Border Radio is the intended Volume One of a projected three-volume “wandering stream” of song that has poured pretty continuously since my acquisition of “Myrtle,” the 1950 Gibson J-50—a road-seasoned, slope-shouldered veritable songwriting machine—in 2016.  All instruments, I believe, but especially the older ones, are imbued with a spirit, and whoever that 90-year-old grandma—the original owner—was, down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who used to strum her cowboy chords and sing on Sundays when her boys pulled the guitar out from under the bed (her palm wearings still visible on the back of the neck; the deep gouges in back of the pick guard, vestiges of her idiosyncratic style), something of her music and the music of her people—who, it happens, are my people—swam forth from the first G chord I strummed when I opened the shipping box and pulled her out of the case.  Now, five years and a salmon’s journey later, here are some of Myrtle’s first meanderings.  Myrtle’s, I would emphasize, not mine.  The songcatcher, even the performer, as those old-time singers of Appalachia knew, is accidental, subsidiary to the only thing of lasting matter:  the song.  My part has been simply to follow that stream into and out of whatever form it wanted to take in its blithe and busking, wending-wandery way—as free and unregulated as those radio waves that poured out of Mexico 90 years ago from the border blaster stations, flowing over our arbitrary property lines, ignoring our barbed-wired “I”-dentities and ego-buttressed walls.  “The song isn’t mine,” writes the poet with the prettiest name, Ana Blandiana, in Seamus Heaney’s translation:


It just passes through me sometimes,

Uncomprehended, untamed,

Lightly dressed in my name;

The way the gods in the old days

Would pass among people

Dressed in a cloud.


—TH

 

ANOTHER SHITASS NIGHT (ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE)


Everybody’s burning rubber on the high road when they wake up in the morning

Everybody’s blowing by me in the summer with the world to lose

Me I’m stranded here somewhere between the sunny side of life and California

With a blown-out set of Firestones and a broken pair of buckle shoes


Everybody’s anybody always tells me that they going up the country – whoa

Everybody’s anybody always got a lucky place to fly and a fancy ride

No no brother not I

My wishing well’s run dry

Another shitass night on the sunny side of life


Well my mama always told me there’d be golden waiting for me in the morning

Just dream prospector dreams and pay your dues

But the shining silver lining dulls with all my nickel-diming Dollar-Storing

And the Gold Rush turned up nothing but the Blues


Well I say my prayers and light my little candle most every night – whoa

They tell me when I’m flying off the handle just hold on tight, just let it slide

