Runaway Freeway Blues

by The Black Lillies

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about

Black Lillies front man Cruz Contreras knows a thing or two about the road.

After co-founding Robinella and the CCstringband with his wife, he spent nearly a decade traveling the road and making music from coast to coast. When his marriage – and the band – dissolved in 2007, he returned to the road … this time, as the driver of a truck for a stone company. It was here, over a year spent rolling down the highways of East Tennessee, that the songs and sounds that would form the nexus of The Black Lillies were conceived.

And “Runaway Freeway Blues,” the band’s third studio album, was realized exactly there … on the road. When the Lillies weren’t playing their 200-odd gigs during 2012, they were in Wild Chorus Studio in their hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., working with Scott Minor of Sparklehorse to craft a beautiful ode to restless spirits and rambling hearts. Rooted in the mud-rutted switchbacks of Appalachia, “Runaway Freeway Blues” is the sound of a band that’s becoming something of a phenomenon across the country.

Contreras and his bandmates – harmony vocalist Trisha Gene Brady, multi-instrumentalist Tom Pryor, bass player Robert Richards and drummer Jamie Cook – have grown from a few friends sitting around campfires and living rooms to a band that shows up in far-flung cities where folks to whom they’ve never played before already know the words to the songs. Eschewing record labels, they still managed to put a track from the last record (“Same Mistakes,” off of “100 Miles of Wreckage”) in Country Music Television’s top 12 requested videos for four months. (Its predecessor, “Two Hearts Down,” was a top-requested video on CMT for three months.) They’ve been featured on numerous television specials and conquered festivals as widespread as Bonnaroo, Pickathon, and CMA Fan Fair. Despite trafficking in a richer, more authentic brand of country and Americana than what gets played on mainstream country radio, they’ve still been invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry more than a dozen times – a record for an independent act.

The Black Lillies, in other words, have come a long way from those early days, when Contreras channeled heartache and regret into a stunning debut. “Whiskey Angel” was the sound of a man drowning his sorrows, and an introduction to someone who had languished behind the scenes for too long. As the guy who loaned out his initials to Robinella and the CCstringband, which flirted with national fame a few years ago with a hit (“Man Over”) on Country Music Television, an appearance on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” in 2003, and albums on both Sony and Dualtone, he was known best as a mandolin virtuoso and bandleader.

Starting over, he stunned friends and peers in the East Tennessee music scene with a voice that makes you think of Randy Travis or Dan Tyminski or even the great Ralph Stanley in his prime: steeped in regret, seasoned with pain and tempered in the fires of hard times. It served “Whiskey Angel” well, and when “100 Miles of Wreckage” was released in 2011, the band seemingly burst onto the national stage – spending five solid months in the Americana Music Association’s radio charts (four of them in the top 15).

That record was the sound of a man taking stock of his life and his past, regarding the pain and the turmoil with a measure of wistful acceptance. Which brings us to “Runaway Freeway Blues,” which finds the band focused on the horizon, filled with the nervous energy of excitement at the unknown future waiting on the other side of that distant hill, enthusiastic about the journey as much as they are about the destination.

The emotional arc of the new record is brilliant, so vivid and detailed with lush harmonies and instrumental virtuosity that’s as powerful in the quieter moments as it is explosive during jubilant ones. You can cherry-pick any number of songs from “Runaway Freeway Blues” and find gold. Banjo, pedal steel, piano and everything else lift this record up on wings of uncommon grace and stunning vitality, and when Contreras and Brady combine their voices, it calls to mind classic duets from times long gone: George and Tammy. Gram and Emmylou. Johnny and June. From gentle Laurel Canyon folk rock to the honky-tonk heartache of classic country to winding jams, “Runaway Freeway Blues” is an album that defies easy categorization.

It was conceived on the road, inspired by the road and completed there as well: Contreras mixed the album while on tour, by phone and email, coordinating overdubs and guest instrumental appearances (Josh Oliver, formerly of the everybodyfields; banjo player Matt Menefee, who’s toured with Mumford & Sons, Levi Lowery and Big & Rich; and a host of Tennessee’s finest musicians on horns, harmonica and percussion) while playing into the wee hours of the morning, driving all night and setting up in the next city to do it all over again.

