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Broken Hearts & Bitter Ends

by Shandy Lawson

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Parentheses 02:20
Sometimes I wonder What holds this house together The beams are rotten And the windows rattle in the breeze Built like an afterthought Like it’s written in parentheses Just like me I am the last man You’d expect to live forever But here I am now Coming on eighty-eight Holding on to life In a sentimental way Day to day I have kids who have kids Who have kids of their own Now they’re grown up and gone They’re grown up and gone Looking out my window There’s starlings by the hedges Wonder what they’re talking about Sitting in the leaves Discussing dragonflies Or the bats living in my eaves Or maybe me They’re talking about me
Devil's Debt 03:05
I’m trying to dig this hole But it’s hard, it’s hard The more I dig, the deeper I sink And that’s where the trouble starts Every shovelful I throw Brings me further in the dark I’m trying to dig this hole But it’s hard, it’s hard The devil says I owe him lunch So he says, so he says But I’m sure I could buy him off With a cup of joe instead Plenty of time to set things straight After I’m dead The devil says I owe him lunch So he says, so he says Everyone’s trying to save my soul But it’s gone, it’s gone I traded it in for rock & roll It’s been missing all along I’m sure I got my money’s worth ‘Cause it helped me write this song Everyone’s trying to save my soul But it’s gone, it’s gone
If I was a criminal Would you turn me in If I was a traveler Would you wonder where I’ve been And if I was a tailor Would you trust me with the pin To keep you together at the seams If I was a stranger Would you say hello And if I wore out my welcome Would you let me know And if I sang a song Would I be a radio Or just another minstrel on the scene If I was a movie Would you stay until the end If I was a souvenir Would you remember when And if I wasn’t here Would you still pretend That I am somewhere lingering in the room
There’s a man there With his dreams behind him Of a girl he’ll never meet There’s a kid on the steps Who’s a bit upset Over some game he’ll never beat There’s lost dogs and crime scenes And a kite stuck in a tree It’s all broken hearts and bitter ends For Saint Cecilia and me There’s wounds that heal And wounds that don’t And stitches you can’t see There’s scars within And scars without But they’re all the same to me And the doctors say They’ll patch me up But I can’t afford their fee It’s all broken hearts and bitter ends For Saint Cecilia and me ‘Cilia’s got an epic poem For every day of the week She’s got the rhyme for every line And bulletproof technique And me, I’m just a writer Who’s running out of ink It’s all broken hearts and bitter ends For Saint Cecilia and me If bad luck was a painting I’d be a masterpiece It’s all broken hearts and bitter ends For Saint Cecilia and me
Cell 32 03:32
I don’t look like I belong here But then none of us do Smiley looks like someone’s grandpa And I’m just twenty-two Once I had a life before me Now all of that’s through By this time next year They’ll put someone else here In Cell 32 My world measures six feet by nine That’s fifty-four squared You can take your time, but it’s still three steps To walk from here to there And the rain that falls outside these walls Is the best drink anywhere When my life is through They’ll put somebody new In Cell 32 They’ll send a spiritual advisor When my big day arrives And they’ll let me see some family If they can make the drive And there’ll be folks outside, waving signs About the sanctity of life And when my life is through They’ll put somebody new In Cell 32 There’s a man who will stand behind me With powers near divine He gets paid a hundred and fifty bucks To turn that switch three times He’s either underpaid Or overpaid I still can’t decide But at twelve-oh-two They can put somebody new In Cell 32
Blue Widow 04:50
I’ve worked in this place since I was in college It was all I could find to pay my way through I had not the heart to leave when I should have Now I’ve been running this place since ‘52 Compared to the rest, it’s the best mortuary That you’ll find on this side of Evergreen Hills Clean as a hospital, and warm in the winter And as a painter of faces, I’m known for my skill I’m seventy-six and I have not known romance Since Catherine the Typist, 1982 But in my line of work, there’s many a widow That comes through my doorway shattered and blue Was an evening in April, the first time I saw her She looked like a model with her luster of youth She was greeted with a smile and a few words of kindness I dared not go further for all she’d been through Arrangements were made the very next morning We chatted as I planned the floral displays And after the service I provided some comfort As we shared a dinner back at my place As the months rolled by we slowly grew closer We’d talk for hours and laugh at the time Then one day we kissed, and we didn’t regret it I’d keep her hand warm as I held it in mine She made me feel young, like a kid out of high school For once I didn’t feel so sunken and grey I told her I loved her, but she didn’t answer The smile in her eyes left nothing to say But all things worth keeping Soon wither and fade With the passing of the days I found her in bed with the sheet pulled down tight Cold, ashen and grey And I wailed at the realization… I drove her down to my mortuary And I set to work with my sharpest technique Restoring the veil of apparent vitality With a painted-on smile And a kiss on the cheek
No Ropes 02:40
