jack harlan hymns of sorrow

At the end of the lost highway, just outside of the the town of no return, stands the cathedral of solitude where folk noir hymns are sung with a voice that has seen all the trials we all stumble through.

I wrote this album during a turbulent and dark time in my life not long after I moved to Vancouver in 1994. It was a different city back then, much grittier than it is today. I found myself living in a rooming house on the East side of town sharing the house with a few other lonely souls. For me solace came from late night walks in the streets where I would come up with melodies and go back to my room and write the lyrics until the late hour under candlelight drinking whisky out of the bottle in my small attic room.

I started to make a little name for myself at this amazing poetry and song showcase held across the hall inside the NBI strip club. The Malcolm Lowry Room was a once a week showcase for poets and a few musicians created by poet Micheal Turner. I was 20 years old and did not really know anyone in the city. This was a wonderful home for me to speak my truth. If that place didn’t exist, I would have maybe ended up packing my bags. I made some great connections there, including the talented guy doing sound who offered to record and produce me. Marc L’Esperance gave me the confidence to actually try and lay something down in the studio and offer some support for the songs with textures and stylings. He followed up Hymns of Sorrow by creating some nice gems like Please Don’t Pass Me By, She and Breath of Heaven off my Carnival of Mystery release in 2002. Thanks Marc!

I look back on those years fondly even though they were difficult and somewhat dark for me. These are the songs that came out of it. Enjoy.


  • FormatDigital MP3
  • Release Date1994

3:30 Blues

I’m hung in this dark hour
Back in the temple of gloom
Both innocence and beauty are dead
Long before they’ve even bloomed

My life stolen in a moment
Lightening lost in my bones
Spend the nights hunting the dealer
Asking why has thou dealt me so cruel?

All my trains of glory
Have all left the station
Don’t know why I have become such a hollow man
Trading deliverance for these unknown faces
I’m left lingering ‘neath the moon
3:29 strike up the tune of
The 3:30 blues

Got an old photograph
Got an old lucky charm
It’s about the only two things I got
That I still hold in these cold arms

I’ve flown once with the wings of love
And I bit in the flesh in lust
Now all the diamonds in my life
Have all turned to dust

All my trains of glory
Have all left the station
Don’t know why I have become such a hollow man
Trading deliverance for these unknown faces
I’m left lingering ‘neath the moon
3:29 strike up the tune
The 3;30 blues

Feel like I’ve been done too soon
But the 3:30 blues
Feel like I’ve been done too soon
By the 3:30 blues

No Friend I’ve Known

He laid down his head in the dark of his pillow
As the moon came down through his window
Gazing into the reflection of a bottle he’d just thrown
Thinking this world’s been no friend I’ve known

She laid herself down all dressed in leather
As a stranger of desire came down over her
Give me your money boy I’ll make it good to the bone
Cause this world’s been no friend I’ve known

Well he sat in the park a life he lived almost everyday
Feeding the birds of sorrow to pass the time away
I’m hanging onto nothing now where shall I roam
When this world’s been no friend I’ve known

She smoked her last cigarette in the orange of the morning
Down beside her she watched her child sleeping
Your father he left us we be dead leaves a blown’
And now this world is no friend I’ve known

The world wants your money
Your shirt and your skin
They counterfeit your dreams to make it look like you’ve sinned
But from this empty bedside I’ve flown
Even though this world’s been no friend I’ve known

Chain of Nightmares

It’s a lonesome jaded desperate hour
Your hands have picked every virgin flower
Feet have climbed every golden tower
The sky opens up spits something sour to believe in

The night throws shadows across your floor
You pray there is not anymore
But every thought you have tried to ignore
It gathers outside of your door

You wonder where it all has gone
But was ever there for very long?
You peek your head out
They are still playing the song
Live goes on
Carry on boy

All the time conceal your pain
Keep in line with the parade
But leaning on this broken cane
People cry oh what a shame
When they don’t even remember your name

