Am I Born to Die?

by The Ghosts of Johnson City

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released October 20, 2015

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Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.

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The Ghosts of Johnson City Portland, Maine

Based in Maine with musical roots in Appalachia and the Deep South, The Ghosts of Johnson City present simple and soulful versions of old mountain music, Civil War songs, coal-mining melodies, disaster chronicles, haunting murder ballads and tunes of love and loss in times of poverty. ... more

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Track Name: Am I Born to Die?
And am I born to die?

To lay this body down?

And must my trembling spirit fly

Into a world unknown?



A land of deepest shade,

Unpierced by human thought,

The dreary regions of the dead,

Where all things are forgot



Soon as from earth I go,

What will become of me?

Eternal happiness or woe

Must then my portion be



Waked by the trumpet’s sound,

I from my grave shall rise,

And see the Judge, with glory crowned,

And see the flaming skies!



How shall I leave my tomb?

With triumph or regret?

A fearful or a joyful doom,

A curse or blessing met?



Will angel bands convey

Their brother to the bar?

Or devils drag my soul away,

To meet its sentence there?



Who can resolve the doubt

That tears my anxious breast?

Shall I be with the damned cast out,

Or numbered with the blest?



I must from God be driven,

Or with my Savior dwell;

By His command in Heaven,

Or else—depart to Hell



And am I born to die?

To lay this body down?

And must my trembling spirit fly

Into a world unknown?
Track Name: Down in the Willow Garden
Down in the willow garden where me and my love did meet

There we sat a-courting my love dropped off to sleep

I had a bottle of burglar’s wine my true love did not know

And there I poisoned that dear little girl down on the banks below



I drew my sabre through her which was a bloody knife

I threw her into the river which was an awful sight

My father often told me that money would set me free

If I would murder that dear little girl whose name was Rose Connelly



Now he sits at his old cabin door wiping his tear-dimmed eyes

Looking at his own dear son upon the scaffold high

My race is run beneath the sun the devil is waiting for me

For I did murder that dear little girl whose name was Rose Connelly
Track Name: The Murdered Brother
How come that blood on your own coat sleeve

Little son, pray come tell me.

It is the blood of that skinny greyhound

That traced the fox for me,

That traced the fox for me.



Too pale, too pale for that skinny greyhound,

Too pale, little son, too pale.

It is the blood of that old gray mare

That plowed the corn for me.

That plowed the corn for me.



Too red, too red for that old gray mare,

Too red, little son, too red.

It is the blood of your youngest son,

And the truth I have told to you.

And the truth I have told to you.



Oh what, oh what, did you fight about?

Little son, pray come tell me.

'Twas over a dollar, a filthy dollar

That he should have paid to me.

That he should have paid to me.



Oh what will you do when your father comes home?

Little son, pray come tell me.

My foot I will place on the deck of a boat

And sail me across the sea.

And sail me across the sea.



Oh what will you do with your newly wed wife?

Little son, pray come tell me.

I'll save her the grief, and I'll save her the pain,

And take her for company.

And take her for company.



Oh what will you do with your sweet little boy?

Little son, pray come tell me.

I'll leave him alone for to wait and to wonder

What's come of his mother and me.

What's come of his mother and me.



When will you come back to your mother again?

Little son, pray come tell me.

When the moon and the sun and the stars set together.

And that will never be.

And that will never be.
Track Name: Darling Corey
Wake up wake up darling Corey

What makes you sleep so sound

The revenue officers are coming

They're gonna tear your still house down



Well the first time I seen darling Corey

She was sitting on the banks of the sea

Had a forty-four buckled around her

And a banjo on her knee



Go away go away darling Corey

Quit hanging around my bed

Your liquor has ruined my body

Pretty women gone to my head



Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow

Dig a hole in the cold cold ground

Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow

Gonna lay darling Corey down



Can't you hear those bluebirds a singing

Don't you hear that mournful sound

They're preaching darling Corey's funeral

In some lonesome graveyard ground



Wake up wake up Darling Corey

And go get me my gun

I ain't no man for fighting

But I'll die before I run
Track Name: Jack Monroe
Come all you brave young shanty boys, and list while I relate

Concerning a young shanty boy and his untimely fate;

Concerning a young river man, so manly, true and brave;

'Twas on a jam at Gerry's Rock he met his watery grave;



'Twas on a Sunday morning as you will quickly hear,

Our logs were piled up mountain high, we could not keep them clear.