It’s breakneck, brazen and beautiful. It’s the sound of a band that’s rooted in East Tennessee but more at home piled into a van stacked with gear, windows down and aimed toward the next gig. It’s an album that lets long-time fans as well as relative newcomers to the Black Lillies phenomenon know that this train isn’t stopping anytime soon.

credits

released March 26, 2013

What often begins with only the strum of a guitar or the stroke of a pen truly requires the efforts of an entire "village" in order for it to be fully realized. Runaway Freeway Blues is a testament to this! Our manager Chyna recently informed us that we played 230 engagements in the past year, coast to coast ... and I'm quite sure our backs and bellies believed her. So, for a record seemingly made from the road, perpetual thanks to my van-dwelling family ... Trisha, Tom, Jamie and Robert. We sure have covered some miles! Thank you Chyna for all that you do, often seemingly behind the scenes - your dedication, expertise, and integrity are greatly respected and appreciated. Sincere thanks to ALL our advocates ... specifically, Darrien Thomson, Hayden Brackeen, Leah Ross, Michael Carroll, Greg and Jennifer Dunn and family, The Purple Fiddle and Thomas, WV, Mark Youngquist and Dolores River Brewery, Josh Oliver, Pablo Wheeler, Sarah Kennedy, Bill Alexander, Rachel Williams, Micah Davidson, Casey Driessen, Matt Menefee, Bowman Townsend, Jason Thompson, Billy Contreras, Ian Thomas, Kyle Campbell, Joe Limardi, Joe McGuire, Scott Minor, Carey Balch, Justin Helton and Status Serigraph, Nothing Too Fancy, my father Fred Contreras for inspiring and supporting my musical dreams, my grandfather Bill Ackerman for being a real-life hero, and of course my son Cash... for his patience, understanding, and trucker expertise!
- Cruz



Produced by Cruz Contreras
Executive Producer: Chyna Brackeen, Attack Monkey Productions
www.attackmonkey.net

Recorded and mixed by Scott Minor at Wild Chorus Studios in Knoxville, Tennessee in October of 2011. Scott was assisted by Carey Balch.

Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk in NYC
www.masterdisk.com

Artwork by Justin Helton, Status Serigraph.
www.statusserigraph.com

All songs except “Ramblin’ Boy” written by Cruz Contreras. Copyright 2012 Black Lilly Music (BMI). “Ramblin’ Boy” lyrics were written by A.P. Carter and are in the public domain; music arranged by Cruz Contreras.




Our heartfelt appreciation to the many people who made this album possible – first and foremost, our amazing fans. We’d like to extend a special thank you to the following people:

Imogene Fowler (Trisha’s Granny!); Jimmie and Caren Warwick; Will Tullock; Polly Ailor Tullock; Reenie Kennedy-Mooney and Edwin Kennedy; Bill Foster (who deserves double thanks because we forgot to credit his photos in the 100 Miles of Wreckage packaging!); Stephany Shinpock; Theresa Heule; David S. Barlow; Lunasea; Martin Stapleton; Rusty and Dana Soop; Warren Spector; Dennis George; Sally Mitchell and Crispin Spencer; Teri Butler Dosher and Zoe Dosher; Phil and Clarissa Ragland; Lori and Jason Turner; Whitney Caudill; Bill and Rosemary Pryor; Peri Meadows; the Schroeder family; Sheila Vaughn; Kim Carter and Vannessa Carter; Chris Godkin; Mike and Judy Duncan; Dan McCord; Scott A. Ballard; Kathleen Di Rosato; Brian W. Tuzik; Ryan Maier; Becky and Steve Hancock; Adam Goodwin; our biggest fan – Mike Sigers; Chris and Lisa Nichols; Everett Green; Jeff Prater; Jack Goodwin; Greg Brown; Bradley Anderson; Dennis and Tammy Double; Pat and Karen Terrell; Rob and Ashleigh Bergstrom; Green Frog Acoustic Tavern and Amanda Bettis; Brian Brinkerhoff; Krista Thompson; Stuart Martin; Trina Nicholson; Joni Harrison; Matthew Gilhuly; Robert, Laura and Avery Marshall; Matthew Smith; Brandon Barnes; Jake Mabe; Kimberly Brown; Fran Harwell; Zoe Marie Moreira; Jessie Bailin; Bruce and Sharon Court; our families; and everyone who makes it possible for us to make music for a living.




