Words of Comfort on the North Central Line

by Ken Baake

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7. Words of Comfort on the North Central Line
by Ken Baake, 2012

I wrote this in the summer while biking and walking along the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Baltimore County. It runs parallel to the Gunpowder River, which powered various mills in the 19th century. The trail was the right of way for the North Central Railway between Baltimore and Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Trains started running in 1832, and the line served as a major corridor for shipping supplies and troops during the Civil War. It was said that Abraham Lincoln’s trip from Washington to Gettysburg to deliver the Gettysburg Address in 1865 followed this route. Lore had it that he wrote the speech on the train, although current historical scholarship suggests he probably wrote it before leaving and revised it in Gettysburg. Nonetheless, he thought about it no doubt on this train ride, as did I many times while walking the trail and swimming in the river as a kid. Trains stopped running permanently after Hurricane Agnes in 1972, although service had been severely curtailed in the mid 1960s when I set this song. The song is somewhat autobiographical, with a bit of poetic license.

The photo to the right is of the Lutherville, Maryland train station in the early 1900s.

lyrics

Words of Comfort on the North Central Line
July 31-Aug 2, 2012

A Verses G C/ G D/ G C/ D7 G

A Verse 1

Two score and ten
Plus or minus a month or so
I walked this trail
Longside my daddy
Seemed a very long time ago.

A Verse 2

It was the North Central Rail line
From Baltimore to PA
The trains had stopped running, the track was weed covered
He told me a story that day.

A Verse 3

100 years ago along this line
Maybe just where we were
Abe Lincoln passed in a wooden coach
To the fields of Gettysburg.

B Verse 1 C G/ C G/ Em C/G D7>Eb dim

To com…..fort a nation
With a pen and an envelope
He might have struggled with what to say
As he brought us back to hope.

Bridge: G B7/- Em/ Em C/ B7 Em (riff Em third fret, F# +, Em)

Four score and seven years ago
That’s how it began
Somewhere on the train right here
He made our future stand.

Chorus G C/ G D7/ G C/ D7 G

Words of comfort are the best words of all
Even those we struggle to say
Like Civil War Abe on the North Central Line
Lifting us out of the fray.

Instrumental verse followed by A Verse 4

A few months later in a child’s mind
Dad and I were walking a lot.
New housing development in the country
By the old North Central stop.

A Verse 5

Whispers of the Russians in Cuba
And a blockade at sea.
Six, and unsettled didn’t know what to think
Or what would become of me.

B Verse 2 C G/ C G/ Em C/ G D7>Eb dim

He told me he didn’t know the future
He was a little scared, too
But somehow his honesty
Helped me to get through.

A Verse 7

Dad’s gone now and the tracks were pulled
Folks bike and jog along today.
Like many out here I’m happy and well
Even if unsure of my way.

B Verse 3 C G/ C G/ Em C/G D7>Eb dim

I don’t know the future either
I’m often a little scared, too
But I have to believe that honesty
Is the only way to get through.

Bridge: G B7/- Em/ Em C/ B7 Em (riff Em third fret, F# +, Em)

We’re frightened of each other’s stories now
The strife that they might start
Are they just entertainment?
Or could they really tear us apart?

Chorus G C/ G D7/ G C/ D7 G

Words of comfort are the best words of all
Even those we struggle to say
We need a Civil War Abe on the North Central Line
To lift us out of the fray.

Coda: G C/ D7 G

Or a dad in our Cold War suburbs
Gently telling the truth today.

credits

released September 17, 2014
Ken guitar and vocals, with Drew Brandon on mandolin.
Engineer/producer Amy DeVoge, Crossroads Recording Studio, Lubbock Texas

tags

tags: folk Lubbock

license

all rights reserved

about

Ken Baake Lubbock, Texas

Ken was born in Baltimore in 1955. He grew up hearing everyone from Johnny Mercer and Ray Charles to the Beatles on the family hi-fi, with a usual Saturday encore of Wagner's operas. Ken has degrees in English and economics and a background in journalism. He is currently an associate professor of English at Texas Tech, teaching classes in rhetoric. ... more

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