BackTracks (1999)

by James Hersch



BackTracks: These songs were released on CD only in 1999. Several were re-recorded in 2005.


released June 1, 1999




James Hersch Minneapolis, Minnesota

Hersch, a native Minnesotan, has fifteen album credits and is known for his story song style. He has been a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival and recognized for his original soundtrack for the PBS documentary, "Paving the Way". His reachwithme program has been honored with the Harry Chapin Award for Contributions to Humanity by the National Association for Campus Activities. ... more

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Track Name: Twenty Two Little Minds
Twenty two little minds all in a row
One way or another, little minds are gonna grow
Each one different, ready one and all
To be taught to think big or taught to think small

Twenty two little minds like an empty page
So much gets written at a tender age
Faces wide, open to the touch
Gonna have to learn how to hide when it hurts too much

Twenty two little minds looking at me
I wonder what they're thinking, I wonder what they see
I do my best; I wish I could do more
For those twenty two minds on the kindergarten floor

Twenty two little minds all in a row
One way or another, little minds are gonna grow
Each one different, every one the same
Twenty two little minds, twenty two little flames
Track Name: Grandma's Covers
Let the moon dance over the milky way
Let the sun come and chase it away
Let the shadows grow deep
You're off to sleep
Safe under Grandma's covers

A patchwork of colors and yarns
To hold you as surely as Grandma's arms
Here in the dark you know each patch by heart
Safe under Grandma's covers

The angels watch from above
On a little bed covered in Grandma's love
Here in the dark you know each patch by heart
Safe under Grandma's covers


The corduroy patches are wearing thin
The satin and velvet ones too
By the way your little hands
Are holding these strands
It's almost like they could bring Grandma
Right here to you
Maybe they do
Track Name: Little Charlie Franklin
Me and Charlie Franklin
Sneaking out across the floor
We want to dance with Susan and there’s Bound to be a tug-of-war
I lose my nerve but Charlie’s cool
Susan proves that she’s no fool
As she laughs and chooses Charlie for the chance
Now Charlie’s gonna make that wheelchair dance

Little Charlie Franklin
Growing up on our street
Through all those years his
Doctors never thought he’d see
He never could walk, he never could run
He never had any trouble having lots of fun
Charlie runs on something deep inside
Something no doctor could prescribe

Charlie, everybody dies
But not everyone is wise with the time they’re given
Charlie, I just have to bite my tongue
When I they say you died too young
I know you’re still living

Little Charlie Franklin
Didn’t make it to our wedding day
But me and Susan
Sent the invitation anyway
And it was no surprise to anyone
When the early spring brought us a son
Laughing and dancing into this world he came
And Charlie Franklin will be his name
Track Name: My Father's Life
My father's life is bigger
Bigger than the pain that I'm feeling now
His love of life has moved me
Even here at the end he's holding on somehow
And even in his helplessness, his silence
And his sometimes far off stare
I believe his spirit's sailing through the dark
To a better place somewhere

My father's life is painted in the
Faces of the many who have come to grieve
In a world he colored gently with his teaching
And how they'll miss him as he gently leaves
And even in his helplessness, his silence
And his sometimes far off stare
The beauty of his life is not diminished
Just another color there

My father's life is folded in the
Pages of the stories that he'll leave behind
With humor and humility
So tightly woven beautifully in every line
And even in his helplessness, his silence
And his sometimes far off stare
He tells me that he loves me
Helps me to be braver than I'd ever dare
Track Name: The River Flows
The river flows
From the woods, through the field and down the valley
Winding as it goes
Through the silent and the swift it passes
But no one knows where the river flows

In this life
Like the waters of the river we are carried
Tumbling as we go
Through our joys and our sorrows and the changes
But no one knows where the river flows

It's the hand of God that pulls that river
It's the hand of God that makes that change
It's the hand of God that wipes every tear away

The river flows
And the years slip away like the water
Winding to the sea
And in the end, it's the love we remember
But no one knows where the river flows
Track Name: Willcox, AZ
In Wilcox, AZ you get a front row seat
When the sun sets down somewhere over main street
You can stand there and watch the desert sun go down
Look any way you please, you still see the edge of town
On a slow Saturday evening
Nothing but a crow fussing and feeding
On a flat rabbit out on the highway

In Wilcox, AZ they’ve got a little general store
For the last six years they’ve run their ‘going out of business’ sale
It’ll bring that occasional tourist dollar in
Maybe sell them a pair of boots or a polished arrowhead
Out on the highway it says ‘Welcome to Wilcox, Friend
From 904 friendly��Í people and 1 grumpy Texan’

Welcome to the Wilcox way of life
Let the boy grow up, let him take a Wilcox wife
Prosper them in this desert paradise
God bless the Wilcox way of life

In Wilcox, AZ you can turn your radio on
Hit the seek button and it’ll just seek and seek and seek
You can’t go to any movies, but you can rent one cheap
They’ve got an old jukebox, they’ve got a brand new satellite dish
Down at the Muni they will serve you nachos cheap
With fresh guacamole and a sauce that’s giving off serious heat

