Brother Mark

Brother Mark


Americana artist. Heartland noir originals. BROTHER MARK live act is guitar, mandolin, fiddle and three-part harmonies behind story songs that explore dark corners of American folk history. "Backwoods gothic of both raw immediacy and patient craftsmanship."


Brother Mark is Americana artist Mark Lucas. Kentucky-born. Raised on country, soul, and mountain traditional. Writes story-songs that explore dark corners of American folk history. Layers acoustic instruments in an unusual mix with Hammond B-3. Gritty vocals channel the strange characters who inhabit the songs. Live act is acoustic trio with guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and three-part harmonies.

Brother Mark's solo Americana album, Rough Lumber, is slated for spring '09 release. Thirteen stories, each springing from a different point of view and historical moment. "Shrewd, lyric-driven country noir." "Backwoods gothic of both raw immediacy and patient craftsmanship."

Lucas played, sang, and wrote with the roots group Billyblues for ten years. The band was known for the dark wit and weathered three-part harmonies of its originals. Billyblues recorded four albums (three DIY, one on the indie label OneTooth), garnered radio and TV play, and toured in the southeast.

Interview in Jan.-Feb. '08 American Songwriter magazine. Author of books on southern fiction and art when not writing music

For more:


Whiskey Railroad

Written By: Mark Lucas

Mama said Daddy was a deadbeat drunk
Then she pulled up the cover and she died
Daddy took a drink and then he wiped his jaw
Said, Son, it’s a lie and here’s why:
I can beat the bottle anytime I want
Once I’ve made my mind, it’s set
Where’s it writ that I can’t quit
I just ain’t wanted to yet

Lift: It's a downhill grade on the devil's backbone
Hear the fireman cry, She's running hot
You're screaming steam and smokestack lightning
But can you make that turn if the brakes are shot?

Chorus: Whiskey railroad—just one more ride then you’ll get off
Whiskey railroad--when you crash and burn, that’s your stop

Daddy spent his draw on raw white mule
Then he beat us with the back of a spade
But he corked the jug and he kicked that corn
The day we laid him in the grave
Sister might’ve fallen down weeping in fits
Brother’s eyes might’ve been wet
And I might mourn like a true firstborn
We just ain’t wanted to yet

Lift & Chorus

Instrumental verse

Preacherman says it’s dust to dust
Let us not forget
This soul has flown to the judgment throne
It just didn’t want to yet


He’d say, I can beat the bottle anytime I want
I just ain’t wanted to yet . . .


Written By: Mark Lucas

[song for female vocal]

For a one-mule cottonpatch dirtfarmer’s daughter you could say I was doing alright
With a 20-room gold-plated uptown mansion and a red Porsche in the drive
And I would’ve been happy as a dog with two tails, could’ve been sweet as cherry pie
Coulda woulda shoulda been a lot of good things if it hadn’t been a big lie

Did we ever make it even once through dinner, you didn’t say “I’ve got to take this call?”
That poker face, boy, said monkey business—somebody’s hand’s in the candy jar
Late nights waiting up all alone, I'd dial your cellphone line
You always picked up her calls, why don't you pick up mine?

Chorus: Pick up that phone (why don’t you?), pick up that phone (why won’t you?), pick it up—pick up that phone

I used to text a little message just to pass the time but I guess I never did hit send
HSDUTIA: How stupid do you think I am?
I’ve always had a bad bad bad short temper, so I took it for a good long stroll
Till the poison in my mind knew where it had to go

When you went face down in the grits and gravy, well I was just so stunned
By the time I got done sipping my bourbon—too late for 9-1-1
I bore my grief in graveside black, no pearls, just a Tiffany locket
And there was something I did before they closed the lid—I put that phone in your pocket

Chorus: Pick up that phone (why don’t you?), pick up that phone (why won’t you?), pick it up—pick up that phone

Now I’m the buzz, I’m the click, I’m the ringtone, baby, I’m the flicker on your smartphone screen
I’m the girl in the blood-red Porsche GT, checking out your new singles scene
I like to drive that little red rocket slow out by your grave
I like to settle back and dial your pocket—just for old time’s sake

Chorus: Pick up that phone (why don’t you?), pick up that phone (why won’t you?), pick it up—pick up that phone
[+background countermelody: I’m the buzz, I’m the click, I’m the ringtone, baby,
I’m the flicker on the smartphone screen, now baby, I’m the name on caller ID]

Spoken on fade: What’s taking so long? Can’t get to the phone right now? Out of range? Do something. Find a hot spot. Think outside the box—that’s what you were always saying. You must be on silent . . .