Well that just don’t feel right

Ain't no safety net in sight

Another shitass night on the sunny side of life


Everybody’s anybody always tells me that they going up the country – whoa

Everybody’s anybody always got a lucky place to fly and a fancy ride

No no brother not I

My wishing well’s run dry

Another shitass night on the sunny side


Well I know my sunny future’s somewhere up there fuming on that highway

I know the train-a-coming’s more than just a faint mirage

There’s a hundred ways to run the money and I’m gonna do it my way

If I can only get my engine, only get my engine outa this locked garage


Everybody’s anybody’s always tell me that they going up the country – whoa

Everybody’s anybody always got a lucky place to fly and a fancy ride

No no brother not I

My wishing well’s run dry

Another shitass night on the sunny side

Another crapshoot lonely roll of the loaded dice – whoa

Another lucky silver bullet right between the eyes – gets me every time

Another shitass night on the sunny side of life


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Tamara Hearon, Tim Hearon

Lap Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Harmonica: Stu Barer

Bass: Pete Iannitto

Drums: Paul Bernhard


ALL MY BEST INTENTIONS


All my best intentions always somehow end up working in the graveyard

All my best intentions always somehow end up mopping up the floor

All my best intentions always somehow end up playing second guitar

I’m old enough to know

The things you just let go

Don’t get too far


All my best intentions always somehow end up sitting in the dugout

All my best intentions end up starring in somebody else’s show

All my best intentions took to Percocet when 40 pulled the rug out

I’m old enough to know

The things that just don’t show

You don’t talk about


I was gonna be King of the Bengals, King of the Buckaroos

King of the Jungle, King of the Jews

But best intentions like messiahs just climb up on their cross and die hard

With the world to lose


And I’ve grown happy with the wealth of my deficiencies

I’m satisfied to be a sinking star

I’ve come to terms with my outstanding mediocrity 

I’ve set the bar

So

Low

The dreams I’ve just let go

Don’t hurt too hard


All my best intentions always end up working midnights at the Walmart

All my best intentions hung their hats up in Las Vegas long ago

All my best intentions send their genuine condolences from Hallmark

I’m old enough to know

The dreams you just let go

They don’t hurt too hard


I was gonna be King of the Bengals, King of the Buckaroos

King of the Jungle, Jesus, King of the Jews

But best intentions like I mentioned just climb up on their cross and die hard

With the world to lose

Like I lost you

Like I lost you


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Dobro: Dan Beller-McKenna

Bass: Chris Caruso

Drums/Percussion: Michael Jerome Moore


BORDER TOWN GIRL

We were low on tequila as the morning came down

So we coasted on enmity to the next border town

At Diablo’s Cantina caught her first through the flies

She was loading up deadmen, I drank deep with my eyes

Singing Sweet Margarita with a twist and a twirl

And that was my shot with the border town girl


She had eyes black as midnight, take you back to the days

When the hulls of conquistadors cut through the waves

And the spades of Tampico shoveled out the French dead

And the corpses of Goliad danced through your head

Singing Sweet Margarita with a twist and a twirl

Shots all around for my border town girl


She was High California

She was Sonora range

Was the wilds of New Mexico

Before it was known by that name

 ’Cross the badlands of the Indians

On wild horses we ride

Through the dreamland of the Texians

And all their imagined barbed wire

Singing Sweet Margarita with a twist and a twirl

And that was my shot with the border town girl


Well God help the fools, they building a wall

Ain’t nothing gonna keep me from Diablo’s back stall

Gonna trump every hand they play, when they lay the last cards

They’ll find me in yesterday, back in her arms

Singing Sweet Margarita with a twist and a twirl

Sharing a shot with my border town girl


She was High California

She was Sonora range

Was the wilds of New Mexico

Before it was known by that name

’Cross the badlands of the Indians

On wild horses we ride

Through the dreamland of the Texians

And all their imagined barbed wire

Singing Sweet Margarita with a twist and a twirl

And that was my shot with the border town girl


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Scott Heron, Betsy Heron, Melissa Foley, Kevin Kidd