Our foreman said, "Come on, brave boys, with hearts devoid of fear,

We'll break the jam on Gerry's Rock and to Millinocket steer."



Now, some of them were willing, while others they were not,

All for to work on Sunday they did not think they ought;

But six of our brave shanty boys had volunteered to go

And break the jam on Gerry's Rock with their foreman, young Monroe.



They had not rolled off many logs 'till they heard his clear voice say,

"I'd have you boys be on your guard, for the jam willing soon give way."

These words he'd scarcely spoken when the jam did break and go,

Taking with it six brave boys and their foreman, young Monroe.



Now when those other shanty boys this sad news came to hear,

In search of their dead comrades to the river they did steer;

Six of their mangled bodies a-floating down did go,

While crushed and bleeding near the banks lay the foreman, young Monroe.



They took him from his watery grave, brushed back his raven hair;

There was a fair form among them whose cries did rend the air;

There was a fair form among them, a girl from back in town.

Whose cries rose to the skies for her lover who'd gone down.



Fair Clara was a noble girl, the river-man's true friend;

She and her widowed mother lived at the river's bend;

And the wages of her own true love the boss to her did pay,

But the shanty boys for her made up a generous sum next day.



They buried him quite decently; 'twas on the first of May;

Come all you brave young shanty boys and for your comrade pray.

Engraved upon the hemlock tree that by the grave does grow

Is the dying date and the sad fate of the foreman, young Monroe.



Fair Clara did not long survive, her heart broke down with grief;

And less than three months afterwards Death came to her relief;

And when the time had come and she was called to go,

Her last request was granted, to be laid by young Monroe.



Come all you brave young shanty boys, I'd have you call and see

Two green graves by the river side where grows a hemlock tree;

The shanty boys cut off the wood where lay those lovers low,--

'Tis the handsome Clara Vernon and her true love, Jack Monroe.
Track Name: The Dying Californian
Lay up nearer, brother, nearer,

For my limbs are growing cold,

And thy presence seemeth nearer

When thine arms around me fold.



I am dying, brother, dying,

Soon you'll miss me in your berth;

For my form will soon be lying,

‘Neath the ocean's briny surf.



Tell my father when you see him

In death I prayed for him

Prayed that I might only meet him

In a world that's free from sin.



Tell my mother, God assist her

Now that she is growing old,

That her child would glad have kissed her

When his lips grew pale and cold.



Listen, brother, catch each whisper

'Tis my wife I speak of now,

Tell, oh how much I missed her

When the fever burned my brow.



Tell her she must kiss my children

Like the kiss I last impressed,

Hold them as when last I held them

Held them closely to my breast.



’Twas for them I crossed the ocean,

What my hopes were I'll not tell;

But they gained an orphan's portion,

Yet He doeth all things well;



Tell them I have reached the haven

Where I sought the precious dust,

And I gained a port called Heaven

Where the gold will never rust.
Track Name: Poor Wayfaring Stranger
I am a poor wayfaring stranger

Traveling through this world alone

There is no sickness, toil or danger

In that fair land to which I go



I'm going home to see my mother

I'm going home no more to roam

I'm just going over Jordan

I’m just going over home



I know dark clouds will gather o’er me

I know my path is rough and steep

What golden fields lie out before me

Where weary eyes no more will weep



I'm going home to home see my father

I'm going home no more to roam

I'm just going over Jordan

I’m just going over home



I'll soon be free from every trial

This form shall rest beneath the sun

I'll drop that cross of self-denial

And enter in that home with God



I’m going home to see my brothers

I'm going home no more to roam

I'm just going over Jordan

I’m just going over home



I want to wear a crown of glory

When I reach the promised land

I want to shout salvation's story

In concert with the blood-washed band

I'm going home to see my Savior

I'm going home no more to roam

I'm just going over Jordan

I’m just going over home
Track Name: Unquiet Grave
The wind doth blow today, my love

And a few small drops of rain

I never had but one true love

In cold grave she was lain



I'll do as much for my true love

As any young man ever may

I'll sit and mourn all at her grave

For a twelvemonth and a day



The twelvemonth and a day being up

The dead began to speak

Oh who sits weeping on my grave

And will not let me sleep



Tis I, my love, sits on your grave

And will not let you sleep

For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips

And that is all I seek



You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips

But my breath smells earthy strong

If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips

Your time will not be long



Tis down in yonder garden green

Love, where we used to walk

The finest flower that ere was seen

Is withered to a stalk



The stalk is withered dry, my love

So will our hearts decay

So make yourself content, my love

Till God calls you away
Track Name: The Southern Girl's Reply
I cannot listen to your words, the land's too far and wide

Go seek some happy northern girl to be your loving bride.

