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Passing Through

by Bill Sutton

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Journeys 03:38
There's many and many a mile to the sea, And many a mile to the shore, And all there is to be sure about is We've all been here before. For life is so strange that our words rearrange And it changes the paths that we tread. But too many times we wake up to find That we'll be more alive when we're dead! There's steps and there's steps to the foot of the stair And steps and there's steps to the sky. And every man that we pass on the road Is the man who could help us to fly. But we spend all our lives with our own private knives Carving lies from the face of the air. When our pockets are full and our edges are dull Then we tell ourselves nobody cares. There's dreams and there's dreams in the heart of the night, And dreams in the heart of the day. And the lesson we're teaching our children is only To look at the price they must pay. Far too many are lost contemplating the cost In the cause of a permanent now. So afraid to be wrong that they never move on 'Til the dawn takes them back to the plow. Instrumental There's many and many a mile to the shore And many a mile to the sea. And the passage will take every second we have For the Gods grant us nothing for free. But the lives that we live are the gifts that we give To the next generation along, And the dreams that they've caught are the futures we've bought So as not to be dead when we're gone!
"Star Song" 05:33
"The milk run -- quick and cheap," he said As he shipped from Station Three. "A chance to be alone," he said, "Just my guitar and me." So he loaded up the cargo And he lifted from the bay. Navigation entered in, "Star Song" is on her way. Two days -- at the halfway point She's running on her own. He's sitting in his cabin Writing songs of home. She lurches twice, her jets fire, He crashes to the deck. He wakes to find the navicomp Is a twisted, useless wreck. CHORUS: You see, there ain't no hand to guide you When the memory banks are blown. There ain't no sign to point you To the star you call your own. Oh, no, there ain't no bloody road map For the road that leads you home .. There's only God to help you When you're lost in space alone. The dust speck, like a bullet fired, Had carved away her brain. Adrift with only life support She won't find home again. Her course has changed, she's drifting wide, He can't tell where he's bound. He stares out at the endless stars At space without a sound. He turns on the mayday beam And he picks up his guitar. He sings a song of loneliness Of a man without a star. He sings of how he's feeling When there's no one else around -- With little chance of getting home, With power running down. CHORUS The liner "Carrilon" is running Three days out from Sol When Com reports a frequency Is sounding mayday call. She turns to track the trouble Finding mindless ship and song. She grapples with the freighter And she takes the pilot on. Another day and "Carrilon" Has made her planetfall. "Star Song" has had her comp replaced, She's ready for another haul. He shudders once as he climbs in, Just he and his guitar -- But he just shrugs and enters in The course for another star. CHORUS
Stringer 04:19
I am a stringer who rides in flux. I haul my cargo with dugger trucks. Through the murky nothingness I follow hidden strands From apron into Anchor, from flux into Fluxlands Through perils from a power that I cannot avoid Where wizards thrive and wizards wait and wizards are destroyed By all of the Guild together. By all of the Guild together. I am a seeker of knowledge lost. I am a victim of wisdom's cost. For the wonders that we do are nothing set beside The wonders of our fathers who brought us here to hide From perils of a universe that they could not avoid, And here we thrive and here we wait and here we'll be destroyed With all of World together. With all of World together. I am a dreamer of distant shores. I stand and ponder unopened doors, And I see the age begin when we will have the key And we will be exactly what our fathers meant to be -- The masters of the perils that we cannot avoid, And we will thrive and we will fly and share a different void With all of the stars together. With all of the stars together. With all of the stars together. With all of the stars together. I am a stringer who rides in flux. I am a stringer who rides in flux. I am a stringer who rides in flux.
Make Believe 03:35
