It’s Only Words: “The Long Drive” by Hamell on Trial

Performed by Hamell
Words and music by Hamell in Trial

It’s difficult to pigeon-hole Ed Hamell, who performs as Hamell On Trial. Imagine the foul-mouthed love child of Billy Bragg and Lou Reed doing stand-up—with guitar, and you might come close. This noirish little nightmare, from his 2000 album Choochtown, is a shaggy dog yarn yapped out over a recurring buzzy, strummy guitar and trumpet motif, and concerns a cynical and lonely P.I. hired to find a missing drug dealer by a criminal attorney who may not be telling all he knows (shocking, isn’t it?). There’s a femme fatale, of course, plus some betrayal and the usual complications that ensue, and everyone gets screwed one way or another. As Hamell says on his web site, “Hats off obviously to Raymond Chandler and the gang.”

I’m a private detective, I left at midnight,
I got a 5 hour drive, a place I don’t want to go.
A lawyer woke this morning, looking for a girl,
I didn’t like his attitude, I can’t pass up the dough.
I knew her from the photo, the fiance of a dead friend,
I didn’t let on sometimes it’s best to pretend.
Her name was Cynthia, her boyfriend Glover,
She was brilliantly doomed, I got a kick how he loved her.
The Long Drive.

Got to the hotel, set the alarm,
I would check the old hangouts so I got up at 10.
No luck by afternoon, I stopped at Brunels,
the bartender said he’s seen her, but couldn’t remember when.
A ten refreshed his memory, Friday she was round
The night that Joe the Box got poisoned, and ended up face down.
His funeral was this evening, though I doubted she’d be there,
They were drug dealing acquaintances and she could hardly care,
The Long Drive.

The funeral was quiet, Box wasn’t that popular,
Cynthia was a no-show, I headed to the car.
I saw Yugoslavian Mike, runs an all night card game for years
I saw him nightly, I was there trending bar.
Hows the game, I asked. It’s a living, Mike said
And I’m glad to say it, Now there’s 4 drug dealers dead,
Every one of them poisoned like Box ,the same
Later, I gotta run, you, stop by the game.
The Long Drive.

I went and caught a movie, would have gone to Glover’s grave,
But he’d been cremated and 
I wondered about the ashes.
Turned up empty on Cyn, some said she’d moved,
I had a hunch, sometimes I get these flashes.
3 AM outside of Mike’s, she was leaving with a box,
I made a U, it was raining, I tailed her 15 blocks.
She parked outside of Glover’s, they’d kept a two-room flat,
I waited half and tapped light, “Mind Cyn if we chat?”
The Long Drive.

Smoked cigarettes in the dark,Both of us quiet,
I remember when I met her, these last years a waste.
All of Glover’s drugs, all of her prayers,
I eased the box from her, I took a little taste.
“His ashes Cyn? Did you cut them with Strychnine”
She wasn’t hiding nothing when her eyes met mine.
“Not a dealer at his funeral, these so-called friends deserved to die,
I slip him in their drinks she said, and then it’s pfft good bye.”
The Long Drive.

“They’re on to you Cyn, they sent me to find you,
They’re small time dealers, but they got bosses.
They probably won’t search, it ain’t that big a deal,
But you gotta leave now, you’re causing them losses.
I can get you set up, come with me to the city.”
She said, “I guess I should go, do you think I’m still pretty?”
We left her car there, she got into my ride,
We hit the bridge after sunrise and threw the ashes over the side.
The Long Drive.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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