Visit us online: www.theblacklillies.com / www.facebook.com/theblacklillies / www.youtube.com/theblacklillies

2012 North Knox Records / Attack Monkey Productions

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Track Name: The Fall
I am not a rich man, I have no fortune to bear
I was born in the desert where a flower is so rare

I am not a rich girl, I have no diamond to share
I was born on the ocean, a thousand stars I wear

I am not a sailor, I am no captain at sea
I was born in the desert and a captain I'll not be

I was born on the water, my father sailed the ocean wide
A mermaid my mother, I sail along with the tide

I am but a dreamer, I've seen you in between
The shadows and the sunshine falling down on me

Would you be my lover if I gave you all I had?
Flowers from the desert and gold from the ocean sand

And I'll love you in the springtime, I'll love you through the fall
I'll hold your hand in the cold and rain when the first snowflakes fall

I am but a dreamer and I've seen you in between
The shadows and the sunshine falling down on me
Track Name: Gold and Roses
Ten thousand feet above them deep dark waters
There's a land like I ain't never seen
There's silver and gold ‘midst a wild rose garden
Shining on the hillside for me

I set out from Eastern Kentucky
Said farewell to family and home
Then I headed west to seek my fortune,
Figured I could make it alone

But there ain't no gold and there ain't no roses
There ain't no sunshine and there ain't no rain
Only darkness, toils and troubles
Steal my life's blood down in this vein
Steal my life's blood vein by vein

I fell in with a stranger in Kansas City
He said "Son, now I'm a Union man.
I've a fine team of mules and rations for the winter;
Traveler, I sure could use a hand."

When springtime broke on that western prairie
To them red rock hills I was bound
Now I'm digging for gold in an old rock garden
And nothing of worth I've found

But there ain't no gold and there ain't no roses
There ain't no sunshine and there ain't no rain
Only darkness, toils and troubles
Steal my life's blood down in this vein
Steal my life's blood vein by vein

Bridge:
Come on now baby can you save my soul
Traveled all across the country got to find that gold
One more shot of whiskey 'fore I ask your man
For sixty-four dollars, got a brand new plan
Me and ol’ Frisco gonna climb up over town
Dig a hole in the mountain, we ain't coming down
Take a look around and see what we can find,
I hope you like silver - we've got a brand new mine....

Well there ain't no gold and there ain't no roses
There ain't no sunshine and I don't care
Goodbye darkness, so long troubles,
One hundred thousand will buy my share,
One hundred thousand will buy my share
Track Name: Ramblin' Boy
I was rich but a rambling boy
Through many cities I did enjoy
And there I married a pretty little wife
And I loved her dearer than I loved my life

She was pretty, both neat and gay
She caused me to rob the road highway
I robbed it, yes, I do declare
And I made myself ten thousand there

Plenty dry goods for to carry me through
My pistol, sword, my money too
My forty-four she never fails
My true love comes for to go my bail

My mother says she has no home
My sister says she's all alone
And now she's left in sad despair
With a broken heart and a baby fair

Now when I die, don't bury me at all
Just place me away in alcohol
My forty-four laid by my feet
Please tell them I am just asleep
Track Name: Goodbye Charlie
Eighteen years in the Tennessee sun
Grew up fishing on the Cumberland
Little Joe, the youngest son
Slung a slingshot and a squirrel gun

Daddy ran ‘shine ‘neath the moonlight
Bowling Green to them Nashville nights
Little Joe learned riding shotgun
To keep your mouth shut till the job is done

Sixty-seven rolled around
Joe got the call and he headed on out
Across the ocean for the Vietnam
Gonna hit the coast running … gonna be a man

Jackie D meet Mary J
You're gonna do just what I say
Grab your gun and roll on out
Your first ramble gonna scream and shout

So tie a ribbon round the old oak tree
Tell my momma don't worry ‘bout me
The weather's warm around Christmas time
I've got an M-16 and my boots are dry

I'm sitting up here like a cat in a tree
Waiting for Charlie, gonna set him free
Uncle Sam said I'm the man
Goodbye Charlie

Bengals on the ground, snakes in the trees
Tet comes a’gunning he don't know about me
Johnny's in the front Charlie's in the back
Tree comes a’crashing six days in the black

Open your eyes now Joe's done his time
Come back alive but he done left his mind
Uncle Sam said, "Son thank you,
Lay down your guns ‘cause we’re through with you."