Hours looking in the mirror
Looking for the face that disappeared
Your hands are shaking
You are drunk on fear
You know there is no exit near
Nobody there to bend an ear
While waiting in this pool of tears
Talking of some ancient cure
But where you are you can not hear
Them bells tolling

All of this is all over you
You who are somehow bound to lose
Walking underneath pale moons
Wandering lonely through the ruin
Wondering if you will make it through
Wondering what there is to get through to
Or will it all come back on you

Somehow you must be brave
That is what your father will say
Can’t remember what cards you have played
No matter everything you have saved adds up to nothing

So lonesome goes down another day
The night becomes a desperate game
It’s truly love that you crave
But love has somehow changed its name
To this a game that you must play
And play it there is no other way
Cause your heart is sinking sinking fast
Caught the future and the past
Not knowing which one is built to last
But everything will surely pass
And another such as you will be born again
Into a chain of nightmares

Chain of nightmares

Thomas J Penny

Thomas J Penny
Well, he was a good man
Though nothing good stood around him
Living in the poor part of town
Well he lived in a three-room shack
With his wife daughter and son
He punched the clock for seven days straight
Came home with something next to none
Thomas Penny never hate the rich
Just got tired of dragging that slave bag
Watching his children coming home
In brand new rags
What do I tell em’
He asked his wife Maria
Is it ever gonna get any better?
See I’ve called to the President a thousand times
And each time with tears on my letters
Thomas J Penny stood
Thrashing the seams apart in his heart
He could see the shades pull down over his eyes
Over every good part
So Thomas told his wife Maria
I’ll be back in a hour
He went down to alley
Bought some garbage can gun
And he drank hard till the midnight hour
And at that time
He wasn’t wrestling with no reason
And not when he came back through the door
His face was cold and cracked
Infernal blaze rising beneath the floor
Maria she was smiling
No, no, no he did not waste time
He could see her face through an empty bottle
No exit to the left
Nor to the right
And he fired one shot
Went down the hall
Fired two more
Before he put the pistol down
His and wife children lay sleeping dead
He felt the silence around him start to howl
And at that he silenced the howl
While the sun was still down
Thomas Penny joined his family
Down on that shallow burying ground

Down to the River

Standing in a hallway
Of an Empire of Emptiness
There’s an October wind through my doorway
Like a ghost of the wilderness
Well my existence is tremblin’ right down to my bone
When you really get down to it
All I got left is silver and gold

I’m going down to the river
In the pale moonlight
If my Lord it don’t deliver
The river’s gonna swallow me tonight

When I was much younger
Hey man I never count a wasted day
Just always bought another
When you’re young you buy
The days with pocket change
Had a hand full of women
And a diamond cane at my side
Now these days when I’m taking the women home
There just ain’t no honey in their pie

That’s why I’m going down to the river
In the pale moonlight
If my lord it don’t deliver
That river’s gonna swallow me tonight

God send me a word
And won’t you make it straight and true
I don’t care what it is
As long as it ain’t something that I’m used to

Got an imported ceiling
I got seven guest rooms
Ten different tailors
My clothes have been woven on a golden loom
I got everything you probably ever wanted
But that’s all my life can lend
I got a million connections
But I ain’t got no friends

So I’m going down to the river
In the pale moonlight
If my Lord it don’t deliver
The river’s gonna swallow me tonight


Got a achin in your bones
Feeling sick , suckered and pawned
When your highway’s broken
Head a mess of blues
Faceless and nameless
No bite left in the booze
It’s a mean old world brother
But you gotta Drive On

Soil beneath you groans
Know not what seed you’ve sown
When it’s your worst nightmare
Nothing on the tv
Except a plastic hero riding shotgun
Crack babies crying in the backseat
No bite left in the booze
It’s a mean old world brother
But you gotta Drive On

