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Words Of Wisdom

by Brian Dewan

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1.
There is wisdom in the proverbs of a bygone day Much wisdom in the sayings that our fathers used to say If we could but remember them they’d save us pain and woe So listen while I tell you of those sayings if I may You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry And if you step upon a rake ’twill bop you in the eye So save up all your money for a rainy day And wait, wait, wait ’til the clouds roll by You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink So take a dose of aspirin if it hurts your head to think And people in glass houses should pull down the window shades And never, never, never bathe in the kitchen sink For all that glitters, so they tell us, is not gold And moss is never gathered by a stone that’s being rolled But who in heaven’s name has any earthly use for moss For you can’t get any younger when you’ve really gotten old
2.
I always ride up on the roof on the Kettle Valley Line I always ride up on the roof on the Kettle Valley Line I always ride up on the roof I’d pay my fare, but what’s the use So I always ride up on the roof on the Kettle Valley Line I order my meals through the ventilator on the Kettle Valley Line I order my meals through the ventilator on the Kettle Valley Line I order my meals through the ventilator They taste no worse and saves tipping the waiter I order my meals through the ventilator on the Kettle Valley Line I buy a sandwich from the cook on the Kettle Valley Line I buy a sandwich from the cook on the Kettle Valley Line I buy a sandwich from the cook He pockets my money, the dirty crook I buy a sandwich from the cook on the Kettle Valley Line The railroad bulls are gentlemen on the Kettle Valley Line The railroad bulls are gentlemen on the Kettle Valley Line The railroad bulls are gentlemen We’ll never see their like again The railroad bulls are gentlemen on the Kettle Valley Line They tip their hats and call you Sir on the Kettle Valley Line They tip their hats and call you Sir on the Kettle Valley Line They tip their hats and call you Sir Then chuck you into the local stir But they tip their hats and call you Sir on the Kettle Valley Line On the Kettle Valley Line On the Kettle Valley Line
3.
Eastend was once a happy town where harmony and love Was busting out at all the seams and in the trees above The doves of peace were laying eggs, there were no signs of strife For each man loved his neighbor and sometimes his neighbor’s wife But a sudden change soon come about, storm clouds were in the sky Nobody stopped to kiss a body coming through the rye For each man eyed his neighbor with malice and with hate Housewives no longer spilled the beans across the garden gate We had a war, a civil war Folks often asked us what we’re fighting for Well most of us wanted water mains, and sewers and bathtubs too But the rest of them decided they’d make the slop pails do It was sewer pipes versus slop pails, the town was split in two With profane propaganda the air was often blue The sewer and water faction ran a sanitary plank They said shallow wells and slop pails and toilets always stank But those slop-pailers were stubborn, they fought with tooth and nail They said our nitwit council should be languishing in jail They told how high taxation and plumbers’ union fees Would land us in the poorhouse and they’d throw away the keys We had a war, a civil war Folks often asked us what we’re fighting for Well most of us wanted water mains, and sewers and bathtubs too But the rest of them decided they’d make the slop pails do But when the vote was counted the slop-pailers met defeat And then they started tearing up our quiet village street Now peace and harmony once more replaced the grapes of wrath So when next you visit Eastend, just stop in and have a bath
4.
I had a horse and his name was Bill And when he ran, he couldn’t stand still He ran away one day And also I ran with him He ran so fast that he could not stop He ran into a barber shop And fell exhaustionized with his eyeteeth In the barber’s left shoulder I’m going out to the woods next year To hunt for beer and not for deer I am, I ain’t I’m a great sharpshootress At shooting birds I am a beaut There is no bird I cannot shoot In the eye - in the ear In the teeth - in the fingers In ’Frisco Bay there lives a whale She eats porkchops by the pail By the hatbox, by the pillbox By the hogshead, by the schooner Her name is Lena, she’s a peach Just don’t leave food within her reach Or toothpaste, or candles Or chocolate ice cream sodas She loves to laugh and when she smiles You just see teeth for miles and miles And tonsils and spareribs And things too fierce to mention She knows no games so when she plays She rolls her eyes for days and days She vibrates, she yodels And breaks the Ten Commandments A man went up in a balloon so big The people on the Earth looked just like a pig Like a mice, like a katydid Like flies and like fleasens The balloon went up with its bottom side higher Fell on the wife of a country squire She made a noise like a doghound, like a steam whistle And also like dynamite Oh what can you do in a case like that Oh what can you do but stamp on your hat Or an eggshell, or your toothbrush Or anything that’s helpless I like to go down by the brook With a fishing line and hook And fish for clams And oranges and bananas And if there is a sign so near That says no fishing goes on here I’ll hunt for buttons Or for turnips, or for candy
5.
Tobacco’s but an Indian weed Grows green at morn, cut down at eve It shows our decay, we are but clay Think on this when you smoke tobacco The pipe that is so lily white In which so many take delight Gone with a touch, man’s life is such Think on this when you smoke tobacco The pipe that is so foul within Shows how the soul is stained with sin It doth require the purging fire Think on this when you smoke tobacco The ashes that are left behind Doth serve to put us all in mind That unto dust return we must Think on this when you smoke tobacco The smoke that doth so high ascend Shows that our life must have an end The vapor’s gone, man’s life is done Think on this when you smoke tobacco
6.
