Appearances March-April 2024
Appearances Further Out In Time...
Short Bio-Press Release
Newsletter Signup
Video on YouTube
Reviews and Accolades
Festival Workshops
Unitarian Universalist Programs
February Sky - The Long Story, and What About That Name???
Where We've Played
Contact Us...
Phil's Folk Curmudgeon Review
Cooper & Nelson and Cooper, Nelson & Early Recordings

Lyrics from "February Sky" CD

1.  SPENCER THE ROVER       Trad. Arr.

This tune was composed by Spencer the Rover

As valiant a man as ever left home

He had been much reduced, which caused great confusion

And that was the reason he started to roam.

  In Yorkshire near Rotherham, he had been on his rambles

  Being weary of traveling, he sat down to rest

  At the foot of yon' mountain flows a clear flowing fountain

  With bread and cold water himself did refresh.

It tasted far sweeter than the gold he had wasted,

Far sweeter than honey, and gave more content,

But the thoughts of his children lamenting their father

Brought tears to his eyes, which made him relent.

  The night fast approaching, to the woods he resorted

  With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make

  There he dreamt about sighing, lamenting and crying

  Go home to your family and rambling forsake.

On the fifth day of November, I've a reason to remember

When first he arrived home to his family and wife

They did stand so astounded, surprised and dumbfounded

To see such a stranger once more in their sight.

  Then his children come around him with their prittle prattling stories,

  With their prittle prattling stories to drive care away.

  He's as happy as those who have thousands of riches,

  Contented he'll remain and not ramble away.  (REPEAT FIRST VERSE)


2.  FEBRUARY SKY  Susan Urban 2007

They grew up along the sidewalks of a city vast and bleak,

They grew tough enduring winters long and cold,

And those crowds of faceless people who would rarely laugh or speak,

Seldom thinking, doing just as they were told.

They were 30-something singles when they met

On a winter hike in Northern Michigan,

Where the power of that harsh and lovely land

Had transformed them from the people they had been.


  Underneath the icy pallor of the February sky,

  They will walk along the riverbank and watch the ravens fly,

  While the white pine whisper softly and the silver birches sigh,

  Underneath the February sky.

In that big cold-hearted city where a living can be made,

They have stayed together 20 years and more.

But their Northland dream in white and d silver never, ever fades,

They've a cabin now on Michigan's north shore.

And although they spend such time there as they can,

They are waiting for the day they'll pack the car,

For that day, when someone speaks that city's name,

And they'll tell them, "We don't live there any more."  CH

And although their friends and relatives all think they've gone insane,

California's not the place they want to be.

They would sooner live beside a swamp with dragonflies and cranes,

Than some smoggy eight-lane highway that is "free."

They both hate the hottest weather anyway,

So although the Northern winter's long and harsh,

They will don their boots and parkas every day,

They will snowshoe past their winter-whitened marsh.  CH


3.  OLD BONES       Jez Lowe

When I was young, my father said to me, he said to me,

"Never take advice if it comes for free.

You can have all the riches of the golden kind,

But without the riches of your peace of mind,


  You won't make old bones, you won't make old bones,

  You won't old bones, you'll see.”

The old men sit and curse time slipping sand, time slipping sand.

I sit and curse the time that’s on my hands.

The north wind blows like the song of the sea.

The song it carries comes plain to me, it says... CH

  Now, some folks make remark on my furrows and frowns,  my furrows and frowns,

  They say the only way is to get up when they turn you down,

  And everyone gives the same advice:

  They say go sign on for a soldier's life, or... CH

So I went to the army like everyone told me to do, they told me to do.

They said we'd love to make a soldier out of you,

But before I put my name on the line,

My father’s words came to me on time, he said... CH

  I said your guns and your drums are not for the likes of me, the likes of me,

  Though my future may seem bleaker than bleak can be,

  You talk of many owing much to few

  When all I ever wanted was a job to do, they said... CH

So you people in power and position, I tell you beware, I tell you beware

Of your facts and your figures that tell you what when and where,

'Cause your facts and your figures are the likes of me,

And don't try to tell me how my life should be, or... CH


4.  IF YOU WERE IN HELL        Susan Urban 1996

I met you at a table in a crowded restaurant,

You were sending back your steak for the third time.

I smiled at you, remarking "What a lovely day today,"

And you replied, "The service here's a crime!"

I should have sensed a problem when I sent a dozen roses,

And you tossed them 'cause they made you cough and sneeze;

It should have been a warning when I took you on that picnic lunch

And all you did was bitch about the bees.