In a world of make believe You can do most anything. And the people do What you think they should, And the breezes blow Through the autumn wood, And the heroes stand Where heroes have always stood In the hearts and minds of kings. In a world of make believe You can make your spirit shine. And the people know All there is to know, And they guard the lands Where the breezes blow, And the heroes dance Wherever heroes go In the quiet songs of time. BRIDGE: But we live our lives in the real world, And we let the real world hold us down. Until we end our lives in the real world With our souls forever bound. But hidden deep inside the real world Is the crystal truth we never see -- That we must work to make the real world More like the world of make believe. In a world of make believe We can watch our children fly. The people gather in The seeds that we have sown. The woods and meadows ring With the worlds that we have known. We are the heroes now, We bring our children home And bid the real world goodbye.
Every morning the alarm goes off and knocks me out of bed. I rush to catch the bus to get to work and bash some heads. My boss is screaming murder as I punch the clock at nine. I grab my blade and armor and start hacking up the line. CHORUS: I'm a nine-to-five barbarian. Don't have to do no paperwork, I'm happy as a clam. Not a farmer or librarian, I'm a killer with a vengeance and a profit-sharlng plan. A coffee break at 10:00, another one at 3, An hour off for lunch and for the doc to look at me. A stop to sharpen up my knife and brush the guts away, Then back into the fight to earn my dollar for the day. CHORUS At five the whistle blows and I go home to hearth and wife. I have a drink and contemplate the meaning of my life. The stresses of my budget can no longer be denied: I'm gonna have to start assassinations on the side! CHORUS
It started in a tavern on the edge of Macke Town. The talk had turned to stories of the night. He drank and laughed with all the rest and chilled them with his tales Spoken in the shadowed, eerie light. When all at once they noticed signs they had not seen before. No candles burned inside the tavern hall, The windows shuttered tightly and no light spread from the doors, The blacksmith's son glowed pale to light them all. CHORUS: Sword in hand and rein in hand he rides across the plain, Knowing as he gallops that he can't go home again. Born and raised in Macke Town, the blacksmith's only son, His neighbors hound and hunt him for a deed he has not done. Frightened by his wizard's light his old friends stay away. He finds himself abandoned and alone His lifetime friendships shattered by a power undesired. Hls life destroyed by things he has not known. Thin one day the Baron dies of no mere earthly cause And a11 assign the blacksmith's son the blame. In the night they come to take him to his death upon the stake -- He escapes into the night that shrouds the plain. CHORUS He rides the plain a year or more, searching for a sign Of a sorcerer who murders village lords. And if he should find him he resolves to settle all -- Regain his name with power and a sword. Comes the day he finds the tower black against the sun. The power grips his body like a claw. It pulls him to the tower where his shame may be avenged And the castle is invaded by the pawn. He finds the sorcerer asleep, secure within a spell. His rage fuels power to strike the wards away. He slashes down with sharpened blade and takes the wizard's head And feel his unknown power drain away. CHORUS: Sword an hand and rein in hand he rides across the plain, Knowing as he gallops that he's going home again. Born and raised in Macke Town, the blacksmith's only son, He brings his friends and neighbors proof of deeds he has not done. But when he rides in triumph back again to Macke Town Relief at his salvation quickly dies. For though his power has vanished and he brings the murderer's head -- The village wisdom calls his claims a lie. CHORUS: Sword in hand and rein in hand he rides across the plain. Searching for a power be may never find again. Born and raised can Macke Town, the blacksmith's only son, His neighbors hound and hunt him for a deed he has not done.
The whirlwind of the morning air harmoniously sighs And echoes from the facets of the cliffs into the skies. We singers of the crystal must begin another day Forgetting all the beauty in our need to make it pay. The sled may lift us far above the walls of crystal stone, And we may not remember all the claims we've called our own - But now we fly and now we sing and listen for the sound Of crystal veins that sing reply from cold and barren ground. Though I have flown a thousand miles and still must fly as far, I now recall the place I found my pure black crystal spar! My comp reminds me as I fly of things that I must do And warns me of the dangers that may keep me from my due. Suddenly the bells ring out, the whine assails my ears, A sonic storm is moving in, sled get me out of here! The skies light up, the blasts of wind are rising to a peak And every passing moment takes me from the black I seek BRIDGE: Racing the wind. Running from the storm, Escaping from the violence to a shelter safe and warm. The storm moves ever faster And ever louder calls. The sled gives out an anguished cry as to the storm it falls ... I waken to the howl of wind resounding in my ears. The nurse the Guild provides for me stands forth to dry my tears. She cannot understand my weeping or the reason why - I have forgotten once again where my black crystals lie. We singers of the crystal live for over eightscore years, But you who live a shorter span can never know our fears. Your memories may reach across a gulf ours cannot span - Remembering makes you the life and me the empty man. The sled may lift us far above the walls of crystal stone, And we may not remember all the things we've called our own - But now we fly and now we sing and listen for the sound Of crystal veins that sing reply from cold and barren ground.