Graveyard Day

Written By: Mark Lucas

They’re gonna call off Christmas if tomorrow’s like today
The psychic hotline froze, the sun was DOA
Did you hear they found Alberta guilty by default
Forty counts of aggravated assault

Chorus: It’s a graveyard day in December
That old black crow is flying low
Snow’s on the way and all I can say is I miss you, I miss you, come back

I drove a rail-spike in the fog and hung up your ID
But no-one’s heard a thing and it’s too grey to see
The priest at Holy Name says it’s too late to pray
And they’re shooting Jack now, they’re shooting Jacks back at AA


Skins down by a dime, it’s snowing dead doves in D.C.
All the backs have charges pending, they’re copping pleas
It’s hailing taxis in St. Louis, despair in St. Marie
Rock salt over Kansas and misery on me

Bridge: I dreamed that you came back
You were sitting in a cottonwood tree
Junebugs were singing like monks on their knees

Half Chorus: But snow’s on the way and all I can say
Is I miss you, I miss you, Summer come back


Written By: Mark Lucas

Complainant says drunk neighbor is talking out of her head
Mother won’t get up, caller thinks she’s dead
Juvies starting mulch fire in front of A&P
Crying child left locked in back of black Ford LTD
Report of basement meth lab and suicidal son
Call from Duncan Hill says someone’s pulled a gun

Chorus: Trouble (yeah, trouble, that’s what we got)
Trouble (oh, trouble, that’s what we got)
Trouble (ooh, trouble, that’s what we got)
Sister, we got trouble

Heifer loose from stockyard, drive-off at BP
Wheelchair going northbound US 33
Copper wire’s gone missing, suspected a.m. theft
Oxycontin forgery, Broadway CVS
Caller advises rattlesnake in crosswalk, 5th and Main
Man trapped in van by his pit bull just shot the thing


Caller from Iraq, requesting welfare stop
Wife won’t answer phone, had dream that she’s run off
Leukemia bucket stolen, gravestones vandalized
Report of woman selling child to couple from Ohio
Decapitated nanny in field off Poorhouse Road
Crack in dam is spewing steam, Wolf Creek’s gonna blow

We’re all in this together between the obits and the weather
Blood in the blotter, our cries to 911


Mark of Cain

Written By: Mark Lucas

The fire went out and the dark came down
His mother’s words beat like a drum
“Ben Coulter’s back on the mountain, son
Are you the man to be the one?
You were just a cradle baby when he shot your daddy down
But blood cries out for blood and by God your name’s McCowan”
Coulter blood ran on the stones before the day had dawned
McCowan fled in wind and rain to the land beyond

Chorus: Down in the dark to the east of Eden
Where the face of God has turned away
In the land of Nod a ragged shadow
Bears the mark, the mark of Cain

He walked the earth through wells and mines
Through granite pits, through the devil’s guts
He dug with fire for the railroad gods
His hand the hand of the Vulcan dust
A camptown lady took him in but learned to curse the day
She gave her bed to a dead man only looking for a grave
No glimpse of hills of home as all the long years passed
Till one cold day in wind and rain the road led back


A half-grown boy sat up in bed
His grandma’s hands held out the gun
“McCowan’s back on the mountain, son
Are you the man to be the one?”

Babylon Highway (Stick It)

Written By: Mark Lucas

Rehab’s for quitters, SUV’s suck gas
In God we trust, others must pay cash
I’m not driving fast, just flying low
If you don’t like my driving, honk while I reload
Chaos and confusion, my work here’s through
You don’t believe in the devil, but he believes in you

Chorus: I’ve got my battle rattle on (on the road to Babylon)
I’m rolling toward a town called Babylon (on the road to Babylon,)
I’ll eat greens and sop the liquor (on the road to Babylon)
But I won’t think outside the sticker (on the Babylon Highway)

The beatings will continue until morale improves
As long as there are tests, there’ll be prayer in school
Honk if you love Jesus, are you born again
Born all right the first time, honk if you love sin
Adam was a rough draft, Eve was framed
Errors have been made, others will be blamed


It’s lonely at the top, it’s no party at the bottom
Just say no, but smoke ‘em if you got ‘em
Shoot that jerk behind me, buy more useless crap
Kindness is contagious, so get the hell on back
Hang up and drive, save the planet, nuke the whales
When all you got's a hammer, everything looks like nails

