Ghost of Summers Past

by Jason Wilber

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about

The story behind Ghost of Summers Past:

Most of these songs were written when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Other than the song My Great Uncle Jim, I don’t think I have even performed any of these songs live since back then.

I started working on this recording in the early '90's, believe it or not. Jamey Reid and I cut most of the rhythm guitar and drum tracks first. Although I had been playing guitar in bands for about 10 years at that point, I hadn’t been singing for very long and I remember that I wasn’t all that happy with my vocal performances. So for that or some other reason, I dropped the whole project midway through. From time to time over the years I was reminded of the orphaned project when one of these songs would drift through my head, or when I would move and have to carry the box of tapes from an old closet to a new one. “Hmmm, maybe I should finish this…”, I’d think, and then a few more years would go by.

Fast forward to 2008. I don’t know why, but one day I decided it was time to finish this record. I still wasn’t happy with those old vocal performances, so I redid all the vocals, and then did the rest of the overdubs. Jamey and I cut a few more songs at Airtime Studios to round out the CD. Around this time I also wrote the song A Little Older Now. It seemed like a fitting addition to the project, which ended up being kind of a collaboration between my current self and my younger self. I hope you'll enjoy it.

- Jason Wilber

credits

released July 4, 2009

Jason Wilber – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Dobro, Keyboards, Bass
Jamey Reid - Drums and Percussion
Karl Meyer - Fiddle
Jon Paul - Bass on Never Never Land

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about

Jason Wilber Bloomington, Indiana

Jason Wilber is an American singer and recording artist. He is also known as the lead guitar player for singer-songwriters like John Prine, Iris Dement, Greg Brown, and many others. Jason Wilber’s work with John Prine includes the Grammy Award winning CD Fair & Square. In addition to playing guitar on John Prine’s 2017 album For Better or Worse, Jason also served as a Co-Executive Producer. ... more

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Track Name: Ghost of Summers Past
The mourning dove woke me from a dream
Of a younger summer
She sang her song as my dreamland faded away
And for the rest of the day I couldn’t shake this feeling
Like I was watching myself walk away

Walking on the railroad tracks
Walk across the trestle
Walking on the railroad tracks
Like a ghost of summers past

Grandpa used to bait my line
And we’d sit and watch the bobbers
And we always had plenty of time
A soldier and a child sitting hand in hand
at the water
As a young man waves goodbye

CHORUS

There was a world for me at the top of a tree
I could’ve been anything
But now the leave have fallen down
And I stand on the ground
And rustle around for my yesterdays
---------------
Track Name: Bottles
Once full of ships and tonics
And messages and medicine they sat now
Bottle lined the walls of the crowded little house
Once discarded and now collected for the old man’s gallery

He lined them up like soldiers in a row
Heroes and old friends I’d never known
Standing silent on the dusty shelves
Every bottle had a story he could tell

Chorus:
Visions I can’t shake
Chase me down and steal my sleep
Lessons I learned late
Lie like empty bottles next to me

Inst

I can see his grey reflection
Twisting in the waves of green and blue
Quietly describing the places that he knew
His memories hung like spirits in the room

Cut and cracked and broken
The words I might have spoken came to me
Much to late
And they tasted like cheap liquor
And they only made me sicker but I was just
To stubborn to spit them out

CHORUS

Inst
Track Name: The Great Cow of Romance
She looked into his eyes and smiled
And said I love you dear
He coughed and he said well I’ll see ya
I really need to get out of here

So he ran off into the sunrise
But still he kept looking around
At the silhouette just about his size
Chasing him there on the ground

You say you don’t think that you understand
Exactly what all of this means
How he traded the great cow of romance
For a handful of mystical beans

He stopped running several years later
I guess he’d just run out of wind
Until the soft breath of one young lady
Filled up his sails again

So he left without giving a reason
And shipped off with the merchant marines
Tracked down the French Foreign Legion
And wound up cleaning latrines