Now I see the ribbon round the old oak tree
I told my momma don't worry ‘bout me
The weather's warm around Christmas time
I've got an M-16 and my boots are dry

I'm sitting up here like a cat in a tree
Waiting for Charlie, gonna set him free
Uncle Sam said I'm the man
Goodbye Charlie
Track Name: Smokestack Lady
Smokestack Lady, why you gotta treat me so mean?
I've been running these roads up and down, L.A. to New Orleans
I gotta keep them wheels a rolling,
Rolling on down the line straight for you

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

Come on sweet daddy, you know I'd never treat you that way
I got a brand new dress and a pair a shoes and I'm waiting for the day
You come rolling on up over that hill with your smokestack flaming
And your big chrome grill smiling just for me

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

Well I met me a voodoo woman, she said "look me in the eye!
You got a good woman you truck driving fool slow down or you're gonna die."
One more cup of coffee
One more puff on the old smokestack

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

Roll on home daddy, lay that hammer down
The hounds are barking at my door and I really need your loving now
I got a shotgun kiss waiting for you
Two loving arms and whatever you want to

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

Well I was born down in Texas, raised up in Tennessee
Been looking for a woman since the day I was born and baby you’re the one for me
I gotta keep them wheels rolling
Rolling on down the line straight for you

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

Come on smokestack daddy let that engine run
It's time to kick her in high gear and we’re really gonna have some fun
Tick tack tick tack tickety tack
Get on back I got a brand new pair of shoes

I got them eighteen wheels long gone
Ain't seen my baby in too long
I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin’ back
Runaway freeway blues

I got them smokestack, hauling jack, switchback, kickin back
Runaway freeway blues
Track Name: Catherine
Sergeant Foster, tell me now straight
Four thousand pounds of fire and we're in overweight
You say you don't believe we'll ever get her off the ground
Don't worry, sergeant she ain't never let me down
No she ain't never let me down

Up here with the birds and the angels and the bombs
Eighty-nine missions and I ain't twenty-one
Thinking of my mother and the girl I left behind
Come on silver darling, we were born to fly
Yeah we were born to fly

And my Catherine, carry me on your wings
To Lake Michigan and childhood dreams
Where the Red Arrow Highway cuts right through our town
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground

Remember them German boys from Chicago town
Marching down main street and nobody made a sound
I wasn't but a child then, and I ain't much older now
Looking back through the smoke and flames, they never saw it coming down
No they never saw it coming down

And my Catherine, carry me on your wings
To Lake Michigan and childhood dreams
Where the Red Arrow Highway cuts right through our town
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground

Traveled across the ocean, been all around this land
Pontedera, Italy … got drunk in Paris, France
Crossed that old Rhine River, can't be much longer now
Have you heard the news today? We're all heroes now!
Yeah we're all heroes now

And my Catherine, carry me on your wings
To Lake Michigan and childhood dreams
Where the Red Arrow Highway cuts right through our town
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground
Nothing but blue skies and fire on the ground
Track Name: Ruby
Ruby, she won't do right
Ruby, she won't do right
Shines like a diamond, dark as the night
My Ruby, she won't do right

And my Ruby, she holds that devil's hand
Ruby, she holds that devil's hand
See him come around; you know I'll cut him down
Ruby, holds that devil's hand

But I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail
One hundred dollars surely go her bail
I been drinking that corn liquor, but you know I love her still
I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail

Ruby loves that sweet cocaine
Ruby loves that sweet cocaine
Trouble through her mind, poison in her veins
My Ruby loves that sweet cocaine

And my Ruby, she loves another man
Ruby, she loves another man
See that golden ring? It don't mean a thing
Ruby loves another man

But I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail
One hundred dollars surely go her bail
I been drinking that corn liquor, but you know I love her still
I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail

Ruby, oh please come home
Ruby, oh please come home
Got a baby on my knee and hungry mouths to feed
Ruby, oh please come home

I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail
One hundred dollars surely go her bail
I've been drinking that corn liquor, but you know I love her still
I'm going to get my Ruby out of jail
Track Name: By the Wayside
To a little country church house
A place where once I'd kneel and dwell
Made my way through the doorway
In need of God, my sins to tell