Pedal Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Harmonica: Stu Barer

Mandolin: Glenn “Scotty” Scott

Horns: Marcus Rabb

Bass: Chris Caruso/Pete Iannitto

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis


EVANGELINE


Evangeline you don’t come ’round here anymore

Your smile’s gotten strange to me

All your poetry was an open door in the forest floor

to insanity


Wanna do right by your mama, by your papa too

By their big Impala, 1962

Now come on Evie, grab your Chevy, let’s see what she can do

We’ll go holy rollin’ for a while


Evangeline with the far-off name and the wall-eye trained

on eternity

In your cut-off jeans you’re as long and lean as the poets’ dream

of immortality

Wanna climb into your bearskin, wanna be born again

Eat peyote in the desert with your medicine man

Now come on Evie, grab your Chevy, let’s take her for a spin

We’ll go holy rollin’ for a while


Holy rolling 

Holy rolling

Holy rolling 

Going out in style

Turning those tricks on the Miracle Mile


Evangeline you’re a junkyard queen and a saint’s wet dream

of criminality

All your sweet-sixteen and your submachine, they’re reminding me

all is vanity

Save a spot for your grandma, all your Oklahoma kin

Save a spot for the preacherman with his pocketful of gin

Come on Evie, grab the Chevy, let’s pile the whole clan in

We’ll go holy rollin’ for a while


Holy rolling 

Holy rolling

Holy rolling 

In and out of time

Turning that holy water into gas-o-line


Holy rolling 

Holy rolling

Holy rolling 

Going out in style

Turning those tricks on the Miracle Mile


You just smile, pretty baby

You just smile like you’re crazy

You just smile and I’ll be happy for a while

Turning those tricks on the Miracle Mile


You’d just smile, pretty baby

You’d just smile like you’re crazy

You’d just smile and I’d be happy for a while

Turning those tricks on the Miracle Mile


But Evangeline you don’t come round here anymore


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Melissa Foley, Kevin Kidd

Harmonica: Stu Barer

Hammond Organ: Chris Plante

Bass: Pete Iannitto

Drums: Michael Jerome Moore

MARY DYER


I came here with the reckoning done

And I saw the scales sink into the sun

And the fields were heavy with the heresy grain

And a lone tree leaned and chuckled my name


Oh up in Boston

It’s a hard falling from grace

Oh up in Boston

It’s a dark professing place


Well they welcomed me into the fold

And they bound my arms my hands to hold

They kissed my cheek my tongue to check

And knitted me a pretty noose around my neck


Oh up in Boston

It’s a hard falling from grace

Oh up in Boston

Such a dark professing place


They tied my skirts and covered my face

My house of blood and bone to raze

My body you kill, my spirit flies freed

As the big wind taking a dandelion seed


Spin my shroud when I come to die

With a thread too bright for the magistrate’s eye

No tongue can tell nor eye can see

That diamond dangling from the gallowman’s tree


Oh up in Boston

It’s a hard falling from grace

Oh up in Boston

Such a dark professing place


Such a dark professing place


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Scott Heron, Betsy Heron

Mandolins: Scott Heron, Glenn “Scotty” Scott

Fiddle: Betsy Heron

Northumbrian Small Pipes: Glenn “Scotty” Scott

ANGEL WINGS


Was in the flyin' month of June

My baby left me

He changed his tune

And now I'm tryin' so hard to grow

Some angel wings


He took my years

He took my youth

He took a train to Baton Rouge

And now I'm tryin' so hard to grow

Some angel wings


Won't you help me if you can

Mr. Morphine, be my man

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


Oh won't you help me if you can

Sweet Mr. Morphine, be my man

I wanna fly into the sky

I wanna lIve, I wanna die

I wanna see them big bells ring

I wanna hear my baby sing

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


They might be silver, they might be gold

They might be lead, you never know

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


They might be rags, they might be bone

They might be stitched, they might be sewn

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


They might be diamond, they might be coal

They might be bought but boy you know they might be stole

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


I might be good if I could grow

Oh honey, you hurt me so

I might be good if I could grow

Some angel wings


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Lindsay Lassonde

Electric Guitar: Ralph Sneeden

Dobro: Dan Beller-McKenna

Piano: Chris Plante

Bass: Chris Caruso

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis


WANDERING STREAM


The bars are closed in Bristol town tonight

The wires are down, the AM waves are quiet

And I been calling

On my old Epiphone

Rang a hundred times, you ain’t home

You’re out on the town

In some other scene

Wandering stream


Always out of touch and out of time

The ghost of A.P. Carter walks the line

In the moaning

Of some old lonesome train

He’ll bottle some and bring it home again

Out of the steam

Into a dream

Of the wandering stream


Well that old stream runs out and back again

From across the Rio Grande to Bangor, Maine

And tell me, have you ever heard your name

On the radio

It’ll make the bedsprings tingle out and ring

Wandering stream


And that old stream runs out and back again

From the Grand Old Opry out through the Great Plains

And tell me, have you ever heard your name

On the radio

That border radio

It’ll make the barbed wire tingle out and sing

Wandering stream


Hard to tell the question from the clue

What Sara might have thought, Maybelle knew

In the morning when they’d rise

And wipe the wings of Elvis from their eyes

And follow him down

Out of a dream

Wandering stream


Well that old Heartworn Highway has the sound

Of every Sunday morning sidewalk coming down

And every shooting star that hit the ground

And started to gleam

They’re all holding to the sunlight what they found

In the wandering stream


There’s Hank and Woody, Willie, Waylon too

Patsy, Doc and Townes and Emmylou

In the morning when we rise

And wash the halleluiahs from our eyes

And follow them down

Out of a dream

Wandering stream

They’ll bottle some and bring it home again

Wandering stream


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Pedal Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Harmonica: Stu Barer

Mandolin: Glenn “Scotty” Scott

Fiddle: Betsy Heron

Banjo: Scott Heron

Bass: Chris Caruso

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis

INDIAN RODEO


I wish I had a pony

A little honey I could call my own

A pretty Indian pony

Take her out to see the Astrodome, where the big stars roam


I’d trade my luck and liquor for a little of the rodeo

I felt my blood beat quicker when I heard it on the radio

Indian Rodeo, Indian Rodeo


Trash fires burnin’ in a white man’s town

No amount of talkin’s ever gonna turn this rig around

Headlights stretch like arms through the snow

If I find you babe I swear I ain’t ever gonna let you go, never let you go


I’d trade my luck and liquor for a little of the rodeo

I felt my blood beat quicker when I heard it on the radio

That Indian Rodeo


I know she’s out there somewhere, waiting on a calico

When I find her gonna bind her in a blanket of fire and indigo

And I know and I know and I know and I know and I


I’d trade my luck and liquor for a vision of the rodeo

Felt the blood in my veins beat quicker when I heard it on the radio

Indian Rodeo, Indian Rodeo, Indian Rodeo


If I only had a pony


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Melissa Foley, Kevin Kidd

Electric Guitar: Ralph Sneeden

Lap Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Bass: Pete Iannitto

Drums: Paul Bernhard


ANOTHER TUSCALOOSA SUNRISE


Did the circuit down from Memphis, just a drifter with an emphasis on staying drunk and

stoned

Raked the rounds in Mississippi with a van of New York hippies headed home

Had a little lark in Arkansas with a sassy little Chickasaw, she let me gnaw the bone

