I’m comin down
If storms blow on in- You’re my bright sky, oh so blue
And it feels kinda funny, like I’m dancin in the stars
when I’ve got you on my mind,
Sing your song to the northern lights, they’re dancing with us too

If I only had music for one more song,
I’d be singin it out to you
A little verse, ’bout what you do —– oh

CHORUS

Copyright Jeff Straker, 2005
All rights reserved. SOCAN

River
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Joni Mitchell is my ‘absolute-favorite-by-a-long-shot’ songwriter of all time. Amen. She grew up in Saskatchewan. Then she left and made it big. Her song ‘River’ was recorded and released in 1971 on the BLUE album. I wasn’t even thought of at that point. I bet I wasn’t even a notion of a thought? Her song River is just amazing. I recorded my own version of it on this album. I changed it a bit. I hope she doesn’t think that I f#*ked it up…..

Hero
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My parents are funny people. Everyone’s parents are funny people. My mom amazes me because she cooks like no one on the earth, plays piano like the devil, and has recently learned to play the fiddle. And then rounded up about 5 other neighbour ladies to play, in a sort of fiddle ensemble. My dad amazes me because he talks to the dog, Chimo, like he’s a human. It’s mesmerizing. I think he has some amazing conversations with him. I find it strange and kind of cute in a ‘look at the crazy man talking to his dog’ kind of way. Parents get older and make you realize that you’re not immortal. I’m lucky to have parents like mine. This song is for them.