"High Winds on the Hilltop

(High Water Below)"

© 1994 Lee Ruth

MP3

Photo: Sam Griffin

Bob Dyer
Bob Dyer - Vocal & Guitar
Cathy Barton - Banjo & Harmony Vocal
Dave Para - Guitar & Harmony Vocal
Greg Spillman - Cello
David Lackey - Upright Bass
Dr. Howard Marshall - Fiddle
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original

 

Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
At the foot of the bluff they made their stand
Friends and neighbors workin' hand to hand
Along with volunteers from across the land
They built a seven-foot levee out of bags of sand.

As the water neared the top of the wall
Many feared that it might fall
But the pumps kept pumpin' all day and night
And the town stood high and dry in the morning light.

High wind on the hilltop; high water below.
Is there any place safe to live or go?
But to go on living is to take a chance.
Who fiddles the tune and who calls the dance?

Across the river in another town
There's not a sandbag to be found
Helplessly watching from higher ground
As their homes went under the waters brown.

They could have used some of those volunteers--
Some of those sandbags to hold back their tears;
And something more than TV crews
And a few brief moments on the evening news.

High wind on the hilltop; high water below.
Is there any place safe to live or go?
Why is one life easy and another life hard?
Who shuffles the deck and who deals the cards?

Some folks are still sufferin' the flood of '93.
To some folks it's over and just a memory.
Some folks can't let go, some have let it be.
Some things about it still are troublin' me.

One house is rebuilt better than before.
Another house is ruined standin' right next door.
One town is reborn on the river shore.
Another town abandoned, I'd like to know what for.

High wind on the hilltop; high water below.
Is there any place safe to live or go?
Who reaps the rewards? Who pays the price?
Who pulls the strings, and who rolls the dice?
For high winds on the hilltop and high water below.

At the foot of the bluff, they made their stand
Friends and neighbors, workin' hand to hand
Along with volunteers, from across the land
They built a seven-foot levee, out of bags of sand
As the water neared the top of the wall
Many feared that it might fall
But the pumps kept pumpin' all day and night
And the town stood high and dry in the morning light

High winds on the hilltop, high water below
Is there any place, safe to live or go
But to go on living, is to take a chance
Who fiddles the tune, who calls the dance

Across the river, in another town
There's not a sandbag to be found
Helplessly watching, from higher ground
As their homes went under the waters brown
They could have used some of those volunteers
Some of those sandbags to hold back their tears
And something more than tv crews
And a few brief moments on the evening news

High winds on the hilltop, high water below
Is there any place, safe to live or go
Why is one life easy, and another life hard
Who shuffles the deck, and who deals the cards

Some folks are still sufferin', the flood of '93
To some folks it's over, and just a memory
Some folks can't let go, some have let it be
Some things about it, still are puzzling me
One house is rebuilt, better than before
Another house is ruined, standing right next door
One town is reborn, on the river shore
Another town abandoned, I'd like to know what for

High winds on the hilltop, high water below
Is there any place, safe to live or go
Who reaps the reward, and who pays the price
Who pulls the string, and who rolls the dice
For high winds on the hilltop, and high water below

Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:
I chose this song because it expresses something about the river and the Great Flood of '93 that I can relate to. I saw the impact the flood had on many of the towns up and down the Missouri River and especially right here in Central Missouri, and I thought Lee captured that impact very nicely. I changed the style of the song a bit from the way Lee does it because I didn't want to try to imitate his own, very distinctive, singing and playing style (and probably couldn't even if I wanted to). The flood of '93 left its high-water mark on objects man-made and natural, and on the psyche of a million or so people who lived or traveled in proximity to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and many of their tributaries. One human result was a great creative outpouring of songs and poems, as people tried to come to an understanding of the extended series of events that constituted the flood and its aftermath. It took me nine months, during which I heard a number of "flood of '93" songs including two great ones: (Bob Dyer's "Flood Song" and Tom Russell's "Big Water"), to finally put my flood of thoughts and feelings into words and music. I may have lost a bit of immediacy for taking my time, but doing so gave me a chance to observe and reflect on the flood and its ongoing effects, and to write a song that I couldn't have written during or immediately after the flood.

Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:
I have known Lee now for thirty or forty years it seems like. He always represented to me the very essence of the roving minstrel and I marveled at how many different styles of music he was familiar with and could play. Sometimes he seems like a gaunt Buddha or a great bearded musical saint. But whatever else he is, he is a true original, a true friend, and an unselfish disseminator of musical lore, technique and spirit. I am proud to have been part of this much deserved musical tribute. I first heard of Bob Dyer when I returned to the University of Missouri as an undergraduate in the fall of 1965, after several years out of school. The path of least resistance had led me to the English department, as a creative writing major, and Bob was a graduate instructor there. During the three years it took me to muster enough credits to put school permanently behind me, we never met, nor did I ever see him, but his name came up frequently as someone who was a good writer of poetry and such, and who also played guitar and wrote songs. (Ask him if he still remembers "Just Another Day".) One balmy night in 1969, a bunch of us were playing and singing in the parking lot next to the Ivanhoe (a local watering hole on 9th Street). It was 1:30 am--closing time--and we were singing "Satisfied Mind" as people were leaving the bar. One man perked up his ears as he heard our song, walked over to where we were playing and joined in singing with us. His voice was rich and melodious and he had a great smile, and I remember thinking, "That's Bob Dyer". Right I was, and for all these years since that night we've been friends, musical and otherwise. I was pleased when he chose "High Winds…" because his own flood song was so good, and I could think of no one who would be a more appropriate choice to sing mine.
Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:

Bob Dyer is mid-Missouri's most prolific musical historian in the true ballad sense of telling stories of the past and present with his songs. Bob picked a song that Lee had taken time to write, based on the amazing flood of 1993, tempered by the repeating floods of 1995. It was a perfect song for Bob to record as he, too, has written more than one song about the Big Muddy. We recorded Bob, Cathy Barton and Dave Para's vocal and instrument tracks all in the same evening. Months later, David Lackey and Greg Spillman came into the studio to record the bowed acoustic bass and deep-as-the-river cello tracks. The final track recorded for the song was Dr. Howard Marshall's fiddle track, just in case you ask, as does the song,"who fiddles the tune?"

This song is historically and socially accurate in its description of what occurred to many small towns on both sides of the Missouri River in those flood years. There is no doubt in my mind that Bob and the rest of his big river friends could still see that brown muddy water stretched from bluff to bluff in their memories when they recorded this song.

Recorded at Pete Szkolka's Studio

Record Dates:

2/27/03 7/9/03 11/4/03

Mixed:11/4/2003

Mixed by Pete Szkolka and Steve Donofrio

 

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