Cisco Houston Web Site

The Songs He Sang

Grand Coulee DamBallad: Lyrics

As performed by Cisco Houston

Cisco Houston & Lee Hays

Appears 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.

Of note:

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.

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