On the Old St. Croix

by @beacon

Liner Notes

My grandfather's family moved from Sweden to Iowa, back to Sweden, and then to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, which is on the US/Canada border on the St. Croix River across from Calais, Maine. My great uncle, Axel Lorentson, lived there most of his life, and became a painter in later life. I am one of his closest living relatives and I have his journal from the mid-1900's which details a lot of his life and family history.

I also found in it a number of songs that he collected, as well as the lyrics to the following song, which were on a newspaper clipping from a John Mitchell of Haverhill, Massachusetts. I have searched with Canadian archives and folk singers, and haven't been able to find it as a song, so I took the liberty to set the poem to music (with some textual editing).

I'll be visiting St. Stephen on October 1st for an exhibition of Axel's paintings, as well as giving a presentation of his life. I'm planning on playing this song for the assembled audience.

#acoustic_one_take #guy_with_ukulele #ukulele #canada #newbrunswick #river #singer_songwriter


[C] Down there in New Brunswick
There's a [F] town I [G7] used to [C] know
[Am] By the St. Croix River,
I was [F] born there [G7] long a[C]go.
The [Am] years have brought some [C] changes
Old [Dm] friends have [Em7] passed [Am] away
I [C] doubt that I know many
In the [F] old home [G7] town to[C]day

Verse 1
The [Am] time-worn wooden [C] sidewalks
Drove [F] splinters [Em7] in my [Am] feet
Have [F] passed with those old [C] lamp posts
And the [Dm] walks are now con[Em7]crete
The [F] sawmills on the [C] river
Where the [G] gang saws used to [Am] whine
Are [F] now but a back [Em7] memory
They’ve [D] long outlived their [G7] time

Verse 2
Those [Am] quaint old wooden [C] bridges
They’d col[F]lect a [Em7] two cent [Am] toll
Have [F] gone with all the [C] others
And [Dm] joined the silent [Em7] roll.
The [F] ships that sailed the [C] river
When [G] I was a young [Am] boy;
Have [F] all heaved up their [Em7] anchors
Are [D] gone from the St. [G7] Croix.


Verse 3
It [Am] does no good to [C] worry
Over [F] things that [Em7] come to [Am] pass
For the [F] moon’s still [C] shining
And there's [Dm] still hay and [Em7] grass.
Some [F] landmarks still are [C] standing
That [G] I saw as a [Am] boy,
Per[F]haps the Lord re[Em7]members
Those [D] folks on the old St. [G7] Croix.

I [Dm] really have no grievance
[Am] No one is to blame.
My [G] name was never written
In St. [C] Stephen’s Hall of Fame.
The [F] old town may be [Bb] humble
But no [G] matter where I [C] roam.
In my [D] heart’s a lingering [Em7] love
For the [Am] place I [D7] once called [G7] home.



Thanks for the background in the liner notes. Very nice lyrics and music! Excellent demo. Nice contrast with the finger-picking and strumming.


This has the feel of an old traditional folk song, hearing it for the first time it almost sounds like it should be a song I've known for years! It's a lovely melody and the rhythm and tempo changes help move the story along nicely.


What a nice song about your hometown. Joining the song from last year about the farm. Enjoyed listening to you singing and playing.


beautiful lyrics and the melodic structure ereminds me a bit of carrickfergus. i lke the way you shift things on the bridge with your voice climbing with the melody.


A compelling narrative well suited to such delicate folky picking. Your voice is lovely as always. Well done!


I think that this is very good songwriting. You have served the story very well. The tempo changes are very good indeed. Excellent performance as always, I'm sure your audience in St Stephen will really appreciate this song.


Beautiful song. I love how the tempo quickens as the protagonist's mood lifts. And the fact that the concerns in the lyrics sound as if they could have been written yesterday says a lot about the human condition. I'm sure this will go down really well at the event commemorating your great uncle's work.


This is wonderful, Ken. What an amazing and rich back story, a real passion project. It's obvious you've spent a good deal of time honing the tune, you can feel the care and attention to detail. Like Nadine, I love the way you change the dynamics and energy through the song, so that the final repeated 'old home town today' hits in a really satisfying way. I think you'll go down a storm at the exhibition. And I'm sure your great uncle will be looking down approvingly too :)


What a cool story! It must be very interesting to dig in family archives and find poems and songs. I'm sure your grand uncle is proud of you.

Musically I like the change of tempo and feeling. It brings a nice movement. The story is well written.