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Family Album

by Stephen Simmons

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WHEN IT RAINS They say my Great-Granddaddy killed a man back in my hometown Threatened the only one who saw if he told he’d be next in the ground Drunk and fighting over money said the State’s appointed lawyers Other man split town, three years past, the dead man’s bones lay rotting in the holler Till two boys digging May Apple Root stumbled across the skull Of the missing man last seen with my Great-Grandpa riding in the dead man’s truck Chorus: When it rains and beats down on the Courthouse Washing away our guilt and our shame When it rains in sheets down on the hillside Washing away the dirt and the stains from a hidden grave The mystery of the talking skull soon enough was solved There were only two with the missin’ man any witness ever saw The trial was a circus, I guess everybody wanted to see The dirty ole bootleggers, murder in the first degree There were only two that it could be according to the law Other man took the stand that day and laid the blame on Great-Grandpa Chorus I’ve passed by this spot in the curve on the old Manchester Road A million times a growing up I could find it with my eyes closed The blood that’s running through my veins and the traits the mirror shows Of the ones who came before us and their mysteries never told The sins of our Fathers ain’t just the deeds that they done But washing over truth trying to protect the ones they love Chorus
Colors Fade 04:13
COLORS FADE Every morning as school starts Pledge allegiance to the stars But there's things you don't see With your hand over your heart At my Grandpa's hardware store Where I learned to work and more You swing your hammer true And to Sunday give the Lord Chorus I: And the guilt drips like molasses From a weathered Sunday pew As our souls seek forgiveness Singing songs and seeking his truth It’s true these colors don’t run But they fade You can drink from the cup Once you’re washed in the blood Secrets whisper in the wind Our Elders keep from us Like the color of our skin And who we love ain't a sin Within were all the same Love don't have a color it just is Chorus II: And the quilt stitched from patches Grandma's weathered hands on the bed Different are our voices Were all bound by common thread It’s true these colors don’t run But they fade Time fades away All things with age It's only by God's grace For the good we pray we change It's true these colors don't run But they fade
Huck's Blues 03:55
HUCK’S BLUES You were a young man tending bar on the Square in town Serving egg-burgers and Gerst beers to the country bumpkin crowd Breaking up fights maybe even getting in one or two At the Yellow Jacket Saloon You married Miss Annie yall saved up and bought your own farm From sharecroppin’ to weekend nights as the Shirt Factory guard I’m sure six kids sometimes tested you But they never mention Huck’s Blues Chorus: The only blues that followed you through life Came after your spirit flew I only hope you know the way we miss you Even now it’s true I was a little bitty runt when you took off Playing horsey on your knees, feeding the pigs at your trough The memories I have of you are precious and few But I don’t remember Huck’s Blues Chorus Was a sad, sad day when you were called home When people leave suddenly everybody’s so thrown Yeah Grandpa I know you musta got down too But I don’t remember Huck’s Blues Chorus
CANNON COUNTY, 1966 Turned eighteen and I’m done with school Got a job at the Cheese plant like you do Got my first car Mamma co-signed for it Cannon County, 1966 In a one horse town nowhere to go Ride my Mustang all over these backroads In a hard, dry county hard to get your kicks Cannon County, 1966 Chorus: July rolled around and the draft cards came Seemed like a good excuse to get away Finally get to see the world get outta these sticks Cannon County, 1966 First week of November there’s an early snow Wrecked my car this morning on the Murfreesboro Road Daddy came got it till it could be fixed Cannon Country, 1966 On a bus to Fort Campbell I’m headed North Failed my physical in Nashville, marked F4 Back in Daddy’s truck, Four Roses we sip Cannon County, 1966 Chorus
At Granny's 03:29
AT GRANNY’S He’s sitting there In that old wooden chair And we’re playing horsey He’s tossing me in the air Frozen there in my mind Already late for the sky Uncle Glen comes in Now we're all here Wearin’ his coonskin cap Says you can have it my dear Fits your head child Gets his guitar and the day is fine Chorus: Singing ooh ooh against the wind From the holler you can hear the peafowls wail It’s time for a cool, cool change I’m just here to get my baby out of jail Dad and Grandma sit In that old kitchen table and chairs With the plastic cloth And the green and white squares Daddy rubs his chin Laughs out loud with a grin Chorus Geneva smiles Says I love you child And she’s sweeping the porch And watching Price Is Right Don’t understand they think But she smiles and gives me a wink Chorus
I’M HERE TO GET MY BABY OUT OF JAIL I’m just here to get my baby out of jail Then we heard the warden say to the lady old and grey “You will soon have your baby by your side” Two iron gates sprang wide apart She held her darling to her heart In the arms of her baby boy she died Yet smiling in the arms of her baby boy she died
Brown Suit 04:55
BROWN SUIT Grandpa, he came to me In a dream last night Where he said Son it’s my time My time to die But don’t cry, and don’t weep And I’ll tell you why Son I’ve lived a full life But now God says it’s time To go home, to Heaven And I’ll watch over you there Then he slowly walked down that old creek gravel road In his overalls, alone, but not scared I awoke, unaware That he was really gone Mamma dressed us in our Sunday clothes Driving Main Street never seemed so long Now sitting here, in the parlor My Daddy’s crying My Grandma she looks so sad And she looks so tired In a coffin, he lay there Tucked neatly inside His eyes closed and his hair combed back In a brown suit, in a brown tie Now it’s late at night, I can’t sleep I can’t close my eyes Mamma hears me up and comes down the stairs What’s a matter my child? I tell her ‘bout, the dream I had And that I’m afraid to tell Dad Mamma I dreamed that grandpa died Did this happen cause of the dream I had? Chorus: Now my child, don’t you fret You’ve done nothing wrong Maybe this was God’s way Of letting you move on Now rest your eyes, and go to sleep We’ll talk in the morn I closed my eyes and forty years flew by But that dream’s still as clear as before
Faith 00:28
Found 05:06
FOUND Well it’s one o’clock on a Sunday And all the family’s here This morning my cousin He killed him a deer And now it’s after dinner My uncle’s are all gathered around his truck Is this how we measure A boy by the points on a dead buck Well back in the kitchen My aunts all pitch in They help my grandma Clean up after their men And my little sister Just turned ten years old And she’s already learning She says “grandma, where do these plates go?” Chorus: Lord you shine down all over this land You shine down on this family You shine down on this town I’m thirteen years old and I’ve got a Bible in my hand And I’m searching for a verse That I don’t think can be found Well back in the TV room Grandpa’s trying to rest his eyes He’s worked six long days And the Sabbath is the Lord’s rest time Chorus There’s coming a day When the world shall all pass away Will you and yours be ready? Will you heed what he says? So Jesus come down I guess we’re all ready for you now We’re all ready to go home Now that we’re found Now that we’re found Now that we’re found Now that we’re found
