That's the opening line of the live CD "Home in Halifax", a recording of Stan Rogers performing at the Rebecca Cohn auditorium in Halifax a year or so before his death in 1983 (plane crash...an all too familiar end for many a beloved musician.)
I have this CD in my collection, and it is one that I listen to over and over...and over again. Stan was a songwriter, with a precious gift of insight, and a deep love of his subject matter. His lyrics and rhythms capture the essence of Canada's diversity.
He left such an impression on the Canadian folk music scene that The International Festival of Songwriters, held annually in Canso, is named after him: the Stan Rogers Folk Festival
I read that Mansell Davies of the Calgary Folk Festival said that Stan's music became a tradition in itself-- "as if it's always been there."
Many of my favourite Stan tunes are on Home in Halifax (although sadly, not Northwest Passage). Some I love for the lyrics and music alone, others have special meaning.
One of everyone's favourites is Barrett's Privateers. This version on youtube is not my favourite, but it will definitely give you a feel for the song. I love that he wrote it simply because he wanted a sea shanty of his own - somehow that appeals to the five year old in me!
Mary Ellen Carter is one that reminds me of my Aunt Phyllis (of the cool car fame). I remember listening to CBC radio with her shortly before she died (a loyal CBC-ophile to the end!!) and this song came on. If it wasn't the first time I'd heard it, it was certainly the first time it stuck in my head. The song ends with these words:
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Be like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Stan's love song to his wife "Forty-five Years" reminds me of my two little girlies (shh, don't tell them I still call them little...) because I used to sing it to each of them at bedtime...
Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I'm caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I'm running naked in the sun
There's God in the trees, I'm weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I'd like to look around, but Honey, all I see is you.
The summer city lights will soften the night
Til you'd think that the air is clear
And I'm sitting with friends, where forty-five cents
Will buy another glass of beer
He's got something to say, but I'm so far away
That I don't know who I'm talking to
Cause you just walked in the door, and Honey, all I see is you
And I just want to hold you closer than I've ever held anyone before
You say you've been twice a wife and you're through with life
Ah, but Honey, what the hell's it for?
After twenty-three years you'd think I could find
A way to let you know somehow
That I want to see your smiling face forty-five years from now.
So alone in the lights on stage every night
I've been reaching out to find a friend
Who knows all the words, sings so she's heard
And knows how all the stories end
Maybe after the show she'll ask me to go
Home with her for a drink or two
Now her smile lights her eyes, but Honey, all I see is you