Songs From the Bend in the River

by Joe Flood

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All songs Public Domain, music and lyrics arranged and adapted by Joe Flood
Produced by Joe Flood and Andres Villamil
Henry Clay Work (1832-1884) Reginald DeKoven (1859-1920) Edward Barrett (1817-1914)
"The Wreck of the Old 97?" "Charley on the MTA?" Both based on "The Ship That Never Returned" by Henry Clay Work who in 1875 wrote "the most popular song in America," "Grandfather's Clock," as well as "Marching Through Georgia," "Come Home, Father," and a couple hundred more. Reginald DeKoven? The composer of "Robin Hood," the first successful American comic opera, as well as 19 other operas and hundreds of published songs and shorter pieces. And Edward Barrett? The Penny Press, a local paper that sold for the title sum, published about 250 of his poems, sometimes with suggested "airs," generally traditional Irish songs.  These three men--two born in Middletown, Connecticut who went on to be as famous and successful as any tunesmith could be, one an Irish immigrant blacksmith  who was something of a local character--have today all earned the same great distinction: anonymity.  For isn't that the greatest success of a songwriter, to have a song or two still being sung long after your name has been forgotten??
I have to thank Ed McKeon for telling me that "Grandfather's Clock" was written by Henry Clay Work and that that was his bust on the South Green where as a teenager I would play the blues with Nate Simmons and Michael Foley. And I have to thank Tom Callinan for recording Edward Barrett's "The Quarry Company." And Tom said to call Joyce Kirkpatrick who told me that the Reginald DeKoven in Hoagy Carmichael's "The Old Music Master" was from the same family as the DeKoven House down on DeKoven Drive.  
That's how all this digging started: the Middlesex County Historical Society, the Russell Library, the Library of Congress, old sheet music, old recordings. This project is a little bit of musical quarrying, going beyond the freestone you can pick up from the fifes and drums in the Memorial Day parades--Work's melodies, Barrett's "airs"--and closer to the bedrock that the polka bands and garage bands and Dixieland bands I heard as a kid were all standing on, everything that the succeeding generations have added to this place at the bend in the river, just as time left us the river, the stone, and the timber that built it, literally and figuratively.
Before we speed off again into the ever more uncertain future, is it too much to ask to take the time to sing these songs and remember the men who wrote them before they're forgotten altogether? Maybe to hope that in 100 years someone might care enough to sing one of ours, too?


released April 12, 2015

Joe Flood, lead vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, 5-string and slide guitar, marimba, tenor banjo, percussion, electric bass; Joe Fonda, double bass; Scott Kessel, drums and percussion; Mark Herschler, electric and nylon string guitars; Gene Clarke, trumpet, trombone, piano; Andres Villamil, marxophone, background vocals. Background vocals on "Kingdom Coming" by the Li'l Shack Choir: Mark Herschler, Tommy Rodgers, J. Scott Brandon, Gene Clarke. Shaun Hennessey, castanets on "Nita Gitana." Extra Special Guest, Chikara Tsuzuki, harmonica on "Grandfather's Clock," recorded through the wonders of modern technology in Tokyo, Japan by Mike Marrington with the assistance of Richard H. Jones on logistics and background vocals.
All tracks recorded at Li'l Shack Studio, Northampton, Massachusetts by Mark Herschler and J. Scott Brandon. Mixed and mastered by Andres Villamil, except tracks 1 and 2: "Overture" recorded, edited, and mixed by Mike Arafeh at The Coffeehouse Studio, Middletown, Connecticut with Jim Clark, field drum; Scott Kessel, drum set, hand drums, percussion; Ox Gara, bodhran; John Kalinowski, fife and bones; Gene Clarke, trumpet, piano, and organ; Joe Flood, bass drum, percussion, everything else. Concept by Joe Flood, field drum parts written by Jim Clark. "Wake Nicodemus" recorded and mixed in Portland, Connecticut by Michael Cleary with Joe Flood, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and vocal; Scott Kessel, percussion and background vocal; and featuring the Michael Cleary Band: Michael, electric guitar, background vocal; Vince DeLaria, piano; Jedd Cheblowski, bass; Edmund Peart, drums.
Cover design: Liz Grace
Photo of Main Street, Middletown, 1900, courtesy of Erik Hesselberg
A thousand thanks to Liz, Liam, and Nora for their support and their patience with my oddball enthusiasms, of which this project is only one.


