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Peter Cooper

Peter Cooper

 

Peter Cooper is an East Nashville-based singer, songwriter, touring artist, sideman, producer, college professor, and award-winning journalist.  His first three solo albums, Mission Door (2008), The Lloyd Green Album (2010), and Opening Day (2013), received critical acclaim as have his three albums with duo partner Eric Brace.  He and Brace were nominated for a Grammy award for their sublime 2011 release I Love: Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow.

In the fall of 2015, Cooper's fourth album comes out, Depot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor. Cooper, one of the finest singer-songwriter's out there, has decided to make an album of nothing but Eric Taylor's songs. Why? "These songs are absolute narrative masterpieces," says Cooper. "It’s not that I wanted to somehow raise the profile of these songs, or pay tribute to Eric. This is a selfish project. I just wanted to sing these songs, and hope that maybe someone will mistake them for my own."

It's not the first time Cooper has covered Eric Taylor's songs. On his 2008 debut, Mission Door, there were ten Cooper originals and two covers, both by Taylor -- "All the Way to Heaven" and the title track. When Mission Door came out, American Songwriter magazine proclaimed it “Cooper’s diploma from the Tom T. Hall School of Damn Good Songwriting.” Cooper's second solo album was The Lloyd Green Album, another step in his on-going collaboration with the pedal steel Hall of Famer.  Album number three, Opening Day, found Cooper digging deeper making one of the finest singer-songwriter collections in the past decade. He has also released three duo works with Eric Brace, You Don't Have to Like Them Both, Master Sessions (with Lloyd Green and Mike Auldridge), and The Comeback Album.

Cooper's work has won praise from each of his chief influences: Tom T. Hall, John Prine, Todd Snider, Eric Taylor, and Kris Kristofferson. The latter said, “Peter Cooper looks at the world with an artist’s eye and a human heart and soul. His songs are the work of an original, creative imagination, alive with humor and heartbreak and irony and intelligence, with truth and beauty in the details. Deep stuff. And they get better every time you listen.”

For more than a decade, Cooper was the senior music writer and columnist for Nashville's daily paper, The Tennessean. He is currently working at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as Museum Editor. Named one of Nashville’s “10 Most Interesting People” by Nashville Arts & Entertainment magazine, Cooper is also a session player, a producer who has worked with Snider, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Fayssoux Starling McLean, among others, and is professor of country music at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. 

 

Depot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor

Depot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor
1. All So Much Like Me

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Lyrics

Billy’s got a girl as cold as a switchblade

And walks the wires at night

She was born and raised on a Carolina midway

And she likes my songs alright

She likes my songs alright

 

Kasaban is a fiddlin’ juggler

Outside Baton Rouge

And we got laughin’ drunk on tennis balls

And fiddlin’ blue suede shoes

And he looked like Elvis, too

 

Oh, and these were friends

Of friends of mine

Strictly first-name basis

Memories, a stitch in time

And I’m no good with faces

But they all had smiles that I remember

All were born in late September

All were prone to cabin fever

And all so much like me

They were all so much like me

They were all so much like me

They were all so much like me

 

Sonny was a Philipino boy

He lived in my backyard

And he broke my grandma’s dandelions

Catching snakes in jars

She whipped us much too hard

John had an El Camino car

Dressed it up in primer

And he took his church to the wedding church

And she never did look finer

He went to Mexico without her

 

Oh, and these were friends

Of friends of mine

Strictly first-name basis

Memories, a stitch in time

And I’m no good with faces

But they all had smiles that I remember

And all were born in late September

And all were prone to cabin fever

And all so much like me

They were all so much like me

They were all so much like me

They were all so much like me

 

INSTRUMENTAL

 

You know, Billy’s got a girl as cold as a switchblade

And walks the wires at night

She was born and raised on a Carolina midway

And she likes my songs alright

She likes my songs alright

2. Depot Light

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Lyrics

Well the moon is as round as a wedding ring

As he waits by the tracks until the last train leaves

One man’s whiskey can’t cut the chill

And he knows he shouldn’t cry, but he knows he will

He knows he shouldn’t cry, but he knows he will

 

How they come and go

These shadows in the depot light

They’re another day older

Still none the wiser

Standing in the depot light

 