I don’t want no chains around me, no I don’t want no chains around me, no I want to be light as a sunrise When it comes my time to go I don’t want no chains around me, no I don’t want no ropes around my feet I don’t want no ropes around my feet I want to be running free When the angels call for me I don’t want no ropes around my feet I better make sure that all my debts are paid I better make sure that all my debts are paid Don’t wanna owe nobody nothing At the end of the day I better make sure that all my debts are paid
Henry Teel 02:12
Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I Time is gone so fast Leaving nothing much behind I always thought by now I’d be More like the flower than the vine Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I My boy has moved out west And my grandson’s doing fine He went and joined the army I ought to visit them sometime Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I Helen died in ‘93 And I could use some company Seems like the only one I talk to now is me And this old house is so big And it echoes with her things And the life we used to live I suppose she’s happier now than me Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I Seems these days I have fewer ways To occupy my time At the end of the day, the radio fades But the tune always survives Been a long time since we’ve spoken, you and I
See these machines— Nothing, not a whisper Blacked-out windows And oil in the air Empty boxes And broken wrenches Ghosts are moving somewhere So long, boys Take care, won’t forget you Don’t be bitter, just go on home Gonna lay my head down And sleep like a baby I’ll turn out the lights On my way out This spot right here Where I worked my first hour Earned my first dollar And still I felt poor Grinding rust And busting wrenches Ghosts have moved out the door So long, boys Take care, won’t forget you Don’t be bitter, just go on home Gonna lay my head down And sleep like a baby I’ll turn out the lights On my way out
Cheers 02:09
Cheers to the boys in the bar Who come on a Monday night Cheers to the drunks in the back Ready to ignite It’s all on tonight Be lucky if I make twenty bucks, but it’s all right Cheers to the kid in the front Singing along with me Cheers to the rosewood, spruce, Steel and mahogany It varies by degrees— What you hear as trash is my symphony Cheers, cheers I always think I’ll give it a go For just one more year Cheers to the broken string And the fast forgotten fame Cheers to the round of silence When nobody came It’s always been the same It’s a moth to the lamplight method You can’t explain Cheers, cheers Everything I need to get by I’ve got right here
Very Best 01:49
Sit down near me, here I’ll tell you all my fears Stay on ‘til the end I’ll pay you back, my friend With all the very best from me Some doors lock up tight And keep you safe all night Others swing in the wind And that’s how I got in With all the very best from me Monsters come and go But how will you know Which one’s under the bed And which one’s all in your head? Hey, all the very best from me
Dreamland 11:08
As we entered the age of the blue and the grey the spark of a nation and its final day I was among the last to enlist and walk like a soldier in this war, this squabble This waste of my country, my brothers hereafter My fields and my cities, my family and home a man and his roots could be quickly reduced to discarded ruins of muscle and bone Three weeks of marching brought me to the crest of a hill in Virginia’s west wilderness As a company cook I had no call to fight I kept my hands clean and I slept at night With my ideals intact, antiseptic, untainted That halo on me shone as bright as the sun of the whole company God smiled on me’ with no need to choose ‘tween the cross and the gun See, there was a time when I dressed in black shouting the gospel in an old dirt-floor shack Fulfilling my mission to trumpet the word saving the cattle that strayed from the herd With my books and my crosses and ivory satin My brimstone and devils and fierce lake of fire one demon’s grave for each soul I saved they’d ride up to heaven on the voice of the choir The fog burned off by noon that day And I was looking for some shade I strayed a bit from the march Looking for a place to pray When I met the eyes of a fellow pilgrim Who seemed to be misplaced He looked in need of a decent meal And there was worry on his face His shirt was torn, his chest laid bear With a wound across his side He slouched upon his withered horse Without the strength to ride I reached deep into my pack For a bandage or a cure But instead I took my pistol When I saw the color of his shirt Me in my blue and him in his grey We made a mortal pair And I could’ve shot him easy But I didn’t dare See, the Creator, He was watching me With His big, unblinking eye I heard Him in the trees And I saw Him in the sky I felt Him in the air around me In the breeze and in the ground I heard no words, but his voice was clear So I put my pistol down And we stood there just a hundred feet apart Chamberlain gave us orders but God gave us a heart The seasons flow quickly when we live in peace time soars on by like a bird on the breeze And I’d soon forgotten about that crucial day me in my blue and him in his grey And in time I returned to my sisters, my brother My fields and my cities, my family and home I had plans to build a new church on the hill and I could have me a flock of my own In the draw of a breath I was thirty, then forty then fifty and sixty ‘til I thought to exhale When I looked around I was grey, obsolescent and my old church was run down in every detail So I hired a young man From the town across the river to seal up the drafts and patch up the leaks His father came too, and that was