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Lyr Req: Harlan County Highway (Gary Stewart)

GUEST,2581 24 Jan 10 - 04:54 AM
Jim Dixon 08 Feb 10 - 11:26 PM
GUEST 15 Jan 11 - 12:28 AM
2581 18 Jan 11 - 02:16 AM
GUEST 13 Jun 11 - 05:07 AM
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Subject: Harlan County Highway
From: GUEST,2581
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 04:54 AM

Can anyone supply the lyrics of "Harlan County Highway" by the late, great Gary Stewart? Many thanks!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Harlan County Highway (Gary Stewart)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Feb 10 - 11:26 PM

The best I can do is copy this excerpt from an obituary in the Chicago Reader:


"Shady Streets" was a minor hit but Stewart's single greatest performance remains unreleased, a heart-stopping demo of another of his own compositions, "Harlan County Highway." A studio version of the song, polished to the point of anonymity, came out on the terrible 1980 album Cactus and a Rose, conceived as Stewart's rock crossover. But the demo--one guitar, bass, drums, and a wrenching vocal--is riveting, a hill-country soul ballad.

"I was born...one stormy night," he sings, and the world stops turning.

Daddy died inside a mine
Mama cried but she kept going
I quit school and took a job
Mama begged me not to take
Of running 'tucky shine
Down the Harlan County Highway

The song sounds both a hundred years old and like it's writing itself on the spot. The performance is so stark, so still, that whole lives seem to pass between snare shots. Every line is sadder than the last. The singer marries, has a son, the marriage fails, he takes off. Things get weird in the third verse:

Down the road a piece
Where the ponies run
Where a man can turn a dollar
Into a hundred on a hunch
He can buy his dreams
Or Heaven for a smile
Temptations on every corner
Seven corners every mile

Then the recording abruptly fades. It's as dramatic a recording as Hank Williams's "Ramblin' Man."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Harlan County Highway (Gary Stewart)
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jan 11 - 12:28 AM

Many thanks, Jim! The released version of "Harlan County Highway" has four verses and, unfortunately, the lyrics that are difficult for me to understand are in the 2nd and 4th verses (i.e., the two verses that are not quoted in the obituary). I have most of them, but there are a few I can't quite grasp...
                        Best wishes,
                         Tony from Kentucky


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Subject: Lyr Add: HARLAN COUNTY HIGHWAY (Gary Stewart)
From: 2581
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 02:16 AM

After listening to "Harlan County Highway" many many times, some friends and I believe the complete lyrics are as follows:

HARLAN COUNTY HIGHWAY - by Gary Stewart

I was born one stormy night
Then a hard rain started fallin'
Daddy died inside a mine
Mama cried but she kept goin'
I left school for a job
Mama begged me not to take
Of running Kentucky shine
Down the Harlan County Highway

And then I married Lorraine
She gave our baby my name
Lord, that woman tried
More with each passing day
What started out as heaven
Got lost along the way
So I turned off
Down the Harlan County Highway

Way down in Louisville
Where the ponies run
Where a man can turn a dollar
Into a hundred on a hunch
He can buy his dreams
Or heaven for a smile
Temptation calls from every corner
Seven corners in a mile

Shackled to a highway call
My bones ache to keep rovin'
I'm standin' in the cold
With all my cards a showin'
What's the use of runnin' ?
And nothing but runnin' left to do
Look for me cause I'll be a comin'
Or a goin', one of the two


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Harlan County Highway (Gary Stewart)
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jun 11 - 05:07 AM

Thanks for the lyrics. I love the song, and have listened several times to try to pick up the lyrics. Was never sure just who the guy in the song married, but it sure could be Lorraine. I wonder if there would be any way to get a copy of the demo. I would love to hear it. I actually love the "Cactus and a Rose" version, and anything better than that would be tremendous. Gary Stewart was a genius musically, and in my opinion is the greatest country singer ever. "King of the honkey tonk singers" is absolutely correct, in my opinion. I like Conway Twitty ok, but just listen to "I Can See the Want-to In Your Eyes" by both, and see which is better.


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