Chorus: The battle lines have all been drawn (on the road to Babylon)
One side’s pro, the other’s con (on the road to Babylon)
All left or right just like the clicker (on the road to Babylon)
Don’t make me think outside that sticker

Outro (sung over refrain: Stick it, across the chrome):
Hug a tree, nature needs a friend
Hug a logger, you’ll never hug a tree again
Bitch without a cause, never pet a burning dog
God is dead said Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s dead said God
Got bit by a sound bite, you did too
Truth can be so hard, a dab’ll do

The Sideshow

Written By: Mark Lucas

Wolf Boy, Tom Thumb, Missing Link
Sad-Eyed Serpentina and Armless Girl Marie
We’ve been right here, your oldest dream
Strange and wondrous cousins that wait behind the screen
Step right up, look and see, five hundred dollars guaranteed
All true, this way from birth
We’re the sideshow of the greatest show on earth

Two rows, ten tents, make your choice
The tank of Feejee Mermaid, the cage of Monkey Boy
Half-price, six cents, children under twelve,
Watch Two-Headed Girl sing with herself
Step right up, can this be true, temples of the Holy Ghost just like you
Laughter without mirth at the sideshow of the greatest show on earth

We’ve been kicking sawdust since the Flood
Nothing slows us down but jump-day mud
We don’t complain, can’t be what we’re not
Doing the best we can with what we got

KooKoo, Bird Girl, sold by her ma
Said sometimes the way they look at me makes my feathers crawl
No dodge, no trick, no pigeon up the sleeve
This is what we are, nothing changes when you leave
So step right up, gape and stare, bust a gut, we don’t care
Just drop two bits for our day’s work
For the sideshow of the greatest show on earth

GTT (Gone to Texas)

Written By: Mark Lucas

My mother said I’d be all right someday when the sap went down
But my still won’t run, I sold my mule, and I aint cut out for a plow
Kate’s up the duff and crazy, told her old daddy it’s mine
He’s at the door with a horsewhip—reading the sign

Chorus: Scratch it on the window, write it on the door
Paint it on the barn, gouge it in the floor
Nail it to a fencepost, carve it in a tree
Just three letters—GTT
GTT, Gone to Texas

Spurring this old piece of crowbait to the river by dawn
Just got a Tennessee Toothpick and the suit I have on
That dandy I cut at the bit house was the sheriff’s son
Aint waiting to see how the cat jumps, got to run


The Boss got mad at the Devil—said, “You’re running that place in the ground”
He deputized some angels to take a look around
Nobody home in the junkyard, just broken-down wagons and weeds
And some paint on the side of the privy—said, “GTT”

Chorus: Scratch it on the window, write it on the door
Paint it on the barn, gouge it in the floor
Look out, Sam, aint seen the like of me
Here I come, I’m GTT
GTT, I’m gone to Texas

I've Been Waiting

Written By: Mark Lucas

I been on this place since ‘32
The day I rode in here I looked a lot like you
No highway then just a gravel lane
I rode a fine jack mule through the Cumberland rain
All my kin dead and gone but they left me this
An old stone house and a cobweb kiss
Why I stayed, well, I wish I knew
Come in, I’ve been waiting for you

Chorus: The rocking chair rocks when there’s nobody there
And the dog just keeps barking into empty air
And it’s a cold wind coming down the stairs tonight
When the coals burn out in the fireplace
When the mirror shows a second face
Will you run or will you stay?
Come in, I’ve been waiting

Do I believe in ghosts? I won’t lie
There are three kinds of breath that will not die
What lived here once still lives here now
In the dark you’ll feel the power
One loves too much to ever leave
One hurts too much to find the end of grief
The third sad shade has lost the way
Help it find death’s door, it will fade away


In an old tin box in the upstairs hall
You’ll find a loveknot ring and a cornshuck doll
And a whalebone locket with a picture inside
A portrait of me before I died

Out: The rocking chair rocks when there’s nobody there
And the dog keeps barking into empty air
And it’s a cold wind coming down the stairs
Come on in, I’ve been waiting


LPs with Billyblues: Where the River Meets the Mountains (1999), Moods of St. Mildred (2002), Third Shot (2004), and Blind Date (2007). BROTHER MARK solo project scheduled for spring '09 release.

Set List

Two 45-minute sets dominated by originals. Some uptempo folk covers: "Mary, Don't You Weep," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "John the Revelator," "Jordan."