In Wilcox, AZ they say goodbye to you
With a big yellow sign and a smile and a wave
From a little girl with an ice cream cone at the Tastee Freeze
Up on her Daddy’s shoulders, she’s happy as she can be
The last sight I see as I’m rolling out of there
That little girl waving, ice cream falling, there it goes
Right in Daddy’s hair

Welcome to the Wilcox way of life
Let the boy grow up, let him take a Wilcox wife
Prosper them in this desert paradise
God bless the Wilcox way of life
Track Name: I See You
When Minnesota’s covered clean and white
I still see you, I still see you
When a summer rain is whispering in the night
I still see you, I still see you
When a tulip breaks through the ground
When a birch tree’s leaves come down
When a whippoorwill makes that sound
I see you

Somewhere there is a girl with golden hair
With all her animals around her there
Alone out in the trees, she says a prayer
I see you

When a lilac bush is a heavy purple hue
I still see you, I still see you
When a flower grows where a flower never grew
I still see you, I still see you
When the corn is green and high
When a sunset is a red and yellow sky
When I have tears and I don’t know why
I see you
Track Name: Flyer
Thirty little ones in a circle form
Sun comes through the window warm
Clapping with every song I sing
Little more with every smile I bring
They’re five years old, they’ve got to dance
Shaking all they got in those little pants
They don’t even know my name
Sing along with me just the same

I know I’m just a flyer
Another voice in the choir
In a world that’s set on fire and burning down

She’s a littlGe bitty woman, just a little bit bent
She don’t know where all of her good times went
She don’t want to watch TV
She’s coming over here to make music with me
And that music makes her feet get light
Rising up from her chair like a bird in flight
She knows every word to this old tune
She dances every inch of this whole room

Now all of you who want to fly
Who think that you might want to try
Soar above the fire with me
From where I am it’s a sight to see
That brighter fire burns within
The weary eyes, the wrinkled skin
Music makes it come alive
If you’re ninety-two or only five
Track Name: Say Hello to the Light
It was a cold dark night when the angels came
Held my mother’s hand and they called her name
It’s a brand new world now that she’s gone
See the fire of her colors in the brand new dawn

I’ll hold to the string between the dark and the light
I’ll wait for the someday, for the beautiful sight
One dance through the door, one gone in the night
Say goodbye to the dark, say hello to the light

There’s a world of pain, there’s a world of tears
There’s also a time when the pain disappears
The reunion waits like a brand new dawn
Let the sun come up, let the pain be gone

There are stories unwritten, there are songs to be sung
In the eyes of the old, in the cries of the young
I’m moved by the faces of those who came before me
Take me off to their places, tell me their stories
Track Name: Cold Rain
See the man outside my window
Walking slowly with his cane
Holding tight to his umbrella
Through a cold and windy April rain
Sometimes I see him and I wonder
Is anyone there for him at home
Or is he walking off to nowhere
And taking every step alone
I want to say

I can’t be your legs
I can’t be your arms
But I can be someone to walk along and be strong
I can’t take your steps
I can’t take your pain
But I can walk beside you in a cold rain

I don’t know why some things happen
I wish I could say I understood
So many things I see around me
That I would change if I only could
And I see road you must travel
I see the storm you're going through
I can't do nothing about the weather
But I can walk right beside you
Track Name: Isabella McBride
Isabella McBride takes the hand of the stranger
With a single tear she spoke every word
Though she could not speak for her body has failed her
A tear rolls down and the Óstranger heard

In the shade tree home they care for the old
Isabella McBride goes there to die
To hell with the world, she sits by the window
Curses a world that passes her by

Now a song she loves, the voice of a stranger
With every word a year peels away
To another time, a dance in the moon light
A walk in the garden, a lover’s bouquet

How the magic lends itself to the music
How the mystery of some old melody
Can be frozen in time, now the song from a stranger
Melts Isabella’s memory
Track Name: You've Given That to Me
What’s the melody you’re singing, what’s the song that you play
What’s the magic that you’re bringing, why are you here anyway
There’s not much here for such a young one, for someone like you
I have a picture in my mind of my family around the fire
We were singing this very song

You’v’e given that to me
Lit the fire in my memory
You’ve given that to me

What’s the story that you told me that brought a tear to my eye
Your passion reaches out to hold me, makes me glad to be alive
I’m young and still it’s strange to find that I’m needing you

You’ve given that to me
You see the good in me that I don’t see
You’ve given that to me

What’s the point of this life when all our days disappear
What is the legacy we’re leaving in the little time that we’re here
It’s a sea of joy we should be sailing, but it’s a failing wind
So I keep this picture in my mind, I take this moment for my heart
Dancing over these diamonds with you

You’ve given that to me
Star to guide me on a lonely sea
You’ve given that to me
Track Name: We Will Be Together
There’ll be lots of room
And lots of sky
And lots of pretty places
There’ll be lots of laughing
Lots of hugs
And lots of happy faces there

And the bells will ring
And the angels sing
And the melody is merry
And the only tears
Will be happy tears
And the night is never scary there

And we will be together
And we will be together
You and I together in God’s love

We won’t look back
And we won’t look ahead
We won’t worry about tomorrow
We will wash our eyes
In the light of joy
Wash away our sorrows there

We’ll see the ones
We never knew
Who loved us all that they could
And the ones I loved
Who went away
Before I got to say goodbye