The Last Laugh

by Ben Keyes

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New Ones 03:37
When I was a child And the whole world was enchanted A mad magician haunted all my dreams But then the magic was dispelled I’m rid of ghosts, rid of hell And mad scientists tell me magic isn’t real, but I wake screaming still. I need new ones New ones clawing at my door I need new ones New ones sawing up through my floor Ever since I was a boy I’ve known there was an awful choice Between a heart that’s dead and one that bleeds But heart strings tugged me ‘long a branch Trusting ev’ry shaky inch And snap, the ground came rushing up at me. I been told that for my health gotta dig down deep inside myself and wonder at and worship what I find. But the best those gods can ever do Is make all of your dreams come true Just the ones that occur to you… in your mind I need new ones New ones clawing at my door I need new ones New gods sawing up through my floor.
Went down the mountain with a new song A man in the valley records them But the line at the mic was a half mile long It doesn’t matter, the best music stays at home. A little tune went buzzin’ by my porch swing The fiddle it just reached out and grabbed it Now folks in the city and suburbs can sing Like its coursing through their veins, They’re claiming a long lost friend I’ve ridden the rails in a soft sleeper car I’ve raised hell at well-to-do prep schools drank a little of the best at respectable bars that doesn’t matter, The privileged life can be hard Now I’ve tried to add mine to the long list of love songs But I walked into love, never fell. And I’ve tried my hand at the old murder ballad But my loved one’s are all doing well… pretty well. I’ve sung about the mountains but the lowlands are home born 85 years late. Never rambled or gambled but stayed in my room Where the homework all got done And the songs never strayed from home
The wood fire it warms me from the outside in The whiskey it warms me from the inside out But there’s a sheet of ice inside that’s paper thin All the years, all the booze and beer Has never yet thawed out. Lord have mercy on my lonely Lonely crowded soul, bursting to be full On my bursting soul, breaking to be whole I’ve got a burning lust to take offense I’ve got come backs to insults I have not received Have not come from the ones that I love But I win each time with a killing line Against a foe who is not there. I’m cursed to be a brand new man every day Forgetting what I might have learned from my mistakes And the demons that fill me have their own highway Up from the ground Going up and down And all around my brain.
Like A Child 02:45
I am like a child still Getting into everything Hate to hear that something bad is for my good. I will throw my toys around Throw tantrums when they can’t be found Can’t be trusted but I might be loved. There’s a box tissue by my head when I lay down The covers that I fight for every night when you’re in town Are overwhelming me I’m pharaoh in the sea. Everyday I see this bottle waiting on the shelf Is it too good for me to sit and finish by myself? Or is it too good to share? Would you even care? When its just my mind and I the conversation’s stale. No one to come to your defense but me and when I fail, forgiven hurts survive, Dead arguments revive. The tether you attach to me; The anchor of your charity. If drifting’s what it means to be free, I’ve had enough.
If it wasn’t for you, we might sleep through the night But there’d be no joy in the morning No joy in the morning light. When you couldn’t hold your head up When you couldn’t look around Had a dream of you at the table Swinging feet could touch the ground Teaching you to wait ‘til daybreak Is a hard old load to bare But we’re travelling towards the morning And you and I are siblings there. In the morning we’ll laugh To the cleanest joke That has ever, ever been told. Somehow we’ve always known it, But it will never never get old. In the morning no one will laugh and be a fraud Everyone will get it, at no one’s expense but God’s There were angels in the crib whispering And you cracked a smile But heaven’s jokes are innocent And I don’t get the one’s they tell I hope you’ve forgotten When the whole room laughed at you I was caught up entertaining Now I can’t sleep because of you. Chorus The joke’s on him just like all the food and the wine just like the air, the light, the time. And in the morning, I will rather die then hurt you.
I waited for a melody, waited for a line But got confused, the muse she lingered taking her sweet time. She fin’lly blazed in my room one day when I was out to lunch but you can see her scorch marks on the curtains and the couch. That song’ll get written in God’s sweet time. Went to the doctor and the doctor he sent me To all the eager specialists to feast their minds on me At church they dapped my head with oil and laid their hands on me I cried a thousand prayers at night for the death of this disease If it comes, then it comes in God’s sweet time In God’s sweet time In God’s sweet time Couldn’t see the reason Even less the rhyme Locked inside this clock and the gears they won’t stop grinding What is this bitterness in God’s sweet time? This town once pretended that when it lives or dies Is just like any other thing; something it decides Then the Williams kids all passed when those two cars collided; the line of flowers at the front of the church was three caskets wide. The needle that’s been prickin’ us and skippin’ across the vinyl Is finally gonna catch the groove and ride the thin black line When heaven comes to settle here; no one knows how long But we’ll finally catch the song we’ve caught in snatches for so long Our ears forever ringing to Caught up swaying, swinging God’s sweet time.
Over There 02:40
Asked my brother what he saw over there And he stared like half ain’t been told At his silence I never been so scared That a young man can look so old Asked my brother what he did over there. And he stared like half ain’t been told And he said I’ll never understand It was then that my blood ran cold Some things hands were never made to do Some things ears never made to hear Some things souls are not made to carry ‘round And now we’re beyond repair