He gives his coat to the one-armed man

Empty sleeves and safety pins

And the all-night waitress, she just talks too much

So he steals her spoon and her coffee cup

Man, he steals her spoon and her coffee cup

 

How they come and go

These shadows in the depot light

They’re another day older

Still none the wiser

Standing in the depot light

 

He checks the clocks by the depot light

Sun’s coming up but that’s alright

We’ll be home by nine if we take the tracks

And if she’d come home, boy I’d take her back

If she’d come home, son, I’d take her back

 

How they come and go

These shadows in the depot light

They’re another day older

Still none the wiser

Standing in the depot light

 

They’re another day older

And they’re still none the wiser

Standing in the depot light

 

3. The Great Divide

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Lyrics

I got a horse named Corsicana

I got a dog named moon

I got a woman that calls me a fool

I got scars up and down my leg

I got a crooked smile

‘Cause I got another woman that drives me wild

I got another woman that drives me wild

 

I got a Ford that won’t stop runnin’

I got a daddy but he’s dead

I got a woman that lives just to burn my bread

I got a house with two back doors

I got a roll-away bed

‘Cause I got another woman rather treat me good instead

Yeah, I got another woman rather treat me good instead

 

I got a sailboat down in the Yucatan

I got a coffee tree

I got a woman says she’s ashamed of me

I got a picture I took up on the Great Divide

I got a book of prayers

But I got another woman that’ll take me anywhere

I got another woman that’ll take me anywhere

 

I got a drum from the Belfast boys

I got a pack of ukulele strings

I got a woman just hates to hear me sing

Hell, I got tears from here to there

I got one good eye

And I got another woman just rocks me when I cry

Yeah, I got another woman just rocks me when I cry

I got another woman just rocks me when I cry

 

4. Prison Movie

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Lyrics

Well, you hit the spotlight running

With legs so long and pale

And you learn to cry in the cradle

And you learn to lie in jail

A handsome man from Atlanta

Georgia queen of the south

Where you get a little kiss from your mama

And your daddy hit you square in the mouth

 

Met a little girl named Rachel

And we had a little boy named Ray

And I killed a little man up in Macon

Who had a mouth too big for his face

Just another white trash cracker

Living on hate and shame

I only pulled the trigger boys

The bullet was to blame

 

In a line

We all walk in a line

While the world outside is spinning ‘round

In a line

We all live in a line

While your moon comes up and your sun goes down

 

If I could leave here tomorrow

Probably wouldn’t know what to say

Probably go live with my mama

And steal all her pocketbook change

I could take her station wagon

Fill it up with whiskey and gas

Take it on down to Macon

And sit in front of Rachel’s house

 

They can write a book about me

I can sign a movie deal

And the lawyers can take all the money

As long as Johnny Cash plays me

Boys, he can hit the spotlight running

With legs so long and pale

And he can learn to cry in the cradle

And he can learn to lie in jail

 

In a line

We all walk in a line

While your world outside is spinning round

In a line

We all live in a line

While your moon comes up and your sun goes down

 

In a line

We all live in a line

While your moon comes up and your sun goes down

5. Charley Ray McWhite

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Lyrics

He was coughin’ cold and crazy in the rain

Wish I’d had the sense to ask his name

When I think back on it now, it crossed my mind

But the man that I was looking for

Was nearly twice his size

The colors told the truth beneath his eyes

Standin’ there in broken shoes

That leaked along the sides

He had a Florida road map folded down

In the pocket of his raincoat

You know, the plastic kind

 

The street’s a ragin’ river when it rains

That lamp post is just a lighthouse

Dressed in pain

Anybody here seen Charlie?

Young boy says he knows him

“No sir, we ain’t seen him none today.”

 

Silver Airstream stained in rusty chrome

I knocked upon that trailer door

And found nobody home

I could smell six months of drunk and dirty clothes

Must have been fifty empty bottles

Fillin’ sacks beside the door

I kicked around inside for just awhile

Wonderin’ why I was goin’ to all this trouble anyhow

From the looks of things he ain’t been around for days

What the hell man, just forget it

I was curious anyway

 

Because the street’s a ragin’ river when it rains

And that lamp post is just a lighthouse

Dressed in pain

Anybody here seen Charlie?