Oh the devil in Hell they say he was chained And there for a thousand years he remained He neither complained and nor did he groan But decided he’d start up a hell of his own Where he could torment the souls of men Without being shut in a prison pen So he asked the Lord if He had any sand Left over from the making of this great land The Lord, He says yes, I have plenty on hand But it’s way down south on the Rio Grande And to tell you the truth, the stuff is so poor I doubt it would do for a hell anymore So the devil went down and looked over the truck And he said as it came as a gift he was stuck For once he examined it careful and well He decided the place was too dry for a hell So the Lord, just to get the stuff off of His hands Said He’d promise the devil He’d water the lands For He had some old water that wasn’t no use A regular bog hole that stunk like the deuce So the grant it was made and the deed it was given The Lord, He returned to His place up in Heaven The devil soon saw he had everything needed To make up a hell, and so he proceeded He scattered tarantulas over the roads Put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads He sprinkled the sand with millions of ants So the man who sits down must wear soles on his pants He lengthened the horn of the Texas steer He added an inch to the jackrabbit’s ear He put water puppies in all of the lakes And under the rocks he put rattlesnakes He wove thorns and brambles all over the trees He mixed up the dust with jiggers and fleas The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings The mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings The heat in the summer’s a hundred and ten Too cool for the devil and too hot for men And all that remained in that climate soon bore Stings, bites and scratches, and blisters galore He quickened the buck of the bronco steed He poisoned the feet of the centipede Where the wild boar roams and the black chaparral It’s a hell of a place that we’ve got for a hell He planted red peppers beside of the brooks The Mexicans use them in all that they cook Just dine with a Mexican and you will shout "I've got hell on the inside as well as the out!"
7.
Listen now while I tell you Of a story you do not know Of a true and trembling brakeman And to Heaven he did go Do you see that train a-coming Oh it's good old ninety-nine Oh she's puffing and a-blowing For you know she is behind See the true and trembling brakeman As he signals to the cab There is but one chance for him And that chance is to grab See the true and trembling brakeman As he falls beneath the train He had not a moment's warning Before he fell beneath the train See the brave young engineer man At the age of twenty-one Stepping down from upon his engine Crying, Lord, what have I done? Is it true I've killed a brakeman Is it true that he is dying Lord, you know I tried to save him But I could not stop in time See the wheels go rolling o'er him O'er his mangled body and head See his sister bending o'er him Crying, Brother, are you dead? Sighing Sister, yes I'm dying Going to a better shore Oh my body's on a pathway I can never see ye no more
8.
There was an old woman in our town In our town did dwell She loved her husband dearly But another man twice as well Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day She went down to the butcher shop To see if she could find To see if she could find something To make her old man blind Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day She got twelve dozen marrow bones She made him suck them all Said he, old woman, I am so blind I can’t see you at all Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day Said he, I’d go and drown myself If I could only see Said she, my dearest husband I’ll go and show you the way Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day She bundled him up in his old gray coat She took him to the brim Said he, I cannot drown myself Unless you push me in Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day The old woman took a step or two back To give a rolling spring The old man stepped a little to the side And she went tumbling in Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day She bubbled and gurgled and squawled out As loud as she could bawl Says he, old woman, I am so blind I can’t see you at all Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day The old man being kind-hearted For fear she couldn’t swim He went and got a very long pole And pushed her further in Sing too-de-um, sing too-de-um Whack fol-lolly-day
9.
This is the truth that I now tell you Part of which my eyes did see What did happen to the people On the banks of the Mirimachi Seventh evening of October Eighteen-hundred twenty-five Two hundred people died by fire It scorched those that did survive Some said it was because the people’s Sins did raise like mountains high They did ascend up to Jehovah He would not see and justify In order to destroy their lumber And the country to distress He sent the fire in a whirlwind From the howling wilderness ’Twas in the Nor’west first discovered Twenty-two men there did die Then it passed across the meadows To Newcastle it did fly While the people were all sleeping Fire seized upon the town Fine and handsome were the buildings They soon tumbled to the ground Then it went on to Black River Where it did kill sixty more Then it made its way with fury ’Til it reached the briny shore Burnt three ships that they were building And two more at anchor lay Some of those who saw that fire Thought it was the judgment day Forty-two miles by one hundred This great fire did extend All was done within eight hours Not exceeding over ten Kill the wild beasts of the forest And in the rivers all the fish Such another awful fire To see again I do not wish
10.
One evening as the sun went down, the jungle fire was burning Down the track came a hobo hiking, and said Boys, I’m a-turning I’m headed for a land that’s far away, beside the crystal fountain So come with me, we’ll go and see the big rock candy mountains In the big rock candy mountains there’s a land that’s fair and bright Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night Where the boxcars all are empty and the sun shines every day On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees And the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings In the big rock candy mountains In the big rock candy mountains all the cops have wooden legs All the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs Where the farmers’ trees are full of fruit and their barns are full of hay And I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow In the big rock candy mountains In the big rock candy mountains you never change your socks And little streams of alcohol come trickling down the rocks There ain’t no short-handle shovels, no axes, spades or picks And I’m bound to stay where they sleep all day Where they hung the Turk that invented work In the big rock candy mountains In the big rock candy mountains all the jails are made of tin And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in Why the brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind There’s a lake of stew and a gin lake too You can paddle all around them in a big canoe In the big rock candy mountains