There’s two little doves on the window sill One’s just sittin’ there very still The other’s got a little twig in his bill There’s two little doves on the window sill. Now there is a little nest A circle of sticks around mama’s breast She’s brooding all day ‘cause she knows what’s best; There is no life without faithfulness. Let’s be quiet and pull the drapes Don’t wanna scare the little bird away Don’t press your face to the window pane We love the dove and we want her to stay. Now there is a little white egg Perfect as the first egg ever laid gleaming like the last snow ball when all the other snow has gone Now the sun is beating down She’s panting in her coat of down And when the peepers sing at night She’s still there blinking in the soft lamplight. That dove that brought hope long ago Scouring the sea for some green below We wanna know when and we wanna know how We’re still peering off of Noah’s bow. Now there’s a stream of miracles Commonplace, but heaven-sent So hush now baby don’t be upset The world ain’t been abandoned yet!
Drowning 03:53
Ol’ Hank made a threat he would take his life Goin’ down in the river 3 times; only come up twice. Sure enough he drowned in liquor, but he saw the light half baptized and drowning… Got out of jail early; sentence cut in half Didn’t make me smile but it made me laugh, being let loose on the lost highway is a funny kind of free got a rusty ribcage and a heart that won’t stop beating. Half baptized is all we understand We’ve been saved, but saved just to not be damned Half baptized is worse than half way there What is being spared when you’re out of air? Taught but never known well Told but never shown well Half baptized and drowning. Oh well. Us kids we thought that it was our true hope To be let off the hook and then be left alone. But our Dad was never safe after the belt was put away Until he took down that old mandolin to play.
There was a flock of ten One rooster, nine hens And we were dead set on treating them right. We’d been dreaming or talking And didn’t hear the squawking Or screaming of hens in the night While windows were glowing From some lonely burrow The horror came looking for hens And we never saw nothing So needless, so thorough The exploit of weasels or men So we made holy the rules we could handle And fought only winnable fights And settled for vict’ries so small that its shameful The snap of the trap in the night. Unnamed and unheard But known by its work And all that was left; blood and tears In the eyes of my children And their thousand stray comments It was the content of all later fears.
Jericho 04:49
Jericho, I once was rich Made beggars of half that town Widows left without a burlap stitch but I wore sack-cloth under the purple gowns What I heard, I don’t recall. In all the rumors, must have heard his call, but the crowd it gathered round him tight and tall So I ran like a fool along the city wall Climbed a tree, skinned my knee Curious beyond all dignity The first time they all looked up to me They still pretended not to see. They say that Joshua from long ago Came to town, marched around He smiled at me, but not in ignorance He could have frowned. He should have frowned. And somewhere deeper then the solid ground A trumpet sounded, the trumpet sounded And he invited himself home with me I took a rest, I took a rest When he comes to dine with you You are the guest, you are the guest Jericho, I once was lost But I’ve joined the ranks of the kingdom found who once were fortified against all assaults, but never thought to guard against a gift and I’ve been hungry plenty since. but the walls came tumbling down, down, down.
Blow Wind 02:41
There’s a dark shadow that’s been a-followin’ me I’ve tried to nail that shadow down I’ve tried to whitewash the ground where it joins to my feet But it keeps trailin’ me all over town. Blow wind, rise up and blow it away! Well, I’ve sought out the dark where the shadow can hide but along with the dark comes the cold. I’ve slunk back to the fire where the light is so bright; Where the shadow stands stark and bold. Blow wind, rise up and blow it away! Ain’t no light gonna cause it to fade. Rise up and blow it away. Well, it tore up the lawn, and the garden was gone When the wind fin’ly swept up my street. And the shutters were clapping to it’s dark dreadful song And my soul shuddered to its beat. The soles of my feet were torn up, but free; For the wind, it had taken its toll And amidst all the carnage I knew that the roots Of the shadow had been in my soul Blow wind, rise up and blow it away! Ain’t no light gonna cause it to fade. Rise up and blow it away.


The Last Laugh is an album of twelve songs. While it is for grown-ups, it never could have been conceived without the insights and interruptions of my children. Observing them and their responses to what is beautiful and what is nasty in the world has been a source of new vision for me as a father and a songwriter. Musically, it is an American roots album, drawing from country, old-time, gospel and blues traditions. Each of these genres has in some way shaped how I play and write and they each find a voice on the album.


released October 11, 2013

Ben Keyes: lead and background vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, tenor banjo, mandolin, ukulele, electric bazouki, piano, toy piano, foot-pump organ, harmonica, recorders, tambourine and triangle
Kimon Kirk: bass guitars, upright bass, background vocals on tracks 3 and 11.
Billy Beard: drums and percussion
Dietrich Strause: trumpets on tracks 5 and 11, valve trombone on track 10

All tracks recorded at Dimension Sound Studios, Jamaica Plain, MA
Produced by Kimon Kirk, Ben Keyes
Recording engineer: Matt Malikowski
Mixed by Brad Jones at Alex the Great
Mastered by Jim DeMain at Yes Master Studios

Graphic design: Adam Kurihara
Photography: Paul Reuter


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Ben Keyes Southborough, Massachusetts

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