I would love to get a thread going on concentrating on sets of lyrics (couplets, stanzas, etc.), as opposed to the normal conversation based upon entire songs and such.  Feel free to list your faves here. I use many of these threads to discover new tunes and educate myself on the power of song. Can't wait to hear some of your suggestions and ideas.  Here is a few but by no means an authority:

Tom Waits: from Cold, Cold Ground

there's a ribbon in the willow
and a tire swing rope
and a briar patch of berries
takin over the slope
the cat'll sleep in the mailbox
and we'll never go to town
til we bury every dream in
the cold cold ground

John Prine: from Late John Garfield Blues

Midnight fell on Franklin Street
And the lamppost bulbs were broke
For the life of me, I could not see
But I heard a brand new joke
Two men were standing upon a bridge
One jumped and screamed you lose
And just left the odd man holding
Those late John Garfield blues

Tags: Great, lyrics, songwriters

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You quote from Diamonds in the Rough, Prine's second album. Although this question is more specific than this response, any song from that album is at the top of my lyrics list. Sorry if that doesn't respond directly to your question; don't know how I would chose. Too many.

If you want "new" artists with great lyrics you could try Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) , really good. The album Our Endless Numbered Days is a good starting point ( acoustic and you can hear the words easily !).

I also enjoy Magnolia Electric Co...........Fading Trails and What Came after The Blues are good albums.

If you're interested in "new" writers, definitely check out Oliver John-Rodgers (or, OJR).  One of his songs ("Move On") has been on the featured playlist here for a coupla weeks now.  Lyrics for everything he's recorded to date are at www.oliverjohnrodgers.bandcamp.com.

He's a really talented 20-yr old who looks like he could be going places....

" don't know how I would chose. Too many. " is the best answer. I agree there are too many good singer-songwriters.  and it's great! 

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, I heard that hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

See them big plantations burning
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
See the ghosts of slavery ships
I can hear them tribes a-moaning
Hear that undertaker’s bell
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell


There’s a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There’s a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I’m gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell


i just chose this cos it's my favourite song of his.

Today anyway !

And to think His Bobness didn't consider this worthy of inclusion on "Infidels"!  This is like time travel for me! 

Bruce Cockburn: from "Tokyo"

They're getting prepared to haul a car out of the river
Noise and smoke and concrete seem to be going on forever
Grinding gears and drivers getting high on exhaust
I'm thinking about the water down below and what got lost
Pachinko jingle and space torpedo beams
Comic book violence and escaping steam
Grey suited business men pissing against the wall --
Cut to crumbling guardrail, slow motions car fall
Oh Tokyo -- I never can sleep in your arms
Mind keeps on ringing like a fire alarm
Me and all these other dice bouncing around in the cup
Did you have to show me that accident scene
Didn't I get enough shaking up?
Still I'm gonna miss you...


John Stewart: from "Runaway Train"


I'm worried about you
I'm worried about me
The curves around midnight
Aren't easy to see
Flashing red warnings
Unseen in the rain
This thing has turned into
A runaway train

Long-distance phone calls
A voice on the line
Electrical miles
That soften the time
The dynamite too
Is hooked on the wire
And so are the rails
Of American Flyers

Blind boys and gamblers
They invented the blues
Will pay up in blood
When this marker comes due
To try and get off now
It's about as insane
As those who wave lanterns
At runaway trains

Pretty much anything by Augie March. Takes you to another place.

On the serious side.....

"Thousands Are Sailing"

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, No, says he 'twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the Western Ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the Western Ocean
Their bellies full
And their spirits free
They'll break the chains of poverty
And they'll dance

In Manhattan's desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And "The Blackbird" broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan's footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohan
Dear old Times Square's favourite bard

Then we raised a glass to J.F.K.
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we're mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don't glow on Christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance

Thousands are sailing
Across the Western Ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e'er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of Priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
Now we dance to the music
And we dance

On the playful side

"Punk Rockin' Honky Tonk Girl"

I used to have a car same color as her hair

And I used to wax it up with the kind of clothes she wear

The verse that Kris Kristofferson wants on his tombstone, from Leonard Cohen (either of whom has scores of songs that should fill pages of this thread).

Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

These have all caught my ear and stuck with me.  Not saying they are the greatest, just really effective.

Tom Russell, from The Sky Above, The Mud Below: "He was sheriff, judge, he owned the hearse - a man you do not anger"

Tom Russell, from Four Chambered Heart: we're "following corrupt wise men navigating by the wrong stars"

Joe Ely, from Mockingbird Hill: "I could use a double whiskey but it would not save my soul."

Chris Smither, from Caveman: "When I was a caveman, Paintin' on the walls, I never had a dollar, Man I had it all"

Chuck Prophet, from You Did:  "Who built the house and brought it down? Who raised the roof and never made a sound? You did....Who rose right out of the morning mist, Opened my heart like a baby's fist? You did.....Who put the "flip" in the flippity-flop? Who put the "hip" in the hippity-hop? Who put the "boom" in the boom-boom-shaka-laka? You did."

Bill Morrissey, from Barstow: “Don't the freight yard sound like a drunk in a metal shop.”

Michael Smith, from Gamble's Guitar:  "Sun beating down like a steel drum plays So bright that you couldn't see far".
Pat McLaughlin, from Hey Yeah: "you might get arrested for just being drunk and having nothing to worry about"



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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.