Young boy says he knows him

“No sir, we ain’t seen him none today.”
 

INSTRUMENTAL

 

I heard footsteps on the front steps just behind me

She said, “This one ain’t for rent, son,

But I got one down the line.

Damn it to hell, this place smells, and

I got some work to do, but you don’t know how glad I am

To be shed of that old fool.”

I asked her what she meant and she said, “Dead.”

She went to work pullin’ dirty sheets off a dirty bed

And she said his name was Charlie Ray McWhite

And he died in Pensacola, Florida

A week ago last night

 

Because the street’s a ragin’ river when it rains

And that lamp post is just a lighthouse

Dressed in pain

Anybody here seen Charlie?

Young boy says he knows him

“No sir, we ain’t seen him none today.

And if we had, I doubt that we’d tell you anyway.”

6. More Storms

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Lyrics

Well, I was not fooled by the hurricane, boys

I stepped inside my door

What turned to be just a summer rain

Felt like so much more

It felt like so much more

 

So take a good look at the weather, friend

Two of you together, standing in a crazy storm

It’s Southern bound

Kill the lightning ‘for it hits the ground

Call her crazy, call her friend, oh

Call her mother, she’s gone again

And call on Jesus

Call the law

But you can call it even ‘cause she’s solid gone

 

Up the hall the wind does tumble

Thunder shakes the hallway stairs

“Listen close,” inside he mumbles

Gotta find a place where the weather’s fair

Says, “I gotta find a place where the weather’s fair”

 

Take a good look at the weather, friend

Two of you together, standing in a crazy storm

It’s Southern bound

Kill the lightning ‘for it hits the ground

Call her crazy, call her friend, oh

Call her mother, she’s gone again

And call on Jesus

Call the law

But you can call it even ‘cause she’s solid gone

 

You know, sitting in the back seat don’t feel right

Boys, I’d rather take a cab

You got these handcuffs much too tight

You know, I get like this when the weather’s bad

They always say I get like this when the weather’s bad

 

So take a good look at the weather, friend

Two of you together, standing in a crazy storm

And it’s Southern bound

Kill the lightning ‘for it hits the ground

Call her crazy, call her friend, oh

Call her mother, she’s gone again

And call on Jesus

Call the law

But you can call it even ‘cause she’s solid gone

 

Man, I was not fooled by the hurricane

As I stepped inside my door

What turned to be just a summer rain

Felt like so much more

Felt like so much more

 

7. Carnival Jim & Jean

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Lyrics

Ain’t nothin’ but a guitar, go ahead and play it

Ain’t nothin’ but a high price, go ahead and pay it

Ain’t nothin’ but a goodbye, go ahead and say it

You won’t do any better without me

You won’t do no better without me

 

I’ll just run this little hustle, honey, keep us fed

Stackin’ up the milk bottles made out of lead

Yeah, I’m a three-for-a-dollar carney son of a bitch

But you won’t do any better without me

You won’t do no better without me

 

Out on the interstate, runnin’ Louisiana plates

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

I’ll catch her out of Halletsville, get her back I know I will

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

She won’t do no better without me

She won’t do any better without me

 

I’m pretty good with my hands, I can break it I can fix it

Turn 20 dirty dollars from a two-dollar ticket

Say the smell of cotton candy ‘bout to make you sick

You won’t do no better without me

You won’t do any better without me

 

Her mother was a fat clown little dog act

She used to hit Jean ‘til Jean hit her back

I stole a little red guitar and some gasoline

She won’t do no better without me

She won’t do no better without me

 

Out on the interstate, runnin’ Louisiana plates

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

I’ll catch her out of Halletsville, get her back I know I will

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

She won’t do no better without me

She won’t do any better without me

 

I’m Carnival Jim and she’s just Jean

And she’s cold as Minnesota, can’t cook or clean

She can play a little guitar, oughta hear her sing

She can’t do no better without me

She can’t do no better without me

 

Out on the interstate, runnin’ Louisiana plates

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

I’ll catch her out of Halletsville, get her back I know I will

Lord, I get lonesome when I can’t find her

She won’t do no better without me

She won’t do any better without me

 