The day when we were married you found fault with everything,

From the punch bowl to your shoes that were too tight.

I never knew before that I was clumsy and inept,

But I sure found out that fatal wedding night!


  If you were down in hell, you'd be complaining that it wasn't hot enough.

  If I became your slave and waited on you night and day,

  You'd turn around and kick me in the duff.

  The only time you're jolly is when you're melancholy,

  You're only happy when you're feeling blue,

  For sure I'm gonna leave you, 'cause the only way to please you

  Is by being just as miserable as you!

Now, "thank you" is a pair of words you never learned to say,

There is no one who could keep you satisfied.

Whatever might be wrong, I'm always sure to get the blame,

From the weather to the bags beneath your eyes.

Before I ever met you I was so darn optimistic,

I was cheerful and contented as a cow.

I never used to gripe or groan or moan or crab or whine a lot,

But after years of you look at me now!

I sit at my computer and I try to write a song,

My guitar in hand, I strum a chord or two.

I'd love to write some happy stuff, but all that I can get

Is this stupid song complaining about you!  CH

And I'm not happy being miserable like you!!!


5.  BILLY BOY  Trad. Arr.

Where have you been all the day, bonnie boy, Billy Boy,

Where have you been all the day, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

I have been all the day talking with a lady gay,

CH:  Isn’t she a young thing, lately from her mommy-o!

Did she ask you to sit down, bonnie boy, Billy boy,

Did she ask you to sit down, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

She asked me to sit down, and then she curtsied to the ground....CH

  Did she light you up to bed, bonnie boy, Billy boy,

  Did she light you up to bed, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

  She lit me off to bed with a nodding of her head...CH

Did she lie so close to you, bonnie boy, Billy boy,

Did she lie so close to you, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

She lay so close to me, as the bark is to the tree...CH

  Is she fit to be your wife, bonnie boy, Billy boy,

  Is she fit to be your wife, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

  She’s as fit to be my wife as the hasp is to the knife...CH

Do you want to know her age, bonnie boy, Billy Boy,

Do you want to know her age, oh my dear, darling Billy-o?

She’s twice six seven, she’s twice twenty and eleven...CH


6.  BLUE AS THE IOWA SKY  Susan Urban 2008

I hold my sweet granddaughter in the churchyard here today,

She's saying, "Grandpa, put me down, I need to run and play!"

I tell her she must wait a bit, the preacher's almost done

Speaking over that flag-draped casket lying in the sun.

They've handed me the folded flag, granddaughter starts to cry,

With eyes just like her fallen mother's, blue as the Iowa sky.


  Blue as the Iowa sky, blue as the Iowa sky,

  With eyes just like her fallen mother's, blue as the Iowa sky.

My daughter joined the army for to earn a better life,

She told me she'd no future here, she weren't no farmer's wife.

She served her stint in peacetime, got her schooling, moved to town,

Then they called her back the year the "Shock and Awe" went down.

She came home sick and pregnant, and before six months went by,

She had a baby girl with eyes blue as the Iowa sky.


  Blue as the Iowa sky, blue as the Iowa sky,

  She had a baby girl with eyes blue as the Iowa sky.


  Three happy years went by, and then they called her up once more,

  And now I've lost my only girl, and I don't know what for.

  I'm bound to raise her daughter; though I'm neither young nor spry,

  I love this little girl with eyes blue as the Iowa sky.

I put my sweet granddaughter down to run across the lawn;

I don't know what to tell her when she asks where Mommy's gone.

What will I say of pictures of her mom so blonde and white,

When her own skin is walnut brown with hair as dark as night?

And of that young Iraqi man who fathered her and died,

What words will make him live again in my granddaughter's eyes,

Those eyes just like her fallen mother's, blue as the Iowa sky?


7.  KING OF THE FAERIES       Trad. Arr. (Instrumental)

8. WRITTEN IN OUR EYES       Charlie Madigan


  Did you think our lives were better, did you think we had no pain,

  Did you think we came from happy times,

  Well, think your thoughts again.

  There are myths and there are legends, there are fables, there are lies,

  The truest story’s written in our eyes.

Have you ever raised a garden of bright flowers in the spring

And watched your roses wither in the heat that summer brings?

Have you ever raised a family, and watched your flowers die?

The truest story’s written in our eyes.  CH

  Have you ever been left lonely by a lover in the night,

  Have you shivered in the darkness while you wait for morning’s light,

  Have your babies not been hungry, have you never heard them cry,

  The truest story’s written in our eyes.  CH

Have you ever heard the voices, just to find no one is there?