11.
Hi-ho, the world may know The very best girls are from Ohio We can darn a stocking, turn a wheel Get up a dinner or dance a reel Workers in the morning, ladies at night Yet always cheerful and polite Sing gaily sing, sing gaily sing We sing all day at work or play For our hearts are as pure as the morning Hi-ho, the world may know The very best girls are from Ohio Up with the lark in the morning bright Away to our tasks with hearts so light Sweep a floor, make a bed Cheerful morning table spread Sing gaily sing, sing gaily sing We sing all day at work or play For our hearts are as pure as the morning Hi-ho, the world may know The very best girls are from Ohio Whenever we meet the suffering poor We freely give, we can work for more For well we know the generous part Makes the freest hand and the lightest heart Sing gaily sing, sing gaily sing We sing all day at work or play For our hearts are as pure as the morning Hi-ho, the world may know The very best girls are from Ohio Wash and iron, bake and clean Dress up for a party as nice as a queen If you want to lead a happy life Don’t leave Ohio ’til you get a wife Sing gaily sing, sing gaily sing We sing all day at work or play For our hearts are as pure as the morning Hi-ho, the world may know The very best girls are from Ohio
12.
He’s gone forevermore is our darling blue haired boy We’ll never see our cross-eyed darling more Like a dream he passed away on the thirty-ninth of May He never died so suddenly before No more upon the mat will he play with pussycat No more between his teeth he’ll squeeze her tail No more he’ll rub her nose against the red-hot iron stove For little brother Jimmy’s kicked the pail We knew he was departing by the color of his breath We saw his eyebrows dropping in the mud The doctor said the only thing to save the boy from death Was to stop the circulation of his blood We gently bathed his head in a pot of boiling lead And then we gently laid him down to rest But through the night a burglar came and broke into the room And swiped the mustard plaster off his chest We filled his mouth with glue to try to bring him to Alas, though, all our efforts were in vain But last of all we tried, but he sneezed and smiled and died He blew his nose and smiled and died again He’s gone forevermore at the age of ninety-four There’s nothing in this world his life could save I’m going to the barbershop to fill his last request To plant a bunch of whiskers on his grave
13.
That possum meat am good to eat (carve him to the heart) You’ll always find it good and sweet (carve him to the heart) My dog did bark and I went to see (carve him to the heart) He had that possum up a tree (carve him to the heart) Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart I reached up for to pull him in (carve him to the heart) That possum, he begin to grin (carve him to the heart) I took him home and dressed him off (carve him to the heart) I hung him that night in the frost (carve him to the heart) Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart The way you cook that possum sound (carve him to the heart) Is parboil him and bake him brown (carve him to the heart) Put sweet potatoes in the pan (carve him to the heart) The sweetest meat in all the land (carve him to the heart) Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart Carve that possum - carve that possum, children Carve that possum - carve him to the heart
14.
Oh when’re you going to come see me Come see me, come see me Oh when’re you going to come see me My dear old Nicholas boy I think I’ll come next Sunday Next Sunday, next Sunday I think I’ll come next Sunday If the weather is good Oh how long d’you think you’ll court me You’ll court me, you’ll court me Oh how long d’you think you’ll court me My dear old Nicholas boy I think I’ll court you all night All night, all night I think I’ll court you all night If the weather is good Oh when’re we going to get married Get married, get married Oh when’re we going to get married My dear old Nicholas boy I think we’ll marry in a week In a week, in a week I think we’ll marry in a week If the weather is good Oh what’ll we ride to the wedding in To the wedding in, to the wedding in Oh what’ll we ride to the wedding in My dear old Nicholas boy I think I’ll bring my log sled My log sled, my log sled I think I’ll bring my log sled If the weather is good Oh why not bring your buggy Your buggy, your buggy Oh why not bring your buggy My dear old Nicholas boy The ox won’t work to the buggy To the buggy, to the buggy The ox won’t work to the buggy ’Cause I never seen him try Oh who’re you going to bring to the wedding To the wedding, to the wedding Oh who’re you going to bring to the wedding My dear old Nicholas boy I think I’ll bring my children My children, my children I think I’ll bring my children If the weather is good Well I didn’t know you had any children Any children, any children Well I didn’t know you had any children My dear old Nicholas boy Oh yes I have six children Six children, six children Oh yes I Have six children Joe Jim John Sally and the baby Run and tell Aunt Mary Aunt Mary, Aunt Mary Run and tell Aunt Mary The old grey goose is dead The one that she’s been saving Been saving, been saving The one that she’s been saving To make a feather bed
15.
03:21
Oh some think that the Lord is fat And some that he is bony But as for me, I think that He Is like an abalone Oh some drink rain and some champagne And whiskey by the pony But I will try a dash of rye And a hunk of abalone Oh some like ham and some like jam And some like macaroni But our tomcat gets nice and fat On juicy abalone The more we take the more they make In deep-sea matrimony Race suicide will ne’er betide The fertile abalone I telegraph my better half By Morse or by Marconi But when in need of greater speed I send an abalone Oh Mission Point’s a friendly joint Where every crab’s a crony And true and kind you’ll ever find The faithful abalone Some live on hope and some on dope And some on alimony But bring me in a pail of gin And a tub of abalone Oh some folks boast of quail on toast Because they think it’s tony But I’m content to pay my rent And live on abalone Oh some folks say that pain is real And some say that it’s phony But as for me when I can’t agree I eat an abalone
16.
I cannot sing the old songs Their charm is sad and deep Their melodies would waken Old sorrows from their sleep And though all unforgotten still And sadly sweet they be I cannot sing the old songs They are too dear to me I cannot sing the old songs I sang long years ago For heart and voice would fail me And foolish tears would flow For bygone hours come o’er my heart With each familiar strain I cannot sing the old songs Or dream those dreams again