Chorus

One day time finally caught him
And he was too old to keep running around
So a sweet hearted Mexican lady
Trapped him and they settled down

So gather around me children
And I’ll tell you what all of this means
How he traded the great cow of romance
For a handful of mystical beans

Yes, I gave up the great cow of romance
For this handful of sweet jumping beans
Track Name: Never Never Land
Once young waitress waits for the cook to ring her bell
In a diner between black factories on a 4 lane road to hell
People shuffle in and out, they never see her face
No one needs a menu though, it’s just another day
In never never land

The babies all born coughing breathing factory filth
Wrap’em in their blankets, from their it’s all down hill
Baby face Jim was still coughing when he was 25
At 37 he found salvation in furnace number 5

In never never land
Where the rats and the smog and the bums
All lend a hand
The King adjusts his rusty crown and strikes up the band
They all believe it’s never never land

A greasy rain drips rhythm through a worn out bedtime verse
Tired fingers turn a dirty page and the story keeps getting worse
In never never land

Chorus
Track Name: Chase Her
She’s so far away
I see her walk but I can’t tell
Which way she’s going

I call her my friend
But it’s hard to pretend that there’s nothing more
Maybe I’ll stop trying
But I’m thinking I might have to chase her

The man down the road
He has a fine house and she likes to go
Spend the afternoon sometimes

What can I say
I have no claim to her body
So I watch her walk away
And I’m wondering if I should chase her

Inst

Bridge:
Ice tea sweats in the painted glass
As the sun falls I hope that she’ll come back
And I sit on my front porch rocking
‘til the crickets and the owls and the darkness
Overtake me

Another sun rise waves
These days have a way of just slipping by
And piling up behind me

So I sit here alone
And stare down the road that she once took
Never to return
And I’m thinking that I might have chased her

Inst Bridge
Vamp on riff and fade
Track Name: Rock-a-bye Rosie
She wasn’t born rich so she wound up poor
She didn’t have much but she dreamed of more
While the rich spend money the poor spend time
Working and saving and living and dying
Walk softly please, cause Rosie’s sleeping now

She married a man who went away to war
Came back crippled couldn’t work no more
So Rose took a job teaching school
And as the years slid by, Rosie slipped through

But now Rosie’s sleeping
Now Rosie’s dreaming
About a world without wars and dollar bills
If anyone can get there Rosie will

Rock-a-bye Rosie

For years Rosie lay tucked snug in her bed
While sugar plum fairies ran amok in her head
Whispered the bedbug in her ear
A stitch in time ain’t worth a damn in here

I remember the day that we tucked her in
There was a friendly fat preacher and an old black man
With two gold teeth inside of this grin
He said he knew Rosemary way back when

But now Rosie’s sleeping
Now Rosie’s dreaming
About a world without wars and dollar bills
If anyone can get there Rosie will

Rock-a-bye Rosie
Rock-a-bye Rosie
Rock-a-bye Rosie
Track Name: My Great Uncle Jim
My Great Uncle Jim had a fiddle
But I never did hear him play
Grandma said he used to farm a little
When he was about my age
Back before the coal mines
Bought up all the land
Great Uncle Jim went to work in the mines
When he was still a young man

So they tacked up signs on the Bruceville Mine
Sunshine and Number Five
They run them tracks so far in the ground
They thought they’d come out the other side
Now the old men cough up their insides
And scratch at missing legs
And they sit and they spit about the Sunshine Mine
And how they promised a better wage

Hell there wasn’t no town until the mines came
There ain’t much here now
A few old storefronts still remain
And a filling station east of town
My Father used to work there
Changing oil and pumping gas
Hell there wasn’t no town until the mines came
And the mining days have passed

My Great Uncle Jim had a fiddle
But I never heard him play
Grandma said he had black lung
And he showed me his wooden leg
I guess he might have been bitter
I never heard him say
Great Uncle Jim had a fiddle
But I never did hear him play
Track Name: Rain Everyday
They pulled into town early one cold Saturday
The clouds were raining and the sky was grey
He looked at his new bride, Lucy was her name
She surveyed the small grey town, smiled and didn’t complain

