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Backwoods Song: "Billy from the Hills," Greg Brown

September 20, 2008

Whoa, here's a song with some nifty backwoods lyrics, to give you a shiver, with some realistic content not usually in songs today.

Greg Brown is one a them fine singersongwriters who has a strong feel for upnorth Michigan. Keep an eye on him.

This song has come up for us a couple times now on Pandora. Open a "Greg Brown" station and see if you get it.

Here's the lyrics:

No one now knows too much about these woods,
They got lost, they wouldn't know where to go.
Tribe's been gone a long time, small farmers got blowed out,
Maybe there ain't even that much left to know.
You can strip the trees, foul the streams, try to hide in a progressive dream.
Ease into the comfort that kills.
Before I do that, I'll grab my pack,
And disappear with Billy from the hills.

Blood flows back and back and back and back,
Like a river from a secret source.
I feel it wild in me; I pitched my camp
At the fork where knowledge meets remorse.
Women sing in me that song from the ancient fire,
I just open my mouth and what comes out gives me chills.
I got my song from a secret place,
I got my face from Billy from the hills.

A 40-inch barrel on that shotgun,
Steel traps in a cane pack on his back.
Eighteen years old, surrounded by the Ozarks,
Ain't one little bit of that boy that's slack.
If you're looking for a helping hand,
He'll give you one, you know he will.
If you're looking for trouble, huh-uh, turn around,
You don't want to mess with Billy from the hills.

Some folks dance cool, all angles and swaying hips,
Sensual as all get out and in.
Me, I'm a hick, and I dance like one,
I just kind of jump around and grin.
I know a guy, he doesn't dance too much,
But when he does, he gives everyone a thrill

You might run away or suck it up and stay,
When he dances, Billy from the hills.

There's a lantern lit on a Missouri night,
A woman writing poems by a stove.
She knows the fox's whereabouts by knoll, by gulch, by yelp,
As he runs at night through her mother love.
Her memory to me is like watercress from a spring-fed stream,
Fresh and aching as a mockingbird's trill.
She lives in me; I try to look until
I can see for her and her boy, Billy from the hills.

It's a drifting time, people are fascinated with screens,
No idea what's on the other side.
We stare at doom like an uptight groom,
And live our lives like a drunken bride.
Tonight I feel something on the wind,
Deep inside where we have to die or kill.
Something I know I didn't know I knew,
I learned from Billy from the hills.

(lyrics source: www.lyricstime.com/greg-brown-billy-from-the-hills-lyrics.html )

The clip on Amazon isn't so hot. I see one reviewer calls this song the centerpiece of a masterpiece album. Hmmm, I may be onto something then. And apparently the song is a tribute to his dad, so maybe Greg knows what he's writing about. It rang true to me.

Here's a slightly better 30-second clip than the Amazon one: music.aol.com/song/billy-from-the-hills/1994246

Here it's part of a whole concert that it seems like you can listen to: cdbaby.com/cd/barnaid

Here's a Pandora connection: www.pandora.com/music/song/greg+brown/billy+from+hills+live


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