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What The Midnight Swallows Whole

by Stephen Simmons

Red Dirt 04:12
Red Dirt Foster Williams had a farm At the mouth of Steven’s Run 2000 acres inherited By his father’s only son I heard that he was hiring Room and board was paid So I rode out on the 2nd of May A carpenter by trade Thirteen years younger Of his wife I’d heard tell Katy was her name In time I knew her well There were the wealthy and powerful But none as much as he I saw a side of Foster Williams That most people never see A lot of nights he was gone He never told Katy why But the nights that he was there Were the nights I heard her cry I saw the blood on her clothes And the bruises on her face So many times I asked her why She wouldn’t leave Foster’s place Foster Williams came back one night Drinking too heavy to stand I stood at the corner of the house With Katy’s pistol in my hand He leaned against a fence post And lit a cigarette I moved a few steps closer As close as I could get I wasn’t even shaking When I pulled that hammer back Rose up and drew my aim And I heard that thunder crack He fell along the fence line Bleeding heavy through his shirt He slept the sleep of the dead Laying in a bed of red dirt If I’m sinning……. Then God forgive my soul I ran up behind the willows And the midnight swallowed me whole Stephen Simmons: vocals & acoustic guitar Dave Coleman: mandolin, organ, percussion Jared Manzo: upright bass
The Demise of Levi Prince From my younger days I recall And I’ve remembered ever since Now history begs me To retell The demise of Levi Prince From Galloway to the Tygart Truth on High he brought down to men Slay them in the Spirit And raised them up As children born again But somewhere in his pride His soul withered overgrown Even though God still whispered In the end Levi’s words were his own All around him we saw a change We sensed a turning away But Levi rode on still Like a lost shepherd Leading his flock astray His intentions lay bare Neither innocent nor cruel Through his pride he became wise And through his wisdom He became a fool In a late September dusk With Levi leading the way On horseback we rode Along the Tygart To the mission at Pilgrim’s Way The trail was still And we heard no sound But Levi’s horse kicked back In fear raising up Dropping Levi to the ground There we stood above him The ground he rested on Gave no hint of life In that September dust Levi’s last breathe was drawn As we stood around him A silent word was prayed Easiness broke the calm Inside we knew No mistake had been made For the last time in his life The Truth pierced him like a sword As we all knew by heart The scriptures read “Vengeance is Mine,” saith the Lord
Guardian, West Virginia She came from Guardian The fall of 1902 A school teacher The friend of a friend The winter that I helped her through The next spring we married Built a house by the riverside But my restless ways She couldn’t receive On another man’s shoulder she did cry It was nothing she said But I could see it in her eyes She did her best To keep it inside But in the end she couldn’t disguise I wasn’t there when I should’ve been I wasn’t there when she called my name So if she ran to another man Then maybe I’m to blame The word spread around town The truth they couldn’t hide I left her that summer Alone to stand By the Guardian riverside A few days later I heard they were gone Everyone thought They boarded the train And together they moved on The sheriff came around Asking what I knew He looked around And questioned me But he never really had a clue If they’re missing or just moved on To me it’s all the same But if they’re never seen again Then maybe I’m to blame
Leader Of Men My brother’s family Settled on Hacker’s Creek They lived there in August Six months and a week Shawnees raided the camp We heard there were 16 slain So we rode out at dawn In a late September rain Settlement was burned And my brother lay dying But along the water’s edge I heard a baby crying I walked over to the creek I laid down my gun In the cattails along the water Lay my brother’s only son He was seven months old In this world alone My brothers first born So we raised him as our own For years he worked with me Down below Arden Ridge A grist mill along the Tygart Across the Moatsville bridge We raised him up right In the ways of the Lord With the helmet of salvation With the Spirit as his sword Spread the faith from an early age And we saw he had no fears In time he grew in wisdom Well beyond his years The chosen that path he walked The road unseen to some When he turned seventeen He knew his day had come From Galloway to the Tygart He’s been riding ever since A chosen leader of men His name was Levi Prince
Sid Copley’s Shadow Sid walks through town With a shadow on his back It’s heavy and it’s cold And no shadow knows A darker shade of black His history The tale of his life Unknown by many Can best be told Through the last words of his wife She said, “Sid was out drinking Like he did on Friday night He came home and found me Upstairs with a stranger Under the crescent moonlight I looked at Sid He looked back in surprise But to my right The greatest fear Was staring back in my lovers eyes I ran towards Sid But he threw me to the floor He reached for his revolver Buried down In our dresser drawer First he shot my lover Then he aimed for me I turned away and prayed he’d miss But the grace of God Ignored my plea Sid carried us both Down to the river that night He threw us in and we washed away Lifeless and cold In the crescent moonlight Sid moved on To another time and place But everywhere he goes In everything he does In every stranger he sees my face Just like a shadow I follow him through town Just like a king He bears My bloodstained crown.” Sid walks through town With a shadow on his back It’s heavy and it’s cold And no shadow knows A darker shade of black
Sinner’s Grin Courtroom burned In that late July heat I sat on the stand Next to the judge I was burning in my seat “Tell us where you were Last Friday night, Son When we found your wife And another man Shot dead by your own gun.” “Like I said before I was working, you know? I was upstate Laying rail For the North Atlantic B & O.” “Got home the next day That’s when I heard Sheriff stopped by With a deputy That’s when they gave me the word.” It was too late by then Not much I could do They hauled me in And locked me up Said, “Son, we believe it was you.” The jury came back The verdict they read I stood up in silence But to my surprise “Not Guilty,” they said I walked away that day Free as I could be Not a man walking today With a story to tell Walking as lucky as me Sitting back on my porch I’ll never see that woman again I chuckled to myself In the cool evening breeze Smiling that sinner’s grin
Old Man And The Traveler I sat on top of the world On the highest mountain looking down A crossroad stood before me To the west I watched the sunlight drown The first breathe of night filled the sky But in the distance I saw a light A Traveler coming From hidden places, deep in the night He sat down next to the fire But he did not ask my name He said, “I am the Traveler By nature you know my fame.” “I can give you life without end Or any desire of your heart Streets of gold or a ruler’s hand Luxury ‘til death do us part.” He said, “My legions are many In this time and place The world I know can be yours If it’s my road you choose to embrace.” From the east I saw a light Walking towards me was an Old Man He sat down by the fire Took me back to the road where I first began He said, “I know this Traveler On this road he walks a twisted mile If you decide to follow him Down on you the shadows will smile.” He said, “My path is a narrow one Leave yourself and this world behind Follow the dirt road less traveled If it’s the golden road you hope to find.” I woke up in the morning Under a misty haze and skies of gray I was alone by the fire But two sets of footprints led away The crossroad stood before me But I was divided to the core But the answer before me stood Much clearer than it had before The choice was now mine Two voices called me their chosen ways With their words echoing in my head I began walking into the haze
The Hitchhiker’s Blues (Living’s For The Dying) I pulled my diesel off To the side of the road I was checking my tires I was checking my load Along the road this guy Asked to hitch a ride I said, “No problem, man.” And he climbed inside I asked where he was going I asked where he’d been Man, I was surprised When he answered with a grin He said, “It’s more the going Than it is the getting’ there And I figure anywhere’s ‘bout as good as somewhere I’m gonna look around And see what I can see ‘Cause man this world It means nothing to me I see people looking Man, when I look around Seems like there’s more lost Than there seems to be found We’re looking ‘round the world But we won’t find it here Nothing’ll fill you up Not gray skies nor clear We’ll take a step Then we want one more We’re just running in circles Faster than ever before But there are no endings No destinations to be found No shelter from the storm Just the hope of higher ground We’re killing ourselves Without even trying And if you call that life Then living’s for the dying.”