And the rain kept falling

Lucy did her best to make their little house a home
He looked for work during the day and he left her there alone
One night he came home and said I found a job
Lucy by the window, watching the rain, began to sob
She said

I don’t wanna live here if it’s gonna rain everyday
He said oh it’s probably just temporary
I’m sure it’ll get better any day

But the rain kept falling
And the years crept right through their back door
Late one autumn
Lucy gave life to their first boy

The boy grew up poor he never knew nothing else
Her husbands gone now, and Lucy makes the living herself
When the boy was grown he stopped and he took a look around
Watched his Mama working so hard and asked her with a frown

Why do we live her Mama it rains everyday
Lucy said, oh it’s probably just temporary
I’m sure it’ll get better any day

But the rain kept falling
And Lucy smiled with bright and shining eyes
She never would give up
She found a way to make her own sunshine

She said, son if you never give up
You’ll find a way to make your own sunshine

But the rain kept falling
As Lucy said with bright and shining eyes
The secret, Son, is never give up [The secret’s never to give up]
You’ll find a way to make your own sunshine
Track Name: Madeline
Over dusty parlor velvet stares a memory
Rockers creak and the knitting needles weave
At the quiet house where Christmas never comes
Like a lull-a-bye whose rhymes have all been sung

Madeline’s Dad was a Shelbyville coal miner
He worked all day to provide for his wife and child
He used to pass out the prayer books every Sunday
But he never would come to church after Madeline died

They say her Mama still sets three plates on the table
And hangs her summer dresses on the line
She sings to a child whose been gone some 30 years now
And she turns down Madeline’s bed sheets every night

In the sleepy towns the shadows lay forever
Generations pass and whisper through the shade
Tales twine like ivy in the minds of little children
As they creep up the kitchen walls and back door frames
Track Name: Far Across the River
He put his hand out flat and fanned across the skyline that night
The city smoldered in the quickly disappearing light
And like a falling star is seen before it’s faded
She laid her head upon his hear and then she whispered yes

So like a pirate sailed his Pontiac to El Dorado
Said he’d return with speed and gold would line his pockets
But El Dorado held more strength than he would’ve guessed
And his trail made the papers all the way up to Milwaukee

Oh, far across the river he said
You must promise me you’ll wait ‘til I repay my debt

The over look down at the park along the water
A woman stares out at the sunset with her daughter and
She tries to tell her why she never met her father
But the language isn’t easy, and she falters once again

Bridge:
Long ago there lived a King and a Queen
Over thrown by the dark knight Economy

Instrumental

Oh, far across the river he said
You must promise me you’ll wait ‘til I repay my debt

So watch the road each day for a mortal man with an angel’s face
Prison tattoos and a scar across his heart
Said he’d be back for you, your 15th birthday
Now don’t you treat him like a stranger
Understand me he’s your father
And he loves you as much as I do

Oh, far across the river she said
Mom this life is such a mystery to me

Oh, standing in the doorway she said
Mom this life is such a mystery to me
Track Name: A Little Older Now
You were looking for a reason
You said looking for a sign
You went searching for a season
When everything was fine
When everything was fine

In the morning you’d come early
Complaining not your style
Sweeping off that sidewalk
Always with a smile
Always with a smile

But you’re a little older now, a little older now
You’re a little older now

You took that tiny one room
Down old Jackson Street
The co-op across the alley
Where you always liked to eat
Man you always liked to eat

I still think about you sometimes
Mostly when the seasons change
I picture you still roaming
Somewhere just out of range
Somewhere out of range

But you’re a little older now, a little older now
You’re a little older now

I always thought you’d be here
I never thought we’d part
We’d be friends until the end
We were friends right from the start
Friends right from the start

But we’re a little older now, a little older now
We’re a little older now