I heard them golden bells ringing
Sang them old-time gospel songs
In the Sweet By and By, Beulah Land
For you I long

I felt the spirit come a’calling
Spoke to my soul deep down inside
Pride did fall like a rainstorm
Tears did flow, I could not hide

So if temptation has your number
And worldly fame and fortune call
Say goodbye to your loved ones
By the wayside they will fall

I knew the cost of my sinning
Worldly ways had done me in
Beer and wine and wild living
Take my hand Lord, I am thine

So if temptation has your number
And worldly fame and fortune call
Say goodbye to your loved ones
By the wayside they will fall

My soul was saved, sins forgiven
A spirit light and made anew
Saved my soul but lost my true love
There was no more that I could do

So if temptation has your number
Worldly fame and fortune call
Say goodbye to your loved ones
By the wayside they will fall

By the wayside they will fall
By the wayside they will fall
Track Name: All This Living
She called from Houston
Hotel, new tattoo and boots
Staring at the ceiling
Wondering why we choose the things we choose

And I said, "Hey there darling,
You know I've thought the same thing too.
Sometimes it's hard to tell
If you win or lose.”

She said, "Where did we go wrong?
Where did we make the fatal step?"
"Somewhere between I do
And promises unkept."

There was a moment of silence
And then a laugh
"Ain't no looking back,
Ain't no second chance."

So I'll shoot ‘em while I've got ‘em
Give it all ‘til I'm dead
Though there's storm clouds arising
And lightning flashing ahead

And I'll keep on driving
Over every mile of this land
All of this living
Sure can be hard on a man

Well it's snowing here in Denver
But I've got whiskey in my hand
And I'm staring out the window
Wondering where the hell I've been

And every time I think of her
It's almost more than I can stand
All of this living
Sure can be hard on a man

So I'll shoot ‘em while I've got ‘em
Give it all ‘til I'm dead
Though there's storm clouds arising
And lightning flashing ahead

And I'll keep on driving
Over every mile of this land
All of this living
Sure can be hard on a man
Track Name: Baby Doe
Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe
You're the queen of the silver town, you're the diamond in my soul
You traveled all across the country, you know you've got to find that gold
Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe

Well you went out to the west land, searching for the Promised Land
You fell in with a dealer, he stacked the deck and then away he ran
But of you'd only be my baby, I'd be your sweet loving man
I got sixty-four dollars and a brand new plan
Me and ol’ Frisco gonna climb up way over town
Just a pick and a shovel, and we ain't coming down
‘Til there's a hole in the mountain, see what we find
I hope ya like silver - we've got a brand new mine

Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe
You're the queen of the silver town, you're the diamond in my soul
You traveled all across the country, you know you've got to find that gold
Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe

Now she's struttin' down the main way, no more dodgin' down the alleyways
Mr. Tabor he's a rich man, he's got his baby and a hot hand
But the state of Colorado, don't believe what they can see
Just cause you got some money, don't mean that you've received
An invitation to the party or a hand at the governor's ball
Better get back to the mountain, get back before the fall

Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe
You're the queen of the silver town, you're the diamond in my soul
You travelled all across the country, you know you've got to find that gold
Come on baby, sweet little Baby Doe
Track Name: Glow
I realize tonight, here by your side
All the world is new
So lay down your worries and let's talk for a while
Something we so seldom do

You're making your way through this mean old world
Riding on an ocean of blue
But the sun and the sky shine in your eyes
Lighting the way for you

I'm going away three weeks and a day
Please be good while I'm gone
And I'll do my best and I'll try to get some rest
And I'll hold you in my heart with a song

Goodnight my precious darling
Sleep tight and hold fast to your dreams
When the moon and the stars shine from afar
Know that I'm shining for you

We have a life not perfectly bright
Darkness and trials abound
But hold to my hand and we'll make our stand
There's nothing like a moment with you

Goodnight my precious darling
Sleep tight and hold fast to your dreams
When the moon and the stars glow from afar
Know that I'm glowing with you

Don't be afraid, nothing remains
Only the love in your heart
Like the oak on the hill that's whispering still
A song that lingers when we're apart

Goodnight my precious darling
Sleep tight and hold fast to your dreams
When the moon and the stars smile from afar
Know that I'm smiling for you

When the moon and the stars smile where they are
Know that I'm smiling with you