My brothers they were soldiers. The youngest of the three

Was slain while fighting by the side of Gen'ral Fitzhugh Lee.



Hurrah! Hurrah! For the sunny south I say

Three cheers for the southern girl

And the boy that wore the gray.



My lover was a soldier, too, he fought at God's command,

A sabre pierced his gallant heart. You might have been the man.

He reeled and fell but was not dead, a horseman spurred his steed

And trampled on his dying brain. You might have done the deed.



They left his body on the field who the fight this day had won,

A horseman spurred him with his heel, you might have been the one.

I hold no hatred in my heart, nor cold nor righteous pride

For many a gallant soldier fell upon the other side.



But still I cannot take the hand that smote my country sore,

Or love the foe that trampled down the colors that she bore.

Between my heart and yours there rose a deep and crimson tide

My lover's and my brother's blood forbid me be your bride.
Track Name: Faded Coat of Blue
My brave lad he sleeps in his faded coat of blue

In a lonely grave unknown lies a heart that beat so true

He sank faint and hungry among the famished brave

And they laid him sad and lonely within a nameless grave



No more the bugle calls the weary one

Rest, noble spirit, in thy grave unknown

I'll find you, and know you among the good and true

When a robe of white is given for the faded coat of blue



He cried, give me water and just a little crumb

And my mother she will bless you through all the years to come

Oh, tell my sweet sister, so gentle, good, and true

That I'll meet her up in heaven in my faded coat of blue



He said, my dear comrades, you cannot take me home

But you'll mark my grave for mother, she'll find me if she comes

I fear she'll not know me, among the good, and true

When I meet her up in heaven in my faded coat of blue



No dear one was nigh him to close his sweet blue eyes

And no gentle one was by him to give him sweet replies

No stone marks the sod o'er my lad, so brave and true

In his lonely grave he sleeps in his faded coat of blue



Long, long years have vanished, and though he comes no more

Yet my heart will startling beat with each footfall at my door

I gaze o'er the hill where he waved a last adieu

But no gallant lad I see, in his faded coat of blue
Track Name: Rebel Soldier
Polly oh Polly, It's for your sake alone,

I've left my old father, My country and my home,

I've left my old mother, To weep and to mourn



I am a rebel soldier

And far from my home.



It's grape shot and musket, And the cannons lumber loud,

There's many a mangled body, The blanket for their shroud,

There's many a mangled body, Left on the fields alone



I am a rebel soldier

And far from my home.



I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I am dry,

If the Yankees don’t kill me, I'll live until I die,

If the Yankees don’t kill me, And cause me to mourn,



I am a rebel soldier

And far from my home.



Here's a good old cup of brandy, And a glass of nice wine,

You can drink to your true love, And I will drink to mine,

And you can drink to your true love, And I'll lament and mourn,



I am a rebel soldier

And far from my home.



I'll build me a castle, On some green mountain high,

Where I can see Polly, As she is passing by,

Where I can see Polly, And help her to mourn,



I am a rebel soldier

And far from my home.
Track Name: Rye Whiskey
Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry

If I don't get rye whiskey I surely will die



Jack of diamonds, jack of diamonds, I know you of old

You've robbed my poor pocket of silver and gold

Whiskey, you villain, you've been my downfall

You've kicked me, you've cuffed me, but I love you for all



They say I drink whiskey, my money is my own

And them that don't like me can leave me alone

I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry

And when I get thirsty I'll lay down and cry



It's beefsteak when I'm hungry and whiskey when I'm dry

Greenbacks when I'm hard up and hell when I die

Baby, oh baby, I've told you before

You make me a pallet, I'll lay on the floor



If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck

I would dive to the bottom and never come up

But the ocean ain't whiskey, and I ain't no duck

So I'll play jack of diamonds and trust to my luck



I’ll go up some holler, put corn in my still

I’ll make you one gallon for a ten dollar bill

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I crave

I’ll drink this rye whiskey till I’m laid in my grave



They say whiskey will kill you if it’s nothin’ but rye

I’m an old man past ninety and still mighty spry

If I see the sheriff comin’ I’ll run o’er the hill

I don’t want nobody to chop up my still
Track Name: Knoxville Girl
I met a girl in Knoxville