Ain’t nothin’ but a guitar, go ahead and play it

Ain’t nothin’ but a high price, go ahead and pay it

Ain’t nothin’ but a goodbye, go ahead and say it

You won’t do any better without me

You won’t do no better without me

8. Dollar Bill Hines

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Lyrics

Dollar Bill Hines had a daughter

Short skirts and sweaters and rouge

And she used everything that they taught her

At the Helen of Troy beauty school

She would curl ‘em and set ‘em

And send them away

Hell, the boys called her one of a kind

But she left one day with a loser

She’s somewhere up east

She don’t write

 

Now, Dollar Bill Hines he had two young sons

Born on the fourth of July

One went to hell in an Oldsmobile

The other one’s in Atlanta doing time

And as Baby’s folks say

You couldn’t tell ‘em apart

It’s a mystery what happens in life

‘Cause one favored his mother

One took after me

I’ll leave it to you to decide

 

You know, Dollar Bill Hines

He never married Irene

Just a Carolina cotton mill girl

There weren’t never no preacher

There weren’t never no ring

She had the prettiest hands in the world

I can’t say she was faithful

But I can say she triedAnd, hell, I weren’t no better besides

But I do think she loved me

Every once in a while

You know, they sent me a letter

She died

 

So don’t ask me why I drink, I’m a fool for it

I’m a fool for it, I’m a fool

Don’t ask me why I drink I’m a fool for it

Just a fool for it, just a fool

Hey, pass that bottle don’t waste my time

I’m known on the streets as Dollar Bill Hines

And don’t you ask me why I drink I’m a fool for it

I’m a fool for it, I’m a fool

Pass that bottle don’t waste my time

I’m known on the streets as Dollar Bill Hines

And I’m known on the streets as Dollar Bill

And I’m known on the streets as Bill

 

9. Two Fires

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Lyrics

There’s a fire out on the mesa

And I’m an innocent man

I’m just burnin’ holes in the sand

I’m burnin’ my backroads

In a two-wheel run

Gonna burn ‘em again

When I’m done

 

Used to burn like Atlanta

Ah, we burned like the lonesome

In a young girl’s eye

Where’s the fire?

Hey, what’s the matter?

Two fires burnin’

Burnin’ one at a time

 

There’s a fire down on Scott Street

In the pourin’ rain

Down on the corner

It’s an eight ball game

It’s burnin’ his fingers, man

And it’s burnin’ his clothes

Somebody burned him

Down he goes

 

He used to burn like Atlanta

He used to burn like the lonesome

In a young girl’s eye

Where’s the fire?

Hey, what’s the matter?

Two fires burnin’

Burnin’ one at a time

 

INSTRUMENTAL

 

There’s a fire down at this hotel

Burnin’ itself out

The only thing left burnin’ here

Is comin’ out of my mouth

One flame’s red, babe

And one flame’s blue

Somebody get a fireman

Get a fire into this room.

 

We used to burn like Atlanta

Ah, we burned like the lonesome

In a young girl’s eye

Where’s the fire?

Hey, what’s the matter?

We got two fires burnin’

Burnin’ one at a time

 

We used to burn like Atlanta

Ah, we burned like the lonesome

In a young girl’s eye

Where’s the fire?

Hey, what’s the matter?

We got two fires burnin’

Burnin’ one at a time

 

10. Deadwood

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Lyrics

The good times scratched a laugh

From the lungs of the young men

In a Deadwood saloon, South Dakota afternoon

The old ones by the door with their heads to their chests

They tell lies about whiskey on a woman’s breasts

 

Some tell the story of young Mickey Free

He lost an eye to a buck deer

In the Tongue River Valley

Yes, and some tell the story of California Joe

He sent words that the Black Hills

They was a mountain of gold

 

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets

And the sun she sets down on the trees

And they’ll thank the Lord, thank the Lord

For this land that they live in

Where a white man, well he does like he pleases

 

And some flat-shoed fool

From the east comes runnin’

With some news that he’d read

In some St. Joseph paper

And hey it’s drinks all around

‘Cause the news he is telling

Is the one they called Crazy

Has been caught and been dealt with

 

The Easterner, he reads the words from the paper

The old ones drew closer so they could hear better

Well, it says here that Crazy Horse was killed

While he was trying to escape

And it says it was sometime last September

Don’t give the exact date

 

