Above Covered Skies

by Axel Quinlan

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A story of the American Dream


released September 1, 2016

All songs written by A. Quinlan*
Recorded by A. Quinlan in the old Kalamazoo Gibson building
Mixed and mastered by Mike Schuur at Sun Spot Recording
Album art by Trevor Grabill at Flat Mountain Press
Portrait by VAGUE photography

I would like to thank my family and my friends for their constant support and encouragement.
This album is dedicated to Tim Klueter and Casey Snyder

*Traditional and classical songs referenced on Tracks 1a, 3, 4b, 11, 12a, 15




Axel Quinlan Kalamazoo, Michigan

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Track Name: Overature & The Dreamer
a) Overture (instrumental)

b) The Dreamer

I am a dreamer
There’s not much else to be
Not a farmer like my father
a barren life I cannot lead
Yes, I am a dreamer
dreaming someday not to be...

When the seeds that we have planted
have pushed up through the soil
and the stems have sprouted leaves
When the eggshell painted blue
has cracked and split in two
and the robin has left the sheltering wing

I am a dreamer
‘cause there’s so much more to see
Not the acres of my father
flattened fields devoid of trees
I am a dreamer
dreaming of what I’ll come to be
Track Name: Leaving Ohio
I’m leaving home now that I’m 20
My eyes are filled with wanderlust
I took everything I had
put it in a burlap bag
and I’m headed out to see the earth

I am eastbound for Pittsburgh
to make my money forging steel
When my pockets have been filled
and my poverty’s been killed
I’ll head out whichever way I feel

I’ve got an uncle on the Atlantic
He owns a trawler up in Maine
Well there’s a job for me
fishing on the sea
working for a boss who shares my name

I’ve heard tales of California
where the sky is never grey
and the crops will always grow
and the winter brings no snow
and honest work earns honest pay

But first I’ve gotta leave Ohio.
Track Name: Red River
I am saying goodbye to my family
I am biding my friends all adieu
I am leaving my home I was born in
in search of something that’s new
Track Name: Morning Star & Bus Ride into the Sunrise
a) Morning Star

My eyes now slowly open
The room is perfect black
I fumble for the light switch
Young pupils now contract
And upon the oaken bureau
by the jeans I didn’t pack
some cash to get me out of here
but none to bring me back.

Because maps and miles can’t explain how far
I am going with the morning star.

There’s some bread upon the table
to break the nocturne’s fast
It’s all I have ‘til Pittsburgh
so I’ll have to make it last
My mother left it for me
with a simple cursive note:
I love you and I’ll miss you
and don’t forget to take your coat

Because maps and miles can’t explain how far
you are going with the morning star.

I can hear the dawn a-comin’
but she is not here yet
The air is cool with slumber
the grass is soft and wet
One last look back down the driveway
and the salt constricts my legs
But, before it petrifies my heart
I turn my head away

And a silver shining moonbeam illuminates the road
A simply stated gesture to tell me that she knows
and that she’ll be coming with me, so I won’t be alone
She will be following wherever I may go

Well the driver pulls a lever
and a stairway now appears
It’s time to take my giant leap
time to leave behind my fears
Well, maps and measured miles
just can’t explain how far
I am going with the morning star.

b) Bus Ride into the Sunrise (instrumental)
Track Name: The Wheels of Industry
The city is sprawling
like fog in a valley
that covers the freshly plowed ground
And from the foundation
grows man and his metal
with all of the lights and the sounds

And I can see
I can see:
the smoke that billows
like riverboat steam
is turning the wheel of industry.

Working is easy
if you’re okay with working hard
and I’m invincible and unafraid
Well, I’m not educated
and I have no skills to trade
but I can move a mountain if I’m paid

And I can see
I can see:
that it’s the hands and the hearts
of people like me
that are turning the wheels of industry.
Track Name: Coffee and Whiskey
Give me a drink that’s strong and black
to wake these old bones up
Chase the demons away from my bed
with the bitter brew in my cup
There’s hours of work that have got to be done
so I need to stay on my toes
‘Cause if you fall asleep while the furnace is on
you’ll set fire to all your clothes

Coffee in the morning
Whiskey in the evening
Gets me through the hours
Gets me through the week
Coffee in the morning,
Whiskey in the evening,
Gets me through the work day,
Keeps me on my feet.

Give me a drink that’s hard and cruel
to warm up these old bones
Chase the demons away from my head
and burn down their old homes
My hands are tired, my feet are tired
my heart is tired, too
So come sweet spirit and lead me home
so I can sleep with you
Track Name: The Stranger
I went walking through the town
on a Friday evening stroll
I saw a face that matched a name
heard so many years ago
I said “Hey, it’s Tom
from central high
maybe you might recall?”
But the awkward movements
of her eyes clearly said it all:
that I am a stranger

With my face still red
I walked ahead and ducked into a bar
My request for beer was met by a sneer:
“can I see your ID card?”
I opened my wallet
and surrendered my license
which she held up to the light
I didn’t bother to mention
that I’d been a patron
for 25 consecutive nights
because I am a stranger

Well, beer did what beer does
so I decided to take a stand
I looked the clock straight in the face
and issued my demands
But, time had stumbled past me now
as the bells rang a pair of tones
General Grant was invited to stay
but I was told to go home
because I am a stranger
Track Name: The Kiln
From the kiln they have borne me
tempered and forged me
into the right size
They polished my faces
and hardened my edges
as the blueprint specifies
They say, “how does it feel, son?
to be part of something
so triumphantly big?”
Well, helical gears mesh
so smooth and so quiet
they don’t shake the machine.

