The Pines of My Past

by Gabriel Coia

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These songs are my attempt to capture the essence of the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey - a wilderness of haunting beauty where the distant past is ever-present.


released March 14, 2016

Written, performed and recorded by Gabriel Coia



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Gabriel Coia New Jersey

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Track Name: Devil's Woods
It's been said and it's been understood
That a devil roams these Southern Jersey woods
In the dark and out of sight
Eerie sounds that haunt the night
You could hear them if you only would

If you say it's just a tale they weaved
And if you think it all a bit naive
Spend a lonely night in a cedar swamp
'Til you hear the devil's hooves a' stomp
And then I'm sure you would believe

Deep in Devil's Woods

The old Leeds homestead has long fallen to the ground
In the forest where now bricks are scattered 'round
You can search for the place where the beast was born
But all attempts will prove forlorn
It's only in your mind that it will be found

Deep in Devil's Woods

So if you think this all is but a tale
Dare you take this dark untrodden trail
It won't be traced to Mother Leeds
It's to your soul that this path leads
Follow close that cloven tail

Through Devil's Woods
Track Name: Girl From Hampton Gate
There once was a girl from Hampton Gate
Who crossed paths with me one day
And if it was chance or if it was fate
To this day I cannot say

She led me through her pitch pine woods
To the top of a stony hill
And up there under the stars she stood
And she said if I kept very still

Then I'd hear the song of my soul
And if I'd lend my ear then I'd be whole again

She brought me down to a sleepy stream
And we lay there 'til sunrise was near
And if I was awake or if I was in dream
Everything then became clear

And I heard the song of my soul
Silent words that made me whole again

There once was a girl from Hampton Gate
Who crossed paths with me one day
And if it was chance or if it was fate
To this day I cannot say
Track Name: The Atsion Lock
This place I'd left behind me
Lonely stream and crumbled dock
But if you look you'll find me
Waiting by the Atsion lock

If boats again pass through here
Foundry-bound with iron rock
If the opening sluice gate you hear
Meet me at the Atsion lock
Track Name: Batsto Village
So long ago
Far years now lore
Bygone Batstow
I'm here once more
Somehow my heart knows
I've been here before
I've seen this hearth glow
And make iron from ore
Somehow my heart knows
I've been here before
Track Name: The Light Near Wells' Millpond
I dreamt three times, three nights straight
Dug up a dead man's treasure with and old dull spade
They said he was odd, that old Jimmy Wells
They said he hid lots of money somewhere closer to hell

They said there were times you could see a strange light
Near Wells' Mill Pond in the middle of the night
A bright ball of fire floatin' through the pine lands
They thought it led to Jimmy's money lost beneath the white sand

But they couldn't find it - the light went out too soon

I dreamt three times, three nights in a row
I was led by the light to where the Cold Brook flows
Up on a hill where a big oak grew
Found the money in the dirt where nobody knew

Was it just a dream? Was there something to be found?
Maybe just a dream – maybe nothing in the ground

So I woke up, got a shovel and I headed for the hill
To go find a fortune, go find the secret till
And I dug and I dug and my eyes opened wide
An old rotten box but nothin' inside

Did he reclaim it? Did he take it to his grave?
Maybe Jimmy took it – maybe every last coin was saved
Track Name: Joe's Last Jig
It was time for big Joe Mulliner to find a place to hide
So he left his farm on the Mullica and he kissed his wife goodbye.
When he could, he'd come to see her, but he couldn't stay for long
'Cause big Joe was an outlaw, 'twas the woods where he belonged.

But Joe, he was jovial, and he loved a grand old time
So he and his band of crooks would crash any party they could find
With one hand on a pistol, and in the other a pint of ale
He'd entice the fairest lady there while her partner's face turned pale.

Drink, Joe, drink
'Til the night turns into day
Dance, Joe, dance
While the fiddler plays

Joe and his gang moved through the woods boldly and with stealth
They roamed the old stage roads and robbed riders of their wealth
And so many have often called him the Robin Hood of the Pines
But big Joe buried his treasure - the poor weren't on his mind.

Hide, Joe, hide
Don't let your loot be found
Dig, Joe, dig
Stash it in the ground

Late one night Joe and his boys were letting' loose at the inn
Little did Big Joe know the trouble he'd soon be in
And he drank and he sang and he laughed through the night, and he danced one final time
Before the Law caught up with him and tried him for his crimes

Laugh, Joe, laugh
Live it up, these final thrills
'Cause you're gonna hang, Joe, hang
Up on the Gallows Hill

With the noose around his neck, Joe drew one final, fearless breath
For this bandit he had other plans, and the sting he'd steal from death
And his ghost still roams the river banks and haunts the sandy roads
And until he finds his long lost loot, the Pines are his abode

Dance, Joe, dance
Just like times of old
Search, Joe, search
'Til you find your buried gold
Sing, Joe, sing
The last song is still unsung
Dance, Joe, dance
The last jig is yet to come
Track Name: Where Did Jerry Munyon Go?
Jerry Munyon, he was one of a kind.
A crooked man as twisted as a vine
He learned magic, so we've all been told,
From the Devil when he sold his soul.
He was some sort of wizard of these pines.