A town we all know well

And every Sunday evening

Out in her home I'd dwell

We went to take an evening walk

About a mile from town

I picked a stick up off the ground

And knocked that fair girl down



She fell down on her bended knees

For mercy she did cry

Oh, Willie dear, don't kill me here

I'm unprepared to die

She never spoke another word

I only beat her more

Until the ground around me

Within her blood did flow



I took her by her golden curls

And drug her 'round and 'round

Throwing her into the river

That flows through Knoxville town

Go there, go there, you Knoxville girl

With the dark and roving eyes

Go there, go there, you Knoxville girl

You can never be my bride



I started back to Knoxville

Got there about midnight

My mother she was worried

And woke up in a fright

Saying, "Dear son, what have you done

To bloody your clothes so?"

I told my anxious mother

I was bleeding at my nose



I called for me a candle

To light myself to bed

I called for me a handkerchief

To bind my aching head

I rolled and tumbled the whole night through

As troubles was for me

Like flames of hell around my bed

And in my eyes could see



They carried me down to Knoxville

And put me in a cell

My friends all tried to get me out

But none could go my bail

I'm here to waste my life away

Down in this dirty old jail

Because I murdered that Knoxville girl

The girl I loved so well
Track Name: The Triplett Tragedy
A horrible sight I'll now relate,

On Yadkin Elk it did take place,

On Christmas morning at nine o'clock,

The people met an awful shock.



At Marshall Triplett's this begun.

The brothers met, it seemed in fun.

They drank together all as one,

And then the trouble it begun.



Then Marshall seemed to stand in the rear,

And struck Columbus with the chair,

"There is one thing that I do know,

You drink only to save your own."



They met in combat near the barn.

Mrs. Triplett went to stop this wrong.

Columbus stabbed Marshall in the thigh,

And left him on the ground to die.



Then Marshall's wife in great distress

Stayed by her husband while in death.

The children's screams was heard around,

Which did produce a solemn sound.



Then Lum went off at to go away

And met Gran Triplett on his way.

At Leroy Triplett's this was said,

Lum said to Gran, "Your father's dead."



Lum said to Gran, "I'll let you know,

I've killed your father at his home.

I'll now surrender up to thee.

You treat me kindly if you please."



Gran said to Lum, "One thing I'll do.

If you killed father I'll kill you."

He then beat Lum at a dreadful rate

And made bad bruises on his face.



Gran then took Lum to Wautauga jail.

He went behind the bars to stay.

Those beats and bruises they inflamed,

Which brought Columbus to his grave.



Those brothers sleep in the same graveyard,

Their wives and children troubled hard,

Their resting place there sure must be,

Till they shall rise at Judgement Day.



At Judgement Day we hope they'll rise

To meet their Savior in the skies.

To sing God's praises o'er and o'er,

And be with Christ forever more.



The sheriff then went on the round.

To see if Granville could be found.

There at his home he did abound,

And at that place he was then found.



Sheriff Webb held court up in our town

And sent him on to the chain gang.

For eighteen months he there must stay,

Except the governor hear him pray.



Young men, take warning by this case,

Don't use strong drink while in life's race.

Leave all such stuff then far behind,

And your kind parents you should mind.
Track Name: Last Old Shovel
They buried her on the side of the mountain

There my darling sleeps in the ground

I stayed by her side 'til they covered her over

And the last old shovel was laid down



Till the last old shovel was laid down, laid down

Till the last old shovel was laid down

I stayed by her side and I cried and I cried

When the last old shovel was laid down



I think of her when it's stormy and raining

In that mountain far away

I long to be laid by her side on that mountain

There'll be rest for me on that day



There'll be rest for me on that day, that day

There'll be rest for me on that day

I long to be laid by her side on that mountain

On that mountain far away



Oh bury me where my true love is sleeping

Where she lies in that lonesome ground

I'll find sweet rest by the side of my darling

When the last old shovel is laid down



When the last old shovel is laid down, laid down

When the last old shovel is laid down

I'll find sweet rest by the side of my darling

When the last old shovel is laid down