Beautiful 00:40
Beautiful land of light Beautiful home so bright, where there shall come no night Beautiful crown I’ll wear, shining bright o’er there Yonder in mansions fair, gather us there
CANNON COUNTY, 1986 Rubber tires crunching gravel on a limestone road It never gets paved cause the County’s too broke Playing in the yard till supper’s fixed Cannon County, 1986 Little sister and me playing with the garden hose Summer’s so hot the water never gets cold Share with little brother or Mamma will cut her a switch Cannon County, 1986 Hear Mom and Dad talking through the bedroom walls “Share it with the kids when it’s time this Fall” Run into the woods tell God my wish Cannon County, 1986 Chorus: Better job, better wage, moving away Little boy crying in the woods all day Gonna move outta this County and outta these sticks Cannon County, 1986 Climbed up in a tree at Granny and Pa’s Carved Jennie Fann’s name in the soft poplar bark Pa cut that tree down for wood stove chips Cannon County, 1986 Chorus
MELANCHOLY DAYS The sun beat down on the road today Looked like a puddle from a mile away But it was just a mirage man Just one of them things An old man and his chevy on the side of the road Smoke rolling out and his hood thrown up But he wasn’t asking for help So I never even slowed Chorus: Mamma always told me “Son enjoy the good times” & Daddy always told me how to “Roll with the bad times” Years go by, still drivin’ this highway Mamma liked to ride after church on Sundays Daddy liked to cruise into town on Saturdays But they never warned me ‘bout these melancholy days Sycamore hanging out over the road That thing’d fall over if it came a good storm But I slipped under its shadow And it gave me a second a shade Kudzu growing up the side of the banks Kills everything underneath it blankets But Granddaddy said we planted it that way So nature’s not to blame Chorus Limestone dust kicking up in the air Makes a grey cloud gives my truck a trail Some kid braves the dust from the edge of his yard He squints but never looks away from a stranger’s car Reminds me a someone that I once knew A ten year old boy with nothing else to do Man how things change Exactly the same Chorus
EDDIE FROM WOODBURY That’s Eddie From Woodbury And everyone thinks they know him well But they can’t tell Cause you can’t sell The truth like he can weave a good tale Too well about himself Well our Daddy’s Are brothers and Eddie Looked out for me from day one First cousins Blood brothers Sure as we are our father’s sons Others never knew who I saw They never knew Eddie from Woodbury Chorus: He always wanted to live on a dead end road Where the only people ever came down had a home to go Now he can see off in the valley from the top of this hill And see every light down there And they all think they can see him well They don’t see Eddie from Woodbury It’s like some kinda metaphor Like something that stands for The way people in this town can give up and get down An analogy Something that helps you see Till you can’t tell the man from this town Till you can’t tell Eddie From Woodbury Chorus
Facing East 03:29
FACING EAST She touches your hand Brushes your hair in the bed As the morphine drips Aunt Callie Ann fluffs the pillow 'hind your head I was the weird little grandchild The runt of the bunch You kept me when I had my appendix out And chicken pox and such Looking for shells on your creek gravel road And arrowheads from your garden you turned up with your hoe Grandpa drank whiskey Four Roses and Mellow Corn I was young when he passed away But I remember how you mourned Your boys they picked guitars Drank whiskey too and shotguns You stayed on their ass And loved ‘em each and every one They were upset when you finally sold the farm But it reminded you of Grandpa and hated to see it fall apart I ain’t worn my suit In quite awhile Shirt it don’t fit right And my tie’s outta style It’s warm for late September And I’ve never seen it this dry Standing in my native county I’m sad but I don’t cry The straps burn my hand all the way down As we lower you deep into the ground Your casket lay facing Towards the East To greet our Lord Whenever we shall meet
Fifty Bucks 03:02
FIFTY BUCKS I got an Uncle back home who taught me everything there is to know From guitar pickin’ to throwin’ em back to the ladies hangin’ out at the shows He had a K-5 Blazer and an Alvarez Yairi that rang through the holler from Granny’s porch One day he told me I could even make money If I’d learn a few more chords Chorus: Said there’s a man that’ll pay you fifty bucks if you sing till they shut it down Fifty percent off of draft beer and a burger on the house You can play your own you can cover The Stones long as no one complains of the sound If it all goes right you can always go back anytime you’re in town For fifty bucks I tried work and I tried school but a circle don’t fit in a square So I picked up my guitar and slung it on my back and I went on from there All these roads, all these bars are starting to look the same But if I get loose and the people are down Hell who am I to complain Chorus Years get lost, and truth gets found, you give love you don’t get back And I’ve heard tell you can even make some money, but I don’t know about that
The Cross 01:35
THE CROSS On the cross where Jesus died When I looked I cried For such suffering did I see All because of you and me His love so great his did break As he hung on that cross He cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Now what about you? Who has ever loved you so much As to hang on a cross A crown of thorn they put on his head As he hung for us instead He gave his life that we might live In peace and joy oh for his great love Do not destroy a gift of love our lord gave So now how will we live today Let us give thanks for our lord Who gave so much for us Thank you lord Jesus
TRAVELING STRANGE Grandpa said he never liked to drink Had one bottle of beer in his life Figured that it was ok In Nagasaki in forty-five I don’t know what he ever did With all those bottles of sweet plum wine Might ‘a given ‘em all away and I guess that’d been alright Suspect it was more than that Brought a tear to Grandma’s eyes As she sat out on that porch swing And read the Bible till she ran out of light Chorus: We’re traveling days from the things we crave Just traveling souls on some kinda mystical plane We travel in ways that I can’t explain We’re traveling strange these days I couldn’t of been four or five Uncle Robbie took his bride Carried the ring in a suit Mama made Of velour down the aisle A lot I didn’t know A lot of things I was never told Later I’d be back to this place But it’d never be like before Chorus The square’s all still there Sometimes I drive down I circle around these same old stores Mamma drug me in when I was a child The Pool Hall over there The greasy burgers and the wise old men A stool that I used to claim When I played hooky with my old man I guess that things move on I guess that season’s change I used to think time just passed by But now I know we just chase old things Chorus