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets

And the sun she sets down on the trees

And they’ll thank the Lord, thank the Lord

For this land that they live in

Where a white man, well he does like he pleases

 

Then the talk turned back to whiskey and women

And cold nights on the plains

Lord, and fightin’ them Indians

And the Easterner says he’ll have one more ‘fore he goes

Gives the paper to the Crow boy

Who sweeps up the floor

 

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets

The sun she sets down on the trees

And they’ll thank the Lord, thank the Lord

For this land that they live in

Where a white man, well, he does like he pleases

Like he wants to

Like he pleases

11. Louis Armstrong's Broken...

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Lyrics

I know a place where the whistle blows

And the brakeman falls apart

It’s a pocket watch and a bloody nose

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

 

Down the alley up in Birmingham, man

Southern girls are smart

Well, it’s one to take the money

One to count the money

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

 

You should’ve seen her dance

With that old Frenchman

Just as pretty as you please

All the dirty jokes too blue to mention

And she could drink you to your knees

Every night but one, by God

She came on home with me

You should have seen her dance

With that old Frenchman

Just as pretty as you please

 

There’s a poolroom down in Mobile

Where they’ll play you for your car

And it’s nine balls in a diamond

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

 

Well the cat scratched at the gate latch

It’s the Lucky Man Trailer Park

She was the best thing about Alabama

She’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

She’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

 

You should’ve seen her dance

With that old Frenchman

Just as pretty as you please

All the dirty jokes too blue to mention

And she could drink you to your knees

Every night but one, by God

She came on home with me

You should have seen her dance

With that old Frenchman

Just as pretty as you please

 

I know a place where the whistle blows

And the brakeman falls apart

It’s a pocket watch and a bloody nose

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

It’s Louis Armstrong’s broken heart

 

12. Happy Endings

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Lyrics

My mother was a Pentacostal
Carl was the family friend

He was living down in Addison

He was trying to pull his cotton in

My little sister Mary

She looks just like Carl back when

When we drove him home from Addison

Pulled him out of jail again

 

In the home life

It’s a man and wife

It’s the kids, it’s the Motorola

I’m a broken doll

Fix it, Carl

We can’t live like this no more now

I ain’t built like this and you know it now

 

Well it’s clean sheets on the clothesline

Little shoes by the bed

When you say your prayer to Jesus

You close your eyes and bow your head

Sometimes they drink Four Roses

Sometimes the old Granddad

They never drink in the morning

But sometimes they wish they had

 

There in the home life

The man and wife

The kids and the Motorola

Hell, we’re broken dolls

Fix us Carl

We can’t live like this no more now

We ain’t built like this and you know it now

 

Carl had a way with the cotton

And my mother had a way with words

And I had my way 

With a red-haired Catholic girl

Mary and her blue-stick pony

Hardly ever said a word

They took it all in

Never let on what they heard

 

 

About the home life

About the man and wife

About the kids

About the Motorola

We were broken dolls

Fix this Carl

We can’t live like this no more now

We ain’t built like this and you know it now

 

INSTRUMENTAL

 

It was like the sun came up one morning

And it never went down again

Burned a hole through Oklahoma

And the cotton up and disappeared

We were digging holes in the dustbowl

We were searching for the deeper well

My mother prayed for water

But there weren’t no water anywhere

 

There in the home life

The Man and wife

The kids and the Motorola

We were broken dolls

Fix us, Carl

We can’t live like this no more now

We ain’t built like this and you know it, now

 

(SPOKEN) Happy endings

 

Mary bought a rope and saddle

And I bought a new 410

Oh, buddy when the well came in

My mother bought a house in Bangor, Maine

Carl hit the road again

Buddy, when the well came in

 

It’s the home life

It’s the man and wife

It’s the kids and the Motorola

Hell, we’re broken dolls

Fix us, Carl

We can’t live like this no more now

We ain’t built like this and you know it, now

 

You see, my mother was a Pentacostal

Carl was the family friend

He was living down in Addison

And he was trying to pull his cotton in

My little sister, Mary

She looks just like Carl back when

When we drove him home from Addison

Pulled him out of jail again

He said, “Oh, buddy” when the well came in

And I said, “Oh, buddy” when the well came in

I said, “Oh, buddy” when the well came in

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