The Songs He Sang
Grand Coulee DamBallad: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
Cisco Houston & Lee HaysAppears on:
Well, the world has seven wonders the travelers always tell. Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well. But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam's fair land, On the King Columbia River it's the big Grand Coulee Dam. She heads up the Canadian Mountains where the rippling waters glide, Comes a-rumbling down the canyon to meet the salty tide, Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West That big Grand Coulee country, the land that I love best. At the Umatilla Rapids, at the Priest and at Cascade, Mighty men have carved a history of their sacrifices made, In the foaming, pounding waters of the big Shelilo Falls, It's the big Grand Coulee country that I love best of all. She heads down a granite canyon and she bends across the lea, Like a dancing, prancing stallion down her seaway to the sea; Cast your eye upon the greatest thing yet built by human hands, On the King Columbia River, it's the big Grand Coulee Dam. In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray, Men have fought the pounding waters and they met a watery grave, It tore their boats to splinters but it gave men dreams to dream Of the day that Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream. At Bonneville on the river there's a green and beautiful sight, See the Bonneville Dam a-rising in the sun so clear and white, While the leaping salmon play along the ladder and the rocks, There's a streamboat load of gasoline a-whistling in the locks. Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of 'thirty-three, For the farmer and the factory and for all of you and me, He said, "Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea, But river, while you're rolling, you can do a little work for me." Now in Oregon and Washington you can hear the factories hum, Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum, When you see that flying fortress wing her way across the land, Spawned upon the King Columbia by the big Grand Coulee Dam.
With so little of Cisco on CD, it is a shame Vanguard took the easy way out and placed 7 cuts from The Songs of Woody Guthrie on this collection, but this song certainly belongs. Cisco is wonderful, capturing the poetry of Woody's verses and simple music to create another song honoring brave men and daring deeds. Just look at verse five, with its misty crystal glitter and wild and windward spray.
That is a great line, capturing the sound of water, the look of the spray and the intensity of the danger in the river, using all the techniques of poetry in an effortless and elegant manner. Another winner.