CHORUS: Bask ye samplers, Bask in the light, Space is dark But the star is bright! Bask in the heat of the distant sun It's gonna get hotter before we're done, so Bask in the heat of the sun, boys, Bask in the heat of the sun. We mine the neutron matter from The heart of a living star. Remotes can't pass magnetic fields, Machines can't go that far. So we must fly our samplers to The edge of the stellar core. And there release the drone ships To collect our neutron ore. CHORUS A starship's drive is a neutron drive And it pushes the speed of light. The starships fly to the distant stars, We fly to the star in sight. From cool and green to heat obscene We cross in the work we do. We do it well and we brave this hell For the sake of a starship crew. CHORUS A million miles to the core and back In the heat of the fusion glow. All mankind thrives on the lives we lead But only the samplers go. If not for the neutrons we return The starships could not run -- And so we mine like our fathers mined And bask in the heat of the sun! CHORUS
I stand and watch the universe so strong and full of light. I watch the children grow and dreamers fight. And yet you ask me now to throw them all away, To steal from them their right to have their day. CHORUS: And all the deeds we've done, All the things that we've begun, All the people, every heaven, every hell, All the places that we've been, And all the wonders that we've seen Will vanish when it's Midnight at the Well. I've seen a thousand races die but thousands more still thrive. Those living races have a right to survive. Art and joy and music -- all will disappear -- And no one will even know that they were here. CHORUS But I will not take all the blame for the things you ask. Mine not the only guilt, the only task. I must be the one to pull the trigger, it is true, But the one who gives the order shall be you. CHORUS Must vanish for it's Midnight at the Well. Give the order -- it's Midnight at the Well.
He couldn't see the moons or suns, He couldn't see the stars. He couldn't see the docking lights So he hangs around the bars. Though in the life he left behind He lived beyond the sky ... He's grounded, useless, hopeless for A blind man cannot fly. The man who flies a starship's drive Is a god to other men. No faults has he that they perceive, No flaws that they may ken. But should his body fail him or His senses let him down, They all ignore his time at war, Alone he stalks the town. So the blind man sits and dreams of ships In the foam of another beer. A pilot sneers, the blind man hears, And he sheds a ductless tear. For once he was a soldier in A war to save his race -- 'Til laser knives wiped out his eyes And left him half a face. The star fleet's free with liberty Except in times of war. So comes the day the blind man's bay Rings loud with space no more. The fleet is called, the ships lift out, The battle cry is blown! Left behind to drink his wiine The blind man sits alone. Suddenly close fire breaks free Among the spaceport bars. Enemy signs behind the lines Destroying home fleet stars. The blind man leaps to safety as The laser heat burns through.. He alone may save his home; He knows what he must do. Through sounds of war that blast him o'er His memory is true. He finds a ship, a shuttle slip Abandoned by its crew. He waits until the scanners sound That battle is above, And with a prayer to gods of air He gives the jets a shove. They said it was a stroke of luck That shuttle's engines blew. They said it was the hand of God That aimed it straight and true. They said it was the fates of war That saved their world that day,. That downed the rebel leader And so chased his force away. They never found the blind man In the rubble of the bar. They made a cave an empty grave For a soldier of the stars. They then forgot the blind man But I won't forget that night -- I was a child alone who saw My father's final flight. He couldn't see the moons or suns, He couldn't see the stars. He couldn't see the docking lights So he hangs around the bars. Though in the life he left behind He lived beyond the sky ... He's grounded, useless, hopeless for A blind man cannot fly.
