One Paper Kid - Emmylou Harris
The thing about Emmylou Harris that she projects a sense of purity in her music. She has maintained this without coming across as a goody-goody, somehow achieving a depth in her songs that isn't achieved by many of her contemporaries. She is so widely respected she has featured as harmony singer for many great singer songwriters including Bob Dylan and Guy Clark. And of course she was the singing partner of the now legendary Gram Parsons. Here she is backed Willy Nelson on her 1978 album"Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town", Nelson himself a man who looks and sings like someone who has just been dragged backwards through life's hedge.
There are some subtle differences in the words written by song composer Walter Martin Cowart, which are those written on the "Quarter Moon...." record inner sleeve, and the words that are actually sung by Harris and Nelson. Either way, the song is ineffably sad, carrying with an overwhelming sense of useless tragedy. As well as the atmosphere of that ten cent town where nothing happens, emphasised by Nelson's mournful harmonies. Presumably the "one paper" bit is something to do with rolling tobacco, or possibly joints; and he's killed by a drunk driver. Other than that I haven't a clue what it means. Except that I always sang it as "broken hearts scattered all over the pass" as opposed to "past", which somehow sounds even more tragic. And very Gram Parsons.
"Cowboys and indians and trees he could climb tomorrow came too fast but he didn't mind the distance was short so light it again it don't take no time to get where I am
the one paper kid wasn't really so mean just a little bit scared and a little bit green
and he'd heard of a place where it's legal to dream so he sat with his coffee in a blue Texas wind and wrote on the rock "the one paper kid, he's rollin' again"
The driver was drunk or he just didn't see the future was there, it'll happen to me and all the time that he wasted was his once again it never takes too long to go where you've been; broken hearts scattered all over the past old bad memories trying to last whiskey and women and growing up fast fussing and loving and itching like grass
hell the one paper kid wasn't really so mean just a little bit weird cause the times were so lean now he's gone to a place where it's legal to dream no Camels, no coffee, no cold morning wind, writ on the rock, "the one paper kid he's rollin' again
the one paper kid, he's rolling again" ".
Nope. Still can't work out what's it's about. But it gets sadder and more beautiful every time.