Songs have always come to me from the strangest of places. Song titles, phrases, couplets, melodies, stories & vague outlines have found me whether late at night working a factory job as a teenage college kid, driving down country roads, alone at night fueled by whiskey, daydreaming at a desk job, or listening to another songwriter inspire me on a stage somewhere. I’ve often thought how it’s almost like sometimes someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear: well, this time someone literally did.

The songs on this album are a departure from my normal writing process. Jeff Wickland approached me with the idea of looking at his lyrics to see if I might be able to put music to them back in 2010. I had met Jeff several times over the years at shows I played in his native West Virginia, and later on in Nashville (where he and his wife have since relocated). I made no promises to Jeff upfront, as it is always difficult to predict how the creative process will (or will not) unfold. I was pleased to find very inspiring writing in these rural, gothic tales that harken back to the ones passed down in my family in Southern Central Tennessee: and whose influence on me inspired many of my own story songs and writing style early on. I found it easy to see through the eyes of these characters Jeff had created and to express their words in song with emotions that are very familiar to me. The voices of these characters are of another time, yet their yearnings and desires primordial and timeless. I thought that these songs deserved an audience and teamed up with my longtime musical collaborator Dave Coleman to help bring these songs to life. The three of us hope that you enjoy them.


released March 25, 2014

Words by Jeff Wickland / SESAC / Stone Fence Music
Music by Stephen / SESAC / Shiny Geode Music
Produced by Dave Coleman
Recorded, Engineered and Mixed by Dave Coleman at Howard's Apartment Studio, East Nashville, TN
Mastered by Alex McCollough at Yes Master Studios in Nashville, TN
Cover photo by Stephen Simmons
Design by Adam Pinney

Stephen Simmons: vocals, acoustic guitar
Dave Coleman: electric guitar, mutli-chord guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, organ, percussion, bass
Dave Ray: drums, percussion
Jen Gunderman: backing vocals
Eamon McLoughlin: violin
Jared Manzo: upright bass


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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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