So what do I do with my hands
now that I’ve sold them
for an hourly wage
Yes, I am the one
who’s been building the bars
to enclose my cage.
Track Name: Covered Skies
Iron is red, and coal dust is black
I surrender these hours I’ll never get back
I’ll trade my right hand for rent
my left hand for bread.
Coal dust is black, and Iron is red

The mid-morning sun is hidden in smoke
choked like a criminal wearing a rope
that circles the neck
and from high gallows is hung
Smoke hides the face of the mid-morning sun

But I wish I could fly
above covered skies
to celestial shores
And I’m building my wings
because I want to go soon
to meet with the stars
to consult with the moon

Evening comes crawling to the end of the day
like a mistreated animal lead to the hay
that lowers its head and lets its eyes close
Evening comes crawling defeated and slow

But I wish I could fly
Track Name: Track Ten
Track Name: Night Train
Last night, while I lay dreaming
I caught a passing train
The conductor took my ticket
and then he took my name
I asked our destination
and he simply smiled at me
So, I turned to face the window
and watch that moonlit plain

When the warden found me missing
he sounded his alarm
and sent out all his coppers
and called the national guard
Well they followed the midnight railway
off into the west
But, when the track split at the junction
they couldn’t tell which way I went

So, we rolled into a valley
with a thousand shades of green
The track followed the shoreline
of a virgin mountain spring
So, I jumped out of the window
and was caught by fertile ground
But before the water kissed me
I was woken by a sound
Track Name: Stars & Night Rain
a) Stars

For long I’ve wished to see the stars
that watch the skies above at night
And though they’re held in high regard
I have not recent seen their light

For when I gaze, I meet dull clouds
and heaven’s eyes cannot be found
So I must wait upon the wind
to sweep off nature’s lonely shroud.

At night lay, my mind awake
with the past day’s troubles in my head
And if ever those thoughts I finally shake
what’s yet to come haunts me instead.

Well, I heard both bears call me by name
but regretfully I then explained
that the morning's light brings the bosses call
so I cannot come be with you all

b) Night Rain

Last night, while I lay dreaming
I tried to run away
as the pounding rain and thunder
masked the sound of my escape
But the concrete walls stayed sturdy
and the bars refused to move
So, I fell back to my mattress
and cried out to the moon:
shine on through.
Track Name: The Flood
The rivers are high
and soon I’ll be floating
The docks, once secure
are now drifting wood
And the pillars that I stood on
have swept from the bottom
The knots have untied
and the anchor is gone.

So roll on, Allegheny.
Carry my vessel safely forth
For I have no paddle
to steer my raft with
and no line to tie to shore

Old man Noah
sailed through a rainstorm
the sky kept on falling
for forty straight days
And when the ark finally landed
on the outskirts of Johnstown
he petitioned the Lord
for overtime pay

So roll on, Monongahela.
Carry my vessel safely forth
For I have no paddle
to steer my raft with
and no line to tie to shore.

Boats were designed
for traversing waters
They flow with the current
or they fight it with oars
But in even the sturdy
you will be thrown out
if your feet are on the deck
but your hands reach for shore

So roll on, Ohio.
Carry my vessel safely forth
For I have no paddle
to steer my raft with
and no line to tie to shore
Track Name: Moonsong
Track Name: Night Plane
Last night, while I lay dreaming
I flew a freighter plane
But, the cargo bay was empty
and the cockpit was the same
The jet engines were screaming
the ascent seemed far too steep
But instead of stalling out I climbed
above 90,000 feet

From up there in the heavens
I could see no one below
I could see no banks or markets
and I could see no homes
No flashing of the marquee
or the red lights hollow glow
No churches and no graveyards
and no unburied bones

Well, I saw the vast ocean whose blue was unfailing
I saw the white mountains who reached out to touch me
I saw the brown and the green of the plains and the forest
And all was so small that once seemed enormous

Then looking above, unhindered by rafters
the old great bear reached to pull me up faster
She fed me with song, she quenched me with laughter
then took me away to meet with her master
Track Name: Epilogue
When the roar stopped
the tide retreated
revealing treasures
from under the waves
A sonic wake
of newfound silence
And all that was hidden became found

When the glow stopped
the stars got brighter
and old Greek heroes
came out to dance
A light display
of newfound brilliance
And all that was hidden became found

When the smoke stopped
the wind swept it clear
and brought back the perfume
of meadows forgotten
The needles of pine
and the apple blossom
And all that was hidden became found, again