World gone wrong
Ain’t had no loving
Thousand tongues flapping saying nothing
When you loose your wedding ring
Your lover flirtin’ with your best friend
Devil in the police car
And your waiting for the world to end
It’s a mean old world brother
But you gotta Drive On

Darkness rolls up your back bone
Ain’t got no home
When your nothing but a hobo
A veteran of the low road
With a raven at your window
No call on the telephone
Last call everyone gone home
And red rivers flow
When they rape your daughter
And the law ain’t on the level
Confidence is crawlin’
Feel like shit on the shovel
When your eyes are tired
Hand ain’t been hired
Either laid off or fired
Brain been wired with no desire
It’s a mean old world brother
But you gotta Drive On

Ain’t no honky tonkin’
Disease mobs the innocent
Part of the game
Your heavenly horse gone lame
Everything the same
Everything the same
Make no difference what they say
Everything comes out the same
It’s a mean old world brother
But you gotta Drive On

Ain’t No Satisfaction

Well, Well, Well
Won’t you bring me some water
My hands are just about fallin’ off of this plough
Hard to understand why I’ve been
Held by sorrow
There ain’t no satisfaction in tomorrow

Well I’m prayin’ on my mother
Got a fever in my head and salt in my eyes
I crawl on a bloody knee through
The misty moonlit forest
Beneath 57 dead lilies her body lies


Well I’m prayin’ on my father
I’m hear to tell em’ that these shoes I’m walkin’ in ain’t no better than his
He’s off somewhere pissin’ off of some
Bar room table
Or pissed off swingin’ his everlasting pitiful fist


Well I’m prayin’ on some sweet stranger
Come heal the disease beneath my chest
They see not the deuce I’ve been dealt
Only danger
Scared there might be a joker concealed beneath my vest


Wonder Where You Are Tonight

Stale breeze blowing through the curtain shade
There’s a pigeon on the window pane
Summer sun sinking down once again
And still nothing changed
I’m still hung on this loneliness
Left alone with a worried mind
Lay my head down in bitterness
Wondering where you are tonight

So many ways
Unafraid to untie myself in your arms
Till one night you turned out the light
Told me you loved me but were losing your life

Yes I received your letter yesterday
About the time I was turning way
Say I am the greatest love you’ve ever known
Still you fail to board the morning train

I can’t fill these empty arms with just anyone
But getting tired of wasting time
What you going to tell me this time to make me carry on
Wondering where you are tonight

Don’t You Want to Hear Your Bird Sing

Good morning to you how do you do?
I’m doing all right how about you?
I’m tired and I’m lonely
Everyday brings the same damn thing
Don’t you wanna hear your bird sing

Walking with your head down to the ground
Hands holding bleeding rose
Ask your best friend why
He says love well, that’s just the way love goes
Isn’t anything sacred anymore
Got divorced still paying off my engagement ring
Don’t you wanna hear your bird sing

Step on to the dance floor
Lights are flashing green and red
Find some kind of lazer boy
Take him home to bed
In the morning he leaps from stained sheets
Gives you an awkward sigh and say I’ll call you or something
Don’t you wanna hear your bird sing

Back here again where the night is long
And you’ve been covered up with mirrors
Wine gone bitter your wrecked on loss
And all you can feel is a constant fear
Black crow on your bedpost
And the day smells like gasoline
Don’t you wanna hear your bird sing

The Whiskey of New Year’s Eve

It’s only 10:30
But this house has been dirty
For a long old time

Don’t know how I got here
But I guess I’ll rot here
Cause there was nothing better going on

I’m standing in the hall
Starring at a painting on the wall
Of a man just before he drowns
Some guy hands me a drink
And I shoot it down

Through the crowd I’m swimming
With everything that’s been given
But I can’t seem to lose this frown
Some girl is knocking on me
I say put another quarter in me
And we’ll dance old the same old song

She’s talking to her friend
As we dance to the end
Somebody gets up and starts a countdown
And I feel alone