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"Uniontown" (yet again....)

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The rewriting blitz continues....

 

"Uniontown" is a song I wrote a couple of years ago. Or wrote versions of it, anyway. I posted versions here a little over a year and a half ago. It's about the town in Pennsylvania and the economic changes there. (Despite the current administration's proclaimed love of coal, mines around Uniontown have not reopened, unemployment remains higher than the national average and the job market increase is half the national average.)

 

It's another of those songs I didn't play much live, and the reluctance to perform it always tells me that something in my gut knows the song doesn't work. While I liked parts of the song, I didn't like others, so I took it back to the drawing board and did some editing. Cut a whole line out of each verse and rewrote other lines. Then I added a new verse at the end. The melody is utilitarian and I still need to figure out if I can sing it in this key or change it. Still thinking about the tempo, too. Any thoughts/insights/suggestionsare are welcome.

 

And it has a chorus!

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uVAJt1NoCbY

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Been playing around with the song a bit and need some honest feedback. Which version do you guys think works best, story-wise -- the version in the video, or this one:

 

This bar’s deserted on a Tuesday night

Bucs are on TV, it's in the 9th

Bartender, another round

Here in Uniontown

 

I come home from Desert Storm

Run a cutter like my dad before

China dumped steel, dominoes crashed down

Here in Uniontown

 

(Chorus)

King Coal built this town, might as well use it to burn it down

Here in Uniontown, here in Uniontown

 

Shut down mines, laid off crew

Robbed our pensions, healthcare, too

They keep saying things’ll turn around

Here in Uniontown

 

Redstone coal, Pittsburgh steel

Believed in things we thought were real

Politicians let us down

Here in Uniontown

 

(chorus)

 

From the shuttered mines of Chestnut Ridge

To the rusting ghosts of Homestead mills

Abandoned, they make no sound

Here in Uniontown

 

Shoulda left long ago

Bituminous coal is all I know

So bartender, one last round

Here in Uniontown

So bartender, one last round

Here in Uniontown

Edited by dhanners623

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David, I like this song very much, and I remember it from last time around. I think I probably pointed this out then too. Even though unintentional, the lyrics in the video have very much in common with the Springsteen song Youngstown. It is a folk style song about the very same topic, with pretty much the same storyline, but the guy is coming home from a different war. There is absouletly nothing wrong with that, but I think it works to your disadvantage, since many listeners might already be familiar with the Springsteen song. There is not much you can do about that...

 

So for that reason I prefer the second version. Great song either way, so please don't take what I just said the wrong way.

 

Lars

 

Springsteen's "Youngstown"

 

Here in northeast Ohio

Back in eighteen-o-three

James and Dan Heaton

Found the ore that was linin' Yellow Creek

They built a blast furnace

Here along the shore

And they made the cannonballs

That helped the Union win the war

 

Here in Youngstown

Here in Youngstown

My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down

Here darlin' in Youngstown

 

Well my daddy worked the furnaces

Kept 'em hotter than hell

I come home from 'Nam worked my way to scarfer

A job that'd suit the devil as well

Taconite coke and limestone

Fed my children and make my pay

Them smokestacks reachin' like the arms of God

Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

 

Here in Youngstown

Here in Youngstown

Sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down

Here darlin' in Youngstown

 

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works

When he come home from World War Two

Now the yard's just scrap and rubble

He said "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do."

These mills they built the tanks and bombs

That won this country's wars

We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam

Now we're wondering what they were dyin' for

 

Here in Youngstown

Here in Youngstown

My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down

Here darlin' in Youngstown

 

From the Monongahela valley

To the Mesabi iron range

To the coal mines of Appalachia

The story's always the same

Seven hundred tons of metal a day

Now sir you tell me the world's changed

Once I made you rich enough

Rich enough to forget my name

 

And Youngstown

And Youngstown

My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down

Here darlin' in Youngstown

 

When I die I don't want no part of heaven

I would not do heaven's work well

I pray the devil comes and takes me

To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell

Edited by Lars68

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Well, history is history and the five strikers killed at Uniontown in the UMW strike of 1894 is part of the story, if I choose to tell it that way.

 

To me, the second version gets the listener into the song more quickly, placing the listener with the protagonist on a barstool. It avoids the history lesson. I have to figure out if the history lesson adds anything to the song.

 

And, in all honesty, it had been years since I'd heard Springsteen's song and couldn't recite the lyrics to save my life and had no recollection of the melody. I just remembered, vaguely, that he'd had a song named "Youngstown."

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Very nice, again.

I thought your vocals for this key worked just fine.

Same for the tempo. Slower might be truer to the subject matter, but might be a bit much for a live crowd.

