Do you remember driving south on I-85 or I-95 or even US-1, watching the cities disappear as you came through Virginia, back before anyone lived there, back before Wal-Mart? About six miles past the first South of the Border billboard, someone in the car has to pee, and the McDonald's was back at the billboard, and nobody feels like stopping on the shoulder, besides, it's probably some farmer's land--ever been there?--and you catch an exit to a county road somewhere in one of the Carolinas, and just as the last of the urban and top 40 stations fades off the radio, squelched out by furry bluegrass or gospel, you see the gas station you want to stop at--and it's closed. Of course it's closed, because nobody lives out here, nobody takes this exit. But you keep driving, now, because the road's too narrow to do a U-turn on, and the ditches on either side of the two-lane road are deep. You pass a few more farms, a stretch of woods, and then over a one lane bridge into a little town. Ever happen to you?

...Or maybe you grew up there. Cutting peaches with whatever was at hand and sharp, walking around the woods with snakes and dirt, sneaking a sip out of a still on a summer day that turns closed eyelids scarlet from the inside. And either way, you know exactly what James Taylor was thinking about back in 1991. He released "New Moon Shine" that year, and the first track was this one. "R. Price" is also credited with songwriting on it, but it's the sort of song that reminds old fans of Carolina in my Mind. Quiet acoustic guitar on melody and the bass line, some piano in the background--it's the kind of song that might even sound better if he didn't have the synthesizers in the studio, but just played it out on a cool fall night with nothing plugged in, sipping sweet tea before he sang.


Even the old folks never knew
Why they call it like they do;
I was wondering since the age of two
Down on Copperline.
Copperhead, copper beech
Copper kettles sitting side by each
Copper coil, cup o' Georgia peach
Down on Copperline
Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
Leaning heavy on the end of the week
Hercules and a hog-nosed snake
Down on Copperline...
We were down on Copperline.

One summer night on the Copperline,
Slipped away past supper time:
Wood smoke and moonshine,
Down on Copperline.
One time I saw my daddy dance,
Watched him moving like a man in a trance.
He brought it back from the war in France,
Down to Copperline.
Branch water and tomato wine
Creosote and turpentine
Sour mash and new moon shine:
Down on Copperline,
Down on Copperline.

First kiss ever I took:
Like a page from a romance book,
The sky opened and the earth shook
Down on Copperline,
Down on Copperline.
Took a fall from a windy height.
I only knew how to hold on tight,
and pray for love enough to last all night
Down on Copperline.

Day breaks and the boy wakes up
And the dog barks and the bird sings
And the sap rises and the angels sigh, yeah...

I tried to go back, as if I could:
All spec house and plywood
Tore up, and tore up good,
Down on Copperline.
It doesn't come as a surprise to me
It doesn't touch my memory
Man I'm lifting up and rising free
Down over Copperline.
Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
I'm only living for the end of the week
Hercules and a hog-nosed snake,
Down on Copperline, yeah,
Take me down on Copperline.
Oh, down on Copperline...
Take me down on Copperline.

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