He'd play you like a fool and he'd deceive
He'd mistreat ya, cheat ya, beat ya and he'd thieve
But no prison bars could hold him in
And he caught every bullet shot at him
He'd have a laugh then take his leave.

Jerry, tell me, where did ya go?
Folks 'round here would surely like to know.
What sort of tricks are up your sleeve?
What lies would you have us believe?
Tell me, Jerry, where did ya go?

Jerry walked into the inn one day
He drank some whiskey, paid and walked away
And the barkeeper began to yell
When the coins turned to a heap of shells.
He screamed, “find that man - he's got to pay!”

Tell me, Jerry, where did ya go?
The booze ain't free so pay the debt you owe.
Munyon, did you cast a spell?
The money in fact was oyster shells.
Jerry, tell me, where did ya go?

One night a pig was mired in a bog
Jerry said for a price he'd save the hog
So he set it free and collected his fee
But there wasn't a pig just a stump of a tree
And Jerry quietly vanished in the fog.

Jerry, tell me, where did ya go?
You made a fool of me, you put on a damned good show
You must take me for a poor ol' chump
There was no hog, just a cedar stump
Tell me, Jerry. where did ya go?

Late one night there was knockin' on his door
His wife said, “A man is here, ain't ne'er seen him before.”
He said, “Tell the devil I didn't forget.
My time is up, so tell him I'm set.”
And after that, he didn't breathe no more.

Tell me, Jerry, where did ya go?
Did Ol' Scratch come and take you down below?
The devil finally came for you
It was time for you to pay your due
Jerry, tell me, where did ya go?
Track Name: The Lady On the Dam
Still she waits for break of dawn
In midnight dress by moonlit pond.
As in a dream, she appears
Then slowly fades as I draw near.

And what she lost, still she seeks
Between the worlds of light and sleep.
She lingers there for what has passed.
Will she embrace the night at last?
Track Name: The Lost Mill
These woods I now wander weren't here in those years
When our old town still stood and our hearts were still near.
On the ground lies a fell tree we knew long before
When in time passed I held you 'neath this old sycamore.

By the stream lie the ruins of a long lost mill,
And what's left of a dam where the water once spilled.
Never I've forgotten, and ever I've yearned
For the years when I loved you, when the mill wheel still turned.
Track Name: Let the Barrens Burn
A cloud rises from the trees,
Growing darker as it climbs.

Black smoke; bright flames.
Turning daytime into night.
And darkness into light.

Woods aglow. Red wind blows,
Breathing life into the pines.

Don't fight this fire.
Let it blaze the forest through.
Let it make it all anew.

Let the Barrens burn.

In ashes, in coals,
In fire the Barrens were born.

So let it rage. Let the pines live on.
Let them light up like a torch.
Let the ground again be scorched.

Let the Barrens burn.
Track Name: The Ageless River
She was born in the cold many ages ago
When the ground was frozen and covered with snow
The land was bare and fierce winds did blow
And when the ice thawed her waters first flowed

Hunters first found her in those cold days of yore
While seeking the mammoths that then roamed her shores
And then came the age of Lenape lore
And for centuries she saw the splash of their oars

It was thousands of years before the whites came
And the woods were a wild which they sought to tame
The Dutch, Swedes and Scots and the Brits laid their claim
To a river that would never again be the same

Her trees were cut down for building and burning
For feeding the fires of forge and of furnace
And over their dams her water fell churning
Powering their mills, setting waterwheels turning

The ageless river has seen it all
She saw iron empires rise and fall
She's seen cedar trees that stood up two hundred feet tall
Which finally fell to the blade of a saw

British boats were seized by the privateers so bold
And the spoils were taken to the Forks to be sold
And these pirates, these patriots - a fortune they'd make
'Til the English decided 'twas all they would take

They sailed down the ocean and into the Little Egg Sound
They sunk ships and burnt Chestnut Neck to the ground
They headed towards Batsto but to no avail
The Brits did retreat and the rebels prevailed

The river watched industries come and then go
With her tides she saw commerce and trade ebb and flow
She's seen battles that stained her water with blood
And she hides her ghost ships six feet in the mud

For years she saw sailing ships transport their loads
But she was slowly abandoned for the great new railroad
And factories flourished and faltered in turn
And charcoalers left with no trees left to burn

And then the river was quiet and she fell fast asleep
But her past is vast and her secrets she keeps
From the highlands where her headwaters seep
To the mouth of the river where her water runs deep

To what end will she flow?And what fate will she see?
Will she run dry in drought or be drowned by the sea?
Will folly we sow, will ruin she reap?
Or will we stay true to the river we keep?
Will we stay true to the river we keep?