 

So, my only thing was that I thought it got long, like some point was beleaguered. I didn't quite so much the second time I listened.

 

All in all, I think it's gotta be close.

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Been thinking about the song and various comments, so here is the present version.

 

Sometimes, I'll do a word count to see if the verses are close to being the same size. If one verse has 15 words and another has 30, you know things are off-balance. The six verses had 20, 20, 22, 20, 22 and 18 words. Being anal and/or maybe OCD, I thought, "Hmmm.... What if all the verses were 20 words?" So I cut two words out of the two verses that had 22 words, and I added two words to the verse that had 18. So now all the verses have 20 words.

 

I turned the chorus into a bridge and was surprised to discover it, too, had 20 words.

 

This bar’s deserted on a Tuesday night

Bucs on TV, it's in the 9th

Bartender, another round

Here in Uniontown

 

Redstone coal, Pittsburgh steel

Believed in things we thought were real

Then it all came crashing down

Here in Uniontown

 

Came home from Desert Storm

Run cutters like my dad before

China dumped steel, dominoes fell down

Here in Uniontown

 

Shut down mines, laid off crew

Robbed our pensions, healthcare, too

They keep saying things’ll turn around

Here in Uniontown

 

(Bridge)

King Coal built this town

Might as well use it to burn it down

Here in Uniontown

Here in Uniontown

 

From the shuttered mines of Chestnut Ridge

To ghosts of Homestead mills

Abandoned, they make no sound

Here in Uniontown

 

Shoulda left this valley long ago

Bituminous coal is all I know

So bartender, one last round

Here in Uniontown

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Same length and I had no sense of it being beleaguering. I like the potential of the resonator, too.

 

I like how you removed the verse about the strikers. It didn't tie in. To me, the listener, the song was about modern-day woes of Uniontown from the POV of the lonely bar patron.

 

I was wondering last time, when you introduce us to the bar patron, that a bit different game situation could tie into the mood a more. Something like the bucs 'down 3 in the 9th' instead of "it's in the 9th". Then the bartender has a darned fine reason to pour a round.

 

I liked "digging coal is all I know" better than the "Bituminous coal is all I know", but I'm not from coal country.

 

All in all, I think it's an improvement to an already good song.

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Same length and I had no sense of it being beleaguering. I like the potential of the resonator, too.

 

I like how you removed the verse about the strikers. It didn't tie in. To me, the listener, the song was about modern-day woes of Uniontown from the POV of the lonely bar patron.

 

I was wondering last time, when you introduce us to the bar patron, that a bit different game situation could tie into the mood a more. Something like the bucs 'down 3 in the 9th' instead of "it's in the 9th". Then the bartender has a darned fine reason to pour a round.

 

I liked "digging coal is all I know" better than the "Bituminous coal is all I know", but I'm not from coal country.

 

All in all, I think it's an improvement to an already good song.

 

Thanks. I may add some verses to humanize the guy a bit more. And you're probably right about the "bituminous" line. It's almost as if I was trying to show off by using a big word. In some songs it might fit, but not this one, I'm beginning to think.

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Here's today's rewrite. I watched the video interview of Jason Isbell that Lars posted, looked back over my lyrics and thought, "Why do I bother?" Then I decided to see if I could fix what was broken in the song, and realized there was quite a bit broken.

 

I went online and read some more articles on Uniontown, mining and the surrounding communities. There were a number of articles from before and after the 2016 election. A number of the articles stressed the dire economy. It appears the area also has a pretty serious drug problem, including heroin.

 

There are a couple of imperfect rhymes, but Pat Pattinson tells us that that's ok. If you're the least bit interested in songwriting, check out some of Pattison's videos on YouTube. They're pretty insightful.

 

Dad would take us for Sunday drives

Down the river roads to see the mines

He’d say, “King Coal feeds you, keeps you housed”

In Uniontown

 

I come home from Desert Storm

Run a cutter like dad before

China dumped steel, dominoes fell down

In Uniontown

 

Shut down mines, laid off crew

Robbed our pensions, healthcare too

They lie and say it'll turn around

In Uniontown

 

Everyone's got past-due bills

Some turn to heroin or the pills

Numb the pain as life comes unwound

In Uniontown

 

Redstone coal, Pittsburgh steel

All we export now is our kids

No work so they don’t hang around

In Uniontown

 

From the shut-down mines of Chestnut Ridge

To ghosts of Homestead mills

Derelict and dead, they make no sound

In Uniontown

 

Edited by dhanners623

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Very good. I especially like the line All we export now is our kids. That one speaks volumes!

 

A new video perhaps?

 

Lars

 

Thanks for the kind words. I'm tweaking the melody and haven't finalized it yet. A video will be forthcoming when I decide on the chord progression.

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