I'm always bringin' home the dogs that's found beside the road. I feed 'em and I pet 'em and they keep me on my toes, But now it's gone a bit too far, I don't see why it's me That has to take the strays in from the whole damn galaxy! CHORUS: I'm the stray dog man, and I do what I can To give them pups some lovin' and a home. But I wish the ones in space would go find another place And leave me and my doggies here alone! I was sittin' in the back yard in a tee-shirt and drinkin' a beer. It was a hot and muggy evenin' but the sky was crystal clear When I heard an engine poppin' but there was no one on the lane, So I shrugged and looked to heaven, rubbed my eyes and looked again. See, there was this kind of flyin' pickup with a glow across the back And as I watched it hover there out flew this gunny sack. Well, that pickup truck got fuzzy, then it flashed into the sky - That gunny sack bounced off the roof and it landed with a cry. CHORUS Old Rover bounded over and he sniffed around the sack Then he took off a-runnin' and he ain't ever comin' back! Poor Fido was the next to go, he bit down on that thing. He died before he finished and he started turning green. Spoken: Looked kinda sad them four legs stickin' straight up in the air... That gunny sack it rustled and it opened dark and wide With the ugliest damn critter that I ever saw, inside. It crawled out, stretched, and preened itself, then it ate poor Fido raw, Picked up the tractor and gulped it down then sat back with a yawn. Spoken: Well, by this point I was gettin' a mite peeved. See, that was a brand new John Deere. CHORUS I got a collar on it and I hauled it to the shed. It tried to eat the padlock but I fed it nails instead. It cried all night out there alone, but I knew what to do I put a clock inside a mitten, but it ate that sucker, too! Spoken: Must have got kinda hungry when the alarm went off. It was kind of cute when you got to know him, though. I named him Ursa Major - that's because he was a major pain in the urse. I finally got him paper trained and I soon was glad to find That everywhere that I would go, ol' Urse would tag behind. The other dogs accept him now, 'cause he eats the ones that fight, The twelve of them are nasty huntin' rabbits late at night. Spoken:It is a joy to behold. Old rabbit thinks he's smart and hides inside a tree? Ol' Urse, he eats the tree! CHORUS I thought that was the end of it, but then a month went by And another flying pickup tossed a sack out on the fly. It rustled and it rumbled, then that gunny Baggie burst And the thing that was inside it ate poor Ursa Major first! It happens every month or so, and I'm getting rather vexed. As soon as I get fond of one, it gets eaten by the next! So I'm buildin' me a rocket, next time I get a sack I'm gonna shove it in the nosecone and I'll throw that sucker back! CHORUS
She is always on my mind As she lies in space. She is mine in my thoughts' embrace. In time I am hers, Out of time she waits through me. But how much longer can this be? CHORUS: Cruiser Dreaming Dancer's seemings Can never be as real as sponge is To my ship and me. Starlight haunts us. Cruiser Consciousness Is wrapped around the stars And through eternity. Though she is infinity She is a point in time. She is one with others of her line. She speaks and she hears, She guides and understands. How can she be a work of Man? CHORUS In another time and place She would share my bed. Here and now we share dreams instead. Her body is another's But her soul belongs to me. Someday we two will be set free. CHORUS
I am a poet and a starman, I drift the boundless void alone. I seek the brilliant clusters, I touch the alien stone, But the songs I sing are the songs of home -- my long lost home. I race the universe and travel Not fast enough to catch its light. I left my dreams behind me In time and in my flight, The things I loved in endless night -- while I shine bright. I've seen their wonders and their treasures. I've read their words and heard their songs. They speak their dreams so proudly, Their voices loud and strong, I sing alone when they have gone -- then I go on. I am a poet and a starman. I sing my way from sun to sun. I ask the brilliant clusters Where alien planets run, Do I regret the things I've done? The songs I've sung?
Star Dreamer 03:28
Star dreamer running free In the blackest night, Where are the stars you see? Where is the light? Fire rider climbing high On the golden stair, Will we just wave goodbye? Will we be there? From the time we first name the stars To the time that we die, Even though we may cling to Earth We must leave the Earth someday and learn to fly. Night singer on the shore Of the open sea, Why do you wait no more? Why don't you wait for me? From the time we first name the stars To the time that we die, Even though we may cling to Earth We must leave the Earth someday and learn to fly. Night singer on the shore Of the open sea, Why do you wait no more? Why don't you wait for me?