the crew They’d finish the job in a couple of weeks This father and son seemed to be the same person Distinguished by twenty-five years maybe more The young man’s appearance was oddly familiar But I couldn’t recall when I’d seen him before The roof needing fixing And I rolled up my sleeves I’ve always been willing to work if I’m able I helped with the shingles And carried some water To the old man perched at the end of the gable But when I reached out To offer a drink My feet lost their place and I started to skid I felt a strong hand Grab ahold of my collar But I slipped from his grasp and downward I slid I fell through the air Like a leaf from the willow Spinning and tumbling soft as snowfall And I don’t remember How I hit the ground I watched it approaching and that was all Then Dreamland Floating out to sea Gliding through a hallway Filled with sketches of my life Dreamland A flipbook of my days Childhood, my old school The army and my wife Dreamland Inventions and truth I built a church then fell off the roof I took a breath I opened my eyes But all I could see before me was blue It was my indigo shirt Fallen over my face I was hoping for heaven when I came to Then the shirt fell away And the scenery changed Now all I could see before me was grey It was the canvas apron The old man had worn And I knew it was still tied ‘round his waist Then Dreamland I was floating out of me Rising from the ground As if I was steam Dreamland People gathering And searching for signs of life From the old man and me Dreamland I could see the details Our bodies, our faces,. the shingles, the nails And I studied the old man from up near my gable Me in my blue and him in his grey And when they brushed off the dirt and lifted his shirt The scar on his side was as clear as the day And we laid there Just a couple feet apart We all have our orders but God gave us a heart Did I take a wrong turn or get in the wrong line I’ve been lost and wandering for such a long time Did I choose the wrong door or misread a sign and here I am now where I don’t recognize Any faces or spaces or people I know here No place is familiar ain’t been here before I was promised a seat at heaven’s big table But I can’t find a map that will show me the door So I’ll come down again and try something different Though I’m not quite sure what I could’ve done wrong I’ll reread the Book and I’ll live to the letter And I’ll sit at that table where I belong
They boxed me in for fifty-four years For mistakes I’ve made in my younger days Days that seem as real to me As the monsters in some other man’s dream And when I look back on way back when I try to touch the moment where time stood still The world spun on without me For the better half of a century Just a stone sitting in midstream Watching the water slip past me And now and then, they’d send a new kid in And I’d see my younger self In those naïve eyes Take a baby bird from the nest And keep him in a baby cage He grows up knowing nothing But the steel that keeps the world away And then one day the bars fell away And at seventy-five I was free To fly alone My first hour out was longer than The first hour I spent in my cage ‘Cause all I had to do back then Was scare off fear and stay awake But on my own the world came on fast And I felt like I was drowning In neon lights So who’s to say what freedom is— Maybe it ain’t real at all I say it’s a boy gone bad It’s a monster in my dreams And I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight Because my bed’s too soft And there’s too much space In this room
Marianne 02:13
My dearest Marianne— Where do I begin? It’s been so long, and I have your picture here and it’ll have to do ‘Til I can hear your voice again My dearest Marianne Time stands still When I watch the clock, and I count the days and weeks it’s all I can do ‘Til I’m holding you again They said I might get home for your birthday But you never can tell You never can tell My dearest Marianne When I need you here I can only dream, and I can only picture you it’s all I can do Until I’m in your arms again
It breaks my heart to have to say That Shandy won’t be here to play There was an unfortunate accident Out on the interstate Seems he was fiddling with the radio While trying to unwrap a taco supreme And yelling at somebody on his cell phone That’s what the cops deduced at the scene They say he was reaching speeds of one-twenty When he wrecked out like a jet plane hitting the ground He was identified by his chile pepper tattoo On a scorched and blackened torso that they found Services will be held down by the river And his ashes will be cast into the sea And all his vital organs will be donated In that creepy kind of immortality So raise a pint to our brother The devil’s one and only bastard son Better get the tribute album started So we can share his genius with everyone And we can raffle off spots at the head of the motorcade And auction off the rights to his story We’ll sell his guitar too you know, that’s what he’d want us to do He’s probably looking up at us, smiling In that funny way he do Shandy, our friend …we’ll miss you


released January 1, 2004

Written and Performed by SL except guitar and vocal on "No Ropes" by Patsy O'Brien, and Harp on "Saint Cecilia" by Ozone Pete.

Shandy Proudly uses John Pearse Strings and ProCo cables and direct boxes.

Artwork by the brilliant and lovely Robin Lynn Bonato.



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Shandy Lawson New Haven, Connecticut

Formerly of Los Angeles, Tampa, and NYC, Shandy is a New Haven, CT-based performing songwriter. But really, he'll play pretty much anywhere.

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