This album took me fifteen years to write, but it is only a small entry into my collective family album. These songs are written through my eyes from my earliest memories to my current self. Whether it is the long held family secret of my Great-Grandfather's murder conviction in "When It Rains", wrestling with growing up in a small Southern town and navigating those hard drawn lines of color and religion in "Colors Fade", my father's Vietnam draft day in "Cannon County, 1966", or appearances from my departed Grandparents singing folk and church songs or telling stories and reciting a poem to me, this is an audio portrait of my family.

It is often the drama in life (be it love or pain, or both) that inspires us to create, but it never tells the entire story. I come from a wonderful, big, southern family and we are as complicated and messy as the next bunch. Despite our faults, it is the love that endures all. I have been blessed to know and love all of my grandparents; some of my great-grandparents, to have aunts and uncles who were like second parents to me, and a long list of cousins to grow up with. Literally, blood brothers and sisters.

It was with many of their blessings that I set up a temporary studio in my empty Grandmother's House in Woodbury, TN in August of 2018. With the help of my longtime co-creator and friend Eric Fritsch, we recorded this album over the course of two weeks and tried to capture the essence of who I am and where I am from.


released July 28, 2020

Produced by Eric Fritsch and Stephen Simmons
Recorded at 103 Bryson Street, Woodbury, Tennessee. August, 2018
Mixed by Eric Fritsch at Eastwood Studios
Mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering
Album design by Adam Pinney
Additional photography by Amanda Risinger

Stephen Simmons: vocals, guitar, harmonica
Wade Simmons: harmony vocals
Glen Simmons: harmony vocals
Seth Simmons: saxophone
Eric Fritsch: keys, b3, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, percussion, dilruba, horns
Martin Lynds: drums, percussion
Molly Jewell: piano, harmony vocals
Matt Roley: harmony vocals
Larissa Maestro: cello
Mike Daly: pedal steel guitar


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Stephen Simmons Nashville, Tennessee

Stephen Simmons was raised in the small town of Woodbury, Tennessee. As a songwriter and Ten years as a Road Dog, Stephen’s vision has grown to entail more than just reflections of rural America. Stephen’s records (which were compared to everyone from Johnny Cash to Ryan Adams) combine virtuosic songcraft and musicianship with unparalleled artistic honesty. ... more

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