all rights reserved



Joe Flood New Haven, Connecticut

Joe Flood is a songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist who has performed, written, and recorded with many of the great names in American roots music, among them The Band, Blues Traveler, Dr. John, Bottle Rockets, Laura Cantrell, Eric Andersen, Happy and Artie Traum, Jim Weider, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, Jono Manson, and the list goes on! Please visit for more information. ... more

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Track Name: Wake Nicodemus
Nicodemus, the slave, was of African birth
And was bought for a bagful of gold
He was reckoned as part of the salt of the earth
But he died years ago, very old
'Twas his last sad request so we laid him away
In the trunk of an old hollow tree
Wake me up, was his charge
At the first break of day
Wake me up for the great jubilee

The good time coming is almost here
It was long long long on the way
So run tell Elijah
Run tell Pomp
Meet me at the gum tree
Down in the swamp
We're gonna wake Nicodemus
Wake Nicodemus
Wake Nicodemus today

He was known as a prophet at least was as wise
For he told of the battles to come
And we trembled with dread when he rolled up his eyes
And we heeded the shake of his thumb
Though he clothed us with fear
Yet the garments he wore
Were in patches at elbow and knee
And he still wears the suit that he used to of yore
As he sleeps in the old hollow tree


'Twas a long weary night we were almost in fear
That the future was more than he knew
'Twas a long weary night but the morning is near
And the words of our prophet are true
There are signs in the sky that the darkness is gone
There are tokens in endless array
While the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn
Only hastens the advent of day

Track Name: Chloe, I'm Waiting
By the river when night is dark
What's that music you hear there? Hark!
Can't you hear it on the breeze
Just like the buzzing of the bees?
That's the serenade I sing
That gal of mine
And to her I sing

Chloe, I'm waiting here in the moonlight
Waiting alone for you
Come, on the banjo I'll play a tune light
Telling you that my love is true
Chloe, the moonbeams shine on the river
Come in my light canoe
Under the stars we will sail, my Chloe
Just for to bill and coo

By her cabin I linger late
Cold I'm catching here while I wait
What if I should catch a chill?
Who's to pay the doctor's bill?
That's the way I talk to her
That gal of mine
Then to her I sing

Chloe, I'm waiting here in the moonlight
Waiting alone for you
Come, on the banjo I'll play a tune light
Telling you that my love is true
Chloe, the moonbeams shine on the river
Come in my light canoe
Under the stars we will sail, my Chloe
Just for to bill and coo
Track Name: The Quarry Company
I often think of days gone by
Before I sailed from home
To toil beneath a foreign sky
And in strange lands to roam
To Portland, Conn I steered b'gorr'
And there went on a spree
But after that I started for
The quarry company

The pick, the hammer, sledge, and drill
I tackled hard all day
And often tried the time to kill
But could not find a way
The boss watched me, bad luck to him
Wherever he may be
So that I should work hard for them
The quarry company

On hand I was at seven a.m.
Six mornings of the week
And worked along till six p.m.
Afraid one word to speak
For if I dared lift up my head
The bloke was there to see
So that of them I'd be in dread
The quarry company

An honest man will not deceive
Whoever him will hire
And when his pay he does receive
No more will he require
Than what he did agree to get
Both should alike be free
They are as decent as I've met
The quarry company

But Paddy Whack and Johnny Bull
Are pretty well played out
The Swedes are coming forces full
Good men they are no doubt
Each year their numbers are increased
From tyranny they flee
So their new masters they can feast
The quarry company
Track Name: Grandfather's Clock
My grandfather's clock was too tall for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor;

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought upon the morn of the day that he was born,

And was always his treasure and pride;

But it stopped short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,

Many hours had he spent as a boy;

And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know

And to share in his grief and his joy.

And it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,

With a blushing and beautiful bride;

But it stopped short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,

Not a servant more faithful he found;

For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —

At the end of each week to be wound.

And it always kept its place — with no frown upon its face,

And its hands never hung by its side.

But it stopped short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night —

An alarm that for years had been dumb;

And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight —

That the hour of departure had come.

But the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,

As we silently stood by his side;

But it stopped short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tick, tick, tick),
It stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died
It stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died
Track Name: Nita Gitana
Nita Gitana!
Awake from thy sleeping!
Look down and love me,
Thy Toreador am I.
The white stars above thee
Know how I love thee:
All that I live for,
For thee to fight and die.

Nita Gitana!
Awake from thy sleeping!
Look down and love me,
Thy Toreador am I.

When in the fight, Love,
Eyes beam so bright, Love,
Favors falling, voices calling
Under the golden skies,
I hear alone, Love,
Thy voice, mine own Love,
I see again
The splendor of thine eyes.