{Notes for 2020 Digital Release)

Thanks to permission from Dodeka, we can finally put this out for official digital distribution.

Most of the songs on this album are re-recordings of songs from the long out-of-print "Past Due", while others are songs that were written later. Sadly, my one viral YouTube hit "Xenophopbia" was not included - perhaps I will re-record that as a single for a future release.

The 15 years in the original liner notes (below) have stretched to 36, but I still feel the same gratitude I did before. Thank you to everyone who has spent time on this journey with me.

Please enjoy!

- Bill Sutton

(Original Liner Notes)

About 15 years ago, a poor drunken fan with a borrowed guitar signed up for a one-shot at Bayfilk II. He'd been inspired by filk since a major encounter with the cream of the crop at InConJunction the summer before. He'd written a couple of songs and figured he should sing them in public. The next morning, realizing what he had done, he contemplated removing his name from the one-shot list. The rest, as they say, is regrettable.

This seems a good opportunity to thank those people responsible for getting me into this thing. Certainly the act of thanking them publicly will inspire people to find them and make sure they never make such a grave error again.

To Frank, Juanita, Julia, Moonwulf, Roper, and Clif for making that first filk such a life-altering experience. To Misty for loaning me that guitar. To Teri, Jordan, and Cathy for giving me the opportunity to put most of these songs out in public for the first time. To Gretchen and Bill for letting me put them out there once again.

And to filk itself for leading me to Brenda, who makes it all worthwhile.
- Bill Sutton

Here's another of those projects that took far longer to come together than we'd expected, but which came together so much better because of it.

We'd like to send special thanks to everyone who worked as backup musicians on this album, especially Dave Clement and Tom Jeffers of Dandelion Wine, without whom the arrangements would be far emptier.; Sally Childs-Helton who can, despite her protests, play rock drums; and Kylea Fulton, who's been waiting to hear this longer than anyone except Bill.

And thanks to Bob and Adam at Gand, who loaned us a spare ADAT - And Adam for fixing the loaner! - when ours went down three days before deadline. Thanks, guys!

- Bill and Gretchen Roper


released October 31, 1999

©℗ 1999 Dodeka Records, Ltd. www.bedlamhouse.com

Produced and mixed by Bill & Gretchen Roper
Mastered by Bill Roper
Cover art ©1999 Todd Cameron Hamilton


Bill Sutton: vocals, guitar
Nate Bucklin: lead guitar
Barry Childs-Helton: lead 12-string guitar
Sally Childs-Helton: congas, frame drum, zils, wind chime, drum kit
Dave Clement: backup vocals and effects, bodhran, cittern, washboard, guitar, dumbek
Kylea Fulton: flute, whistle
Tom Jeffers: backup vocals and effects, bass guitar, mandolin, cittern
Mike Musser: saxophone
Bill Roper: backup vocals and effects
Gretchen Roper: backup vocals and effects
Brenda Sutton: backup vocals


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