Have you turned to face a whisper in a room that’s cold and bare?

Have you ever longed for family for comfort at your side?

The truest story’s written in our eyes.  CH


9.  DADDY'S SONG Susan Urban 1986

My dad, he wore a flannel shirt and work pants all the time,

The work he did was with his hands, and he didn't mind the grime,

He never was the sort of man to wear a suit and tie,

It made my mom so angry she would wring her hands and cry.

Now, my dad was quite a gifted guy at fixin' what got broke,

And there was no situation when he didn't have a joke.

When I was sick, he always had some funny tale to tell,

I'd laugh so hard before I knew what happened, I'd be well.


  And he never made much money, not much wealth to show,

  But he brought a little sunshine with him everywhere he'd go.

  He wasn't what society would call a big success,

  But when it came to love and laughter, my dad was the best.

What did the monkey say when he peed in the cash register?

  This is gonna run into money...

Now, my mother used to tell me that my father was no good,

'Cause he didn't have the drive or the ambition that he should.

But everybody loved him so, I couldn't understand

Why she was always wishing that she'd wed a richer man.

I remember one Thanksgiving when the liquor flowed like sap,

And that was why the turkey wound up in my father's lap.

The uncles, aunts and cousins, well, they laughed until they cried,

Dad, he cracked a joke about a bird that still could fly.  CH

What did the monkey say when he got his tail caught in the lawn mower?

  It won't be long now...

Now, as I grew up my dad got older - guess that's how life works.

He developed bad arthritis, and I saw how much it hurt.

But as the years went on, with less and less that he could do,

He always saved a smile and a story for me too.

He died one Sunday morning, he'd been sick for quite a while,

But on his face was left the trace of his gentle, peaceful smile.

I know I'll always miss him, but there's one thing clear to see -

He isn't really gone because my dad lives on in me.


  And I don't make very much money, not much wealth to show,

  But I try and bring a little sunshine everywhere I go.

  I'll never be what society will call a big success,

  But when it comes to love and laughter, well, I do my best...

  That's how he taught me -

  'Cause when it came to love and laughter, my dad was the best.


10.  COD'INE  Buffy Saint Marie

I rise up in the morning, got an achin' in my head,

Feel like I'm dying, and I wish I was dead.

If I live 'til tomorrow, it'll be a long time,

But I'll reel and I'll fall and I'll die on cod'ine.

  When I was a young man, I learned not to care

  About  whiskey, and from it I often did swear.

  My mother and father said, "Whiskey's a curse."

  But the fate of their baby was many times worse.

Stay away from the cities; stay away from the town,

Stay away from the man pushin' the codeine around,

Stay away from the store where the remedy’s fine,

For better your pain than be caught on cod'ine.

  You'll forget about women, you'll forget you're a man,

  Try it just once, and you'll try it again.

  You'll forget about life, you'll forget about time,

  And you'll live all your days as a slave to cod'ine.

If I die tomorrow, there’s one thing I've done,

I heeded the warning I got when I was young.

My one satisfaction, it comes when I think

I'm livin' my days without bendin' to drink. (REPEAT FIRST VERSE)


11.  GHOST TRAIN  Susan Urban 2000

It was when I was a young man, just barely twenty-five,

The time it was 1974.

I'd been traveling the country, my pack upon my shoulders,

One year after returning from the war.

A Northern sun was setting, the fog was rolling in,

And I was far away from any town.

And then I saw the ruins of an ancient railroad station,

I thought that I would stop and bed me down.

The silence then was shattered by a railroad whistle's call,

An old steam engine chuffed into my view.

It halted with a screech of brakes, a hiss of steam, conductor calling,

"All aboard for points North to the Sault."

So I swung myself on board her, but no one noticed me,

The passengers all wore old-fashioned clothes.

That struck me as peculiar, but being worn and weary,

I found a seat and dropped into a doze.

I'd maybe slept an hour, we halted with a lurch,

And six young men with pistols came on board.

They robbed each man and woman, and they shot them without mercy,

But me they didn't see or just ignored.

And then the brave conductor pulled a gun out from his vest,

He shot the youngest outlaw in the head.

The pistols blazed in chorus, and in less than half a minute's time,

That poor conductor too was lying dead.

And when all the gunmen left there, the dead young outlaw spoke,

Though there was no expression in his eyes.

He said, "If you will listen, I'll tell to you my story;

I speak the truth, for dead men tell no lies.