Nita Gitana!
Thy tears are now falling,
Maybe tomorrow
Thy Toreador may die;
But if I fall, Love,
Dearest of all, Love,
First unto thee
My heart, my heart shall fly.

Nita Gitana!
The trumpets are calling!
Kiss me farewell,
Thy Toreador am I.
Nita Gitana!
Wake from thy sleeping!
Kiss me farewell,
Thy Toreador am I.
Thy Toreador am I.
Track Name: The Moan of the Mower Ridden Lawn
I seem a fine lawn, and my master is wealthy
He hired a smart gardener to mind me all day
Who keeps me quite bobby, good-looking and healthy;
For it the same fellow is getting good pay.
Methinks that without him I'd feel by far better,
With Dame Nature's garments, the tall grass and leaves;
When winter approaches they would be my shelter:
But now as I'm fixed, sir, the cold to me cleaves.

Appearances often are very deceiving:
The best side to London, they say over there.
We're outwardly smiling while inwardly grieving,
Some millions now stand on the verge of despair.
'Tis so with the lawns that like me are denuded,
Though seemingly happy we're buried in woe;
The rich in grand mansions have rudely intruded
Their machines and their menials our fleece have cut low.

O, hasten that day when we bare lawns are clothed
With our thick yield of grass and with Fall's fallen leaves;
It matters not then if rude winter is loaded
With frosts, tempests, snowdrifts, and peep-o'day thieves;
Unseen by those smashers we will be sound sleeping,
All safe and well cover'd 'til spring doth appear;
Not like as we now are in nakedness weeping,
And wishing that death came our days to end here.
Track Name: Kingdom Coming
Say brothers have you seen the master
With the mustache on his face
Go along the road sometime this morning
Like he’s going to leave this place
He’d seen the smoke way up the river
Where the Lincoln gunboats lay
He grabbed his coat and he left very sudden
And I expect he’s run away

Oh, the master’s run, ha, ha
And we will stay, ho, ho
It must be now there’s a kingdom coming
In the year of Jubilo

He’s six feet one way, three feet the other
And he weighs three hundred pounds
His coat’s so big he couldn’t pay the tailor
And it won’t go halfway ‘round
He drills so much they call him captain
And he gets so dreadful tanned
I expect he’ll try to fool them Yankees
For to think he’s contraband


Now the folks all got so lonesome living
In the log house on the lawn
They moved their things into master’s parlor
For to keep them while he’s gone
There’s wine and cider in the kitchen
And you and me’ll have some
I expect it’ll all be confiscated
When the Lincoln soldiers come


Now the overseer he gave us trouble
So we chased him ‘round a spell
Then we locked him down in the old fruit cellar
With the key throwed down the well
The whip is lost the chain is broken
And the master’ll have his day
He’s old enough, big enough, and should’ve known better
Than to try to run away

Track Name: Oh, Promise Me
Oh, promise me that some day you and I
Will take our love together to some sky
Where we can be alone and faith renew
And find the hollows where those flowers grew
Those first sweet violets of early spring
That come in whispers, thrill us both, and sing
Of love unspeakable that is to be
Oh, promise me, oh, promise me

Oh, promise me that you will take my hand
The most unworthy in this lonely land
And let me sit beside you in your eyes
Seeing the vision of our paradise
Hearing God's message while the organ rolls
Its mighty music to our very souls
No love less perfect than our life to be
Oh, promise me, oh, promise me
Track Name: The Homesick Immigrant
However far I may have roamed
From ties and friends endearing
Upon the swelling billows foamed
To some bright climate steering
Yet to that shore my thoughts would fly
Where warm hearts beat that bind me
To muse upon their fond good-bye
Long since I left behind me.

Arriving at the port of rest
Where mirth and love are blended
Where nature with her gifts has blest
and liberty attended
I looked upon that landscape grand
But none I saw to mind me
Ah, then I missed my native land
And friends I left behind me

With all that fortune could bestow
Fame, honor, rank, and pleasure,
Unknown to sorrow, care, or woe
Possessing mines of treasure
In robust health and in life's prime,
Unchangeable these find me
In thinking still from time to time
Of friends I left behind me

Now that my race is nearly ran
My mortal frame is sinking
Into earth's gloom exhausted , wan,
What is my mind a thinking?
Of home, sweet home, to me still dear
Oh would that fate assigned me
My days to end there and sleep near
The friends I left behind me
Oh home, sweet home, to me still dear
Oh would that fate assigned me
My days to end there and sleep near
The friends I left behind me

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