Now I’m stuck in Alabama with her pair of pink pajamas on my own


Well that old East Texas highway had an exit labeled “My Way,” now I’ve nowhere left to go

My bar tab’s out of credit and I’m just too dry to sweat it anymore

Birmingham they wined and dined me, Mobile beauties tried to blind me but I still know what I know

It’s no sweet home Alabama to a boy who’s Texarkana to the core


Another Tuscaloosa sunrise and my Texarkana heart is sinking low

I’m down in Tuscaloosa but my luck it up and left for Tupelo

Too much rambling too much gambling restless days and one-night-standing for the soul

Another Tuscaloosa sunrise and my Texarkana heart is sinking low


It’s been double time and driving blind, I tried so hard to clear my mind of all I know is true

But I still see my little darling planting bean rows in a garden two by two

Traded Texas sand for red clay land and heeding every wind at hand, her rooster crew and crew

Now those Piney Woods are calling and tomorrow I’ll be hauling home to you


Another Tuscaloosa sunrise and my Texarkana heart is sinking low

I’m down in Tuscaloosa but my luck it up and left for Tupelo

Too much rambling too much gambling restless days and one-night-standing for the soul

Another Tuscaloosa sunrise and my Texarkana heart is sinking low

Another Tuscaloosa sunrise and my Texarkana heart is coming home


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Tamara Hearon, Tim Hearon

Electric Guitar and Pedal Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Bass: Chris Caruso

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis


MAYBE IN A BLUE MOON


Maybe there’s a gold ring

Lost somewhere in the box spring

Maybe there’s a brass key

Hidden somewhere in the oak tree

Maybe there’s a tin cup

Full of whiskey we ain’t drunk up

Maybe there’s a way to make you fall in love again


Maybe there’s a lucky star’s light

Twinkling like a little firefly

Maybe there’s a horseshoe

Hanging on outside our old room

Maybe there’s a lucky four-leaf

Growing somewhere on the junk heap

Maybe there’s a way to make you fall in love again


Maybe there’s an old tune

Rising like a blue moon

Maybe make you fall in love again

Maybe in a blue moon make you fall in love again

Maybe with me


Maybe we could find a dark bar

Somewhere on some dark star

Maybe in the smoke’s haze

You’d recognize my old face

Maybe there would be a trap door

Out there on the dance floor

Maybe it would trip and you would fall in love again


Maybe if I hold tight

And maybe play my cards right

I could make you fall in love again

Maybe in a blue moon make you fall in love again

Maybe with me


Maybe if I touched you

But maybe didn’t rush you

If I promised not to bruise you

Couldn’t stand again to lose you

Maybe with the right tune

Maybe in a blue moon


Maybe in that double moonrise

You’d come around again and realize

Maybe there’s a way to make you fall in love again


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Tamara Hearon

Electric Guitar: Ralph Sneeden

Pedal Steel: Dan Beller-McKenna

Piano: Chris Plante

Bass: Chris Caruso/Pete Iannitto

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis


TROUBLED MIND


Takes a Thor to throw the thunder

Takes a Christ to calm the sea

There’s any ways of going under

If you’re anything like me


Burning bridges ’cross the river

I could rail forever on a train

Ride my nightmares out to never

And bring em all back home again


I’ve been gone too long

Had to take a little time

I make my bed in a troubled mind

If you come with me

Gonna lay it on the line

I make my bed in a troubled mind


No flash of lightning from the tunnel

No aurora borealis from above

No colder comfort to discover

I kill everything I love


Did I go too far

Had to fly a little blind

I make my bed in a troubled mind

If you ride with me

Gonna lay it on the line

I make my bed in a troubled mind – singing


In the morning I’m alive, it’s all too much to believe

Take a boot as big as God to kick the hell out of me

Take a telescope inside my skull to see what I mean, what I mean

If you see what I mean


I been gone too long

Had to waste a little time

I make my bed in a troubled mind

If you lie with me

Gonna lay it on the line

I make my bed in a troubled mind


It seems I’m always driving ninety

When I dream I can still hear that engine moan

But when I wake I always find me

Still a million miles from home


Did I go too far

Had to taste a little time

I make my bed in a troubled mind

If you come with me

Gonna lay it on the line

I make my bed in a troubled mind

I make my bed in a troubled mind

I make my bed in a troubled


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Melissa Foley, Kevin Kidd

Electric Guitar: Ralph Sneeden and Todd Hearon

Harmonica: Stu Barer

Hammond Organ: Chris Plante

Bass: Pete Iannitto

Drums: Michael Jerome Moore

BRING IT HOME CAROLINA


When you’ve finally got dog-tired of all your runnin’