When I was just a young boy, Confederate soldiers came,

Inducted me and marched me ‘til I dropped.

They taught me to hate Yankees, and they got me used to killing,

And when the war was done I couldn't stop.

And now I lie here lifeless at the age of 25,

I see you're headed down that highway too.

But if you'd rather live and love, and put the past behind you,

There is one, and only one thing you can do.


  Teach your sons to be gentle, tell them that you love them,

  When they cry you hold them in your arms.

  Turn their eyes away from hatred and their hearts away from hurtin',

  And you'll raise up men who do nobody harm.
Now, the next thing I remember was waking in the sun

Beside some old and rusted railroad tracks.

I rose and started walking with home my destination,

And less than three weeks later I was back.

When I got home I found your mother waiting there for me,

I married her and swore I would be true.

And as you know, we had two sons, you've grown up strong and loving,

And I've got to say I'm very proud of you.


   For I raised you to be gentle, told you that I loved you,

   When you cried I held you in my arms.

   Turned your eyes away from hatred and your hearts away from hurtin',

   And you've grown up men who do nobody harm.

Now I lie here sick and dying, just fifty years of age,

With cancer from defoliants in Nam;

I watch the news in horror, there's all these young men killing,

Again we're making war and dropping bombs.

It makes me feel so helpless, for I don't know the way

To put an end to war and murder too,

But I will leave behind me sons who don't believe in killing,

And I guess that that's the best that I can do.

I wonder who that outlaw was and why he came to me

That evening on the ghost train passing through,

There's nothing left for me to do but hand that young man's story down,

I leave it for my grandsons and for you.  CH 1


12.  AULD WIFE AYOND THE FIRE          Trad. Arr. (Instrumental)


13.  PRETTY SUSAN               Trad. Arr.

When first from sea I landed I had a roving mind.

I rambled undaunted my true love to find;

There I met with pretty Susan with her cheeks like the rose,

And her skin was like the lily fair or the wildflower that grows,

Yes, her skin was like the lily fair or the wildflower that grows.

  Oh, the long time I courted her till I wasted my store,

  Then her love turned to hatred because I was poor.

  She said: I love another whose fortune I will share,

  So begone from pretty Susan, the Pride of Moi Claire,

  Yes, begone from pretty Susan, the Pride of Moi Claire.

Broken hearted next morning as I roamed by the way,

I met with pretty Susan and her young man so gay,

And as I gazed on her, my heart full of care,

Well, I sighed for pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire,

Yes, I sighed for pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire.

  Once more to the ocean I'm resolved for to go

  I'm bound for the West, my heart full of woe

  And it's there I'll meet pretty girls like jewels so rare,

  But there's none like pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire,

  No, there's none like pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire.

So now it's farewell to my dear native shore,

Round the green hills of Ireland I'll wander no more.

And it's when I'm at a distance, all burdened with care,

I will sigh for pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire,

Yes, I'll sigh for pretty Susan, the pride of Moi Claire.  REPEAT FIRST VERSE


14.  CHILD OF THE EARTH      Susan Urban 1998

When you wake in the morning and breathe in the air,

Give thanks to the green Earth because it is there.

When you're boiling the water for coffee or tea

Give a thought to the rivers, the lakes and the seas.

As you walk out to work on the soft springy ground,

Be grateful for gravity holding you down.


  You are a child of the Earth, you are a child of the Earth.

   You may honor the mother in all that you see,

   You are a child of the Earth, you are a child of the Earth.

When there's one that you love, little matters it that

They be lover or child, dog, bird or cat.

When you look in their eyes with devotion so true,

Recollect that the Earth Spirit brought them to you.

They are atoms and molecules, water and clay

Rearranged in a wondrous and singular way.


  She is a child of the Earth, and he is a child of the Earth.

  You may honor the mother in all whom you love,

  You are a child of the Earth, you are a child of the Earth.

When you watch the sun set on a rose-colored sky,

When the red leaves of autumn are burning your eyes,

When the trees are abloom tender green in the spring,

Tune your heart to the Earth song the ancients did sing.

Tread as soft as you may on your Earth Mother's bones,

That the ones who come after may call her their own.


  They will be children of Earth, even now they are children of Earth.

  You may honor the mother in all that you do,

  You are a child of the Earth, you are a child of the Earth -

  You are a child of the Earth.


13. NORTHLAND WALTZ        Phil Cooper 2003  (Instrumental)


14. RELAXED FIT     Susan Urban 1998

She used to dress in brazen braless halters,

Along with very tight hip-hugger jeans.