about

A true American original, artist and ephemeralist Brian Dewan has collaborated and toured with They Might Be Giants, played zither with the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, Drink Me, and three different symphony orchestras, and written scores for theater and films of Ladislaw Starewicz, Three Legged Dog, Sesame Street, MTV and Blue Man Group. He is one half of the electronic music duo Dewanatron, with cousin Leon Dewan.

Brian’s first album since 2000’s The Operating Theater (Instinct Records), Words Of Wisdom is a collection of North American songs written between 1690 and 1950. Some of the authors are known, most of them not. The songs espouse varying perspectives, by turns humorous, frank, sentimental and stoic.

Words Of Wisdom is the first in Brian’s Humanitarium Series: recordings of musical artifacts drawn from folk material, parlor music, ditties, chants, jingles, historic popular song, and music for liturgical and institutional use.

"Enigmatic jack-of-all-trades Brian Dewan has dabbled in everything from carpentry to free-form electronic music and worked with everyone from the Blue Man Group to Sesame Street, so it comes as no surprise that his latest mission is to rescue as many long-buried American folk songs from 'old schoolbooks, garage sales attics, and basements' as he can find and filter them through his sepia-toned armory of parlor-room instrumentation... Dewan's love for the macabre informs many of his song selections, some of which were obviously drawn from the dusty pages of children's books created in an age where parents and politicians had more important things to do than remove 'questionable' material from scholastic texts for fear of moral depravity and potential lawsuits... Masterfully conveys the pioneering attitude, limitless imagination, and dark whimsy of the pre-Information Age."
James Christopher Monger, All Music Guide

"If you're wondering why Dewan has only released three albums in 14 years, it's because he's been providing cover artwork for the likes of David Byrne (Uh-Oh), They Might Be Giants (Lincoln), and Neutral Milk Hotel (the interior of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea). His piece for the latter ('Flying Victrola') is almost as enchanting as Jeff Mangum's magnum opus. Dewan's follow-up to Brian Dewan Tells the Story (1993) and The Operating Theatre (1998) is a one-man affair with the artist on autoharp, electric zither, organ, and accordion. Of the solo efforts I've heard this year, Words of Wisdom is among the best."
Kathleen C. Fennessy, AndMoreAgain

"This isn't your average singer/songwriter!"
MTV.com

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released November 13, 2007

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Brian Dewan Catskill, New York

Brian Dewan presents The Humanitarium—a series of folk compilations featuring songs he’s unearthed in old schoolbooks, at garage sales, in attics and basements, arranged for his instruments of choice: autoharp, electric zither, organ and accordion. Fans of Brian's original albums, his art, and his work with They Might Be Giants and the Blue Man Group will treasure the Humanitarium series. ... more

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