Chasing something that just ain’t ever gonna come around

And your veins have had enough of all their junkin’

And you’ve hounded the last tourist out of town

When you’ve finally made a grave up for your mama

And drove your daddy’s dust clear out of sight and mind

Your old room’s clean and open if you want it

And Bubba’s fridge is full of beer ’bout half the time


Bring it home, Carolina

Spanish leather don’t sit easy on a rolling stone

Bring it home, Carolina

Leave your banishment behind and let that banjo 

Roll you baby on back home


Well you say you always knew you had it comin’

Livin’ outa that old guitar case way too long

You didn’t even have a good string left for strummin’

And your head stuck on some Ronnie Milsap song

With your trucker tricks you kept them big wheels pumpin’

And you found there just ain’t fuck all in the world to kill your pain

Somewhere along the way you just lost somethin’

Somewhere in that Smoky Mountain rain


Bring it home, Carolina

Spanish leather don’t sit easy on a rolling stone

Bring it home, Carolina

Leave your banishment behind and let that banjo

Roll you baby on back home, Carolina

Spanish leather don’t sit easy on a rolling stone

Bring it home, Carolina

Leave those Spanish boots behind and let that banjo

Roll you baby on back home


Acoustic Guitar and Vocals: Todd Hearon

Vocal Harmonies: Melissa Foley, Kevin Kidd

Banjo: Todd Hearon

Electric Guitar: Ralph Sneeden

Bass: Pete Iannitto

Drums: Aaron Zaroulis


WHERE THE WELL DON'T RUN DRY


There oughta be an answer on that highway

There oughta be a mansion in the sky

There oughta be a big paycheck come Friday

And I’ll meet you where the well don’t run dry


There oughta be some beauty in the desert

A little speck of bluebird by and by

A private little bucketful of pleasure

And I’ll meet you where the well don’t run dry

Where the well don’t run dry


Sunny days and Meltaways

Beyond the Great Divide

Fortune-wheeled or far afield

You know I will always be on your side


There oughta be a way to live forever

On Church’s chicken wings and cherry pie

Jim Beam and grenadine and Dr. Pepper

Man I’ll meet you where the well don’t run dry


There oughta be a better way of leaving

Some way to say farewell without goodbye

There oughta be a heaven worth believing

And I’ll meet you where the well don’t run dry

Where the well don’t run dry


Vocals: Todd Hearon

Additional Vocals:  Josey Packard?

Acoustic Guitar: Bobby Squires

Strings: Epic Unplugged

 

Thanks to all of the talented musicians who gave so generously of their time and lent their hands and voices:  Dan Beller-McKenna, Chris Caruso, Scott Heron, Betsy Heron, Lindsay Lassonde, Kevin Kidd, Melissa Bergeron, Stu Barer, Glenn “Scotty” Scott, Tamara Hearon, Tim Hearon, Greg Brown, Michael Jerome Moore, Paul Bernhard, Chris Plante, Aaron Zaroulis, Pete Iannitto, Salim Nourallah, Lance Youts and Epic Unplugged, Ralph Sneeden, Bobby Squires, Marcus Rabb and Josey Packard.  Thanks to Christine Hodgson for her generous help with design, to Brian Crowley for the use of his photography, and to Fermin Perez-Andreu, Eric McHenry, Erica Plouffe Lazure and Kelly Flynn for their rendition of 1930s border radio.  Thanks to Dean Harlem, Ben and Sarah Anderson, Chris Hislop, Scott Ruffner, Eric Schultz, Rohan Smith, Kirk Wulf, Dave Klebek and Chris Walsh for their encouragement and support.  Special thanks to Dave Drouin for his generosity and belief in this project and to Tim Phillips for his patience and techno-virtuosity.  Couldn’t have done it without you, brothers.  Thanks to my family, organs and origins of song.  Abiding gratitude to my wife, Maggie Dietz, for everything . . . and for everything else.  This one’s for you, babe.


Front cover photo: “Train #685, Exeter, NH,” courtesy of Brian Crowley

Back cover photo by Nate Hastings

Cover design by Christine Hodgson


Mastered and engineered by Tim Phillips/Phillips Sound


Booking/Contact: toddhearon.com


All songs by Todd Hearon ©2021