She wore an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny fringed bikini,

And the shortest mini-skirts you've ever seen.

  Now the bra she wears is reinforced with whalebone,

  Spandex keeps her abdomen at bay,

  That bathing suit so smarmy's at the Salavation Army,

  And she hopes those baggy trousers will disguise her derriere.


  We're longer in the tooth, but wider in the waist,

  And gravity does not help out a bit.

  Those slender hippie hips are the size of battleships,

  So when we shop we always look for "Relaxed Fit!"

He had that waving hair down to his shoulders,

With sideburns and a handlebar moustache.

You'd see him in warm weather with no shirt on, just some feathers,

And those leather pants that quite showed off his...butt.

  Now minoxodil bombards his thinning hairline,

  He shaved because the beard was turning gray,

  Those pants that wouldn't zip no more are at the vintage clothing store,

  And you'll never see him topless even on the hottest day.  CH

They used to go for wild rock n' rollin',

They hung out in those psychedelic bars.

They'd stay out half the night, dancin', drinkin', gettin' tight,

Then come home at two and make love until four.

  Now they stay at home and watch a rented movie,

  They stumble off to bed before it ends.

  The lust of those young lovers went the way of Tommy Smothers,

  They're both snoring and the clock is reading only half past ten!

REPRISE CH:           

They're longer in the tooth, but wider in the waist,

And way too tuckered out for exercise.

But encroaching signs of age don't affect them at this stage,

That timeless look of love is shining in their eyes.  CH


17. WOMAN IN THE WOODS   Susan Urban 2006

When my grandma turned 18 in a West Missouri town,

Then she crossed the sea to England for a fling.

She returned in seven years with my mother in her arms,

But nobody ever saw a wedding ring.

She settled in an ancient farmhouse way out in the woods;

My mother married young and moved to town.

And although she'd never talk about a granny on her side,

I would hear the townsfolk whispering when I would come around:


  "There's that strange woman in the woods,

  Now of course I've never met her, some folks say that she's no good,

  But she healed my cousin's baby with those herbs she gathers there,

  I hear tell that she's the grandma of that girl-child over there."

Now, my mom just shook her head when I told her what I heard,

And she said, "Your granny died long years ago,"

Well, of course that wasn't true, I could feel it in my heart,

And I knew to find my grandma I would go.

One day when I was walking in the woods above the town,

I found a path where no path used to be.

As I followed where it led, half in bliss and half in fear,

All those stories I had heard so long kept coming back to me...CH

  When I found my grandma's home, she was waiting there for me,

  And she smiled with her eyes of midnight blue,

  We were very much alike, we were nothing like my mom,

  That was how I knew those tales they told were true.

  And as the years went on, she passed her knowledge on to me

  Of healing plants that grew out in the woods.

  I would never talk about her when I went on back to town,

  So the whispering continued ‘til I left that burg for good.  CH

Now I am no longer young, now my granny's passed and gone,

That old house out in the woods has turned to dust.

And I own this little store, reading cards, prescribing herbs

For all illnesses from colds to lack of lust.

My granddaughter comes to work with me quite often after school,

There is no need for lies or secrecy,

For her friends all know about me and her parents think I'm cool;

My dear grandma, she would smile at the way they talk of me:


"There's that wise woman in the store,

Oh, yes, I went to see her when my elbow was so sore,

And she cured my sister's migraines with those herbs she has in there,

She's the grandma of that very lucky girl-child over there."


18. Return to the Northland     Susan Urban 1985

When the clouds o'er the city are scattered and thin,

And the sky is a china bowl blue,

When the breeze from the Northeast is scented with pine,

Every year, in the Spring, then I know that it's time

To return to the Northland again.


  Goin' home, Goin' home, Goin' home to the Northland again;

  Goin' home, Goin' home, Goin' home to the Northland again.

Where the lakes and the rivers reflect the tall pines,

Where the birch and the maple grow strong,

Where the forest, it reaches as far as the skies,

Where the wildflowers blossom and the Northern goose flies,

There I'm home in the Northland again.  CH

  I've a life in the city, the music, the friends,

  But the North Country lives in my soul.

  And they say I've a Native American face,

  Other lives, other times, must have all left their trace,

  They return in the Northland again.  CH

And when the trees blaze with color, and the air tastes like snow,

I'll be rolling up Northbound again.

When the seasons will bring me my own Autumn time,

Let me sleep in the Earth ‘neath the sweet-scented pines

And return to the Northland again.  CH...

Goin' home to the Northland again...