Immigrant Songs

© 2023 Off Hand Productions
Produced by Wolf Loescher and Scooter Muse
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Scooter Muse at Saddell Abbey Studio (Tuscubmia, AL)
Additional recording and engineering by Rich Brotherton at ACE Recording (Austin, TX)
Additional recording by Wolf Loescher at the Rocky Mountain Beach House (Longmont, CO)
Graphic design by Tony Horning
Portrait photo by Rob Randall

  1. A Dance Called America (Words and Music by Rory & Calum Macdonald)
  2. Mariano (Words and Music by Robert Earl Keen)
  3. American Wake (Words by Brent Hoad / Music by Brent Hoad, Stephen Phillips, Ian Byrne, Norman Dahlor)
  4. City of Immigrants (Words and Music by Steve Earle)
  5. American Tune (Words and Music by Paul Simon)
  6. At Home with the Exiles (Words and Music by Ed Miller)
  7. The Rovin’ Dies Hard (Words and Music by Brian McNeill)
  8. Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears (Words and Music by Brendan Graham)
  9. Sutter’s Mill (Words and Music by Dan Fogelberg)
  10. The Hills of Killedmond (Words and Music by Pat Byrne)
  11. ’39 (Words and Music by Brian May)
  12. Living in the Promiseland (Words and Music by David Lynn Jones)


Wolf Loescher – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Irish Bouzouki, Tenor Guitar, Baritone Ukulele, Drums, Percussion
Rich Brotherton – Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar (5), Bass (5), Harmony Vocals (7)
Scooter Muse – Acoustic Guitar, Banjo
Beth Patterson – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
Frances Cunningham – Mandolin, Harmony Vocals
Kendall Rodgers – Accordion, Piano
Tim Britton – Uilleann Pipes, Whistle
Mari Black – Fiddle (2,6,12)
Brian McNeill – Lead Vocal (7), Fiddle (7,9), Concertina
EJ Jones – Highland Pipes
Leah Rankin – Cello

Loescher Family, 1952
Loescher Family, 1952
(Hamburg, Germany)
Loescher Family, 1955
Loescher Family, 1955
Loescher Family, 1953
Loescher Family, 1953
(Hoboken, New Jersey)
Loescher Family, 2017
Loescher Family, 2017
(Longmont, Colorado)

1. A Dance Called America

Starting in the mid-18th century, many of the inhabitants of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland were evicted during what was known as “The Clearances”. And on the Isle of Skye, a new dance was created to memorialize the loss, anger, and hope engendered by this forced journey to the New World.

The landlords came to the peasant trials
To the sacrifice of men
Through the past, and that quite darkly
The present once again
In the name of capital, establishment
Improvers, it’s a name
The hidden truths, the hidden lies
That once nailed you to the pain

Of a dance called America
They danced it round
And waited at the turns
For America
They danced their ladies round

To the candles of enlightenment
Once lit, they say don’t burn
To turn the darkest room of suffering
To a greater state of pain
Don’t tell me that’s behind you now, don’t greet me
Don’t meet your dying blind
It’s our very last stand together
So let’s sever, no regrets

There were days that once held confidence
Strength of will and mind
The camouflage that once washed your fathers
Your sons and daughters time
Another tongue, my love, my island
You’ve gone international
With all the praying men of God
Who stood and watched it all go on

Words and Music by Rory & Calum Macdonald
© Chrysalis-Music-Ltd and BMG Monarch

WL – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Irish Bouzouki, Drums
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
FC – Mandolin
EJ – Highland Pipes

2. Mariano

People immigrate to the United States for many reasons, most of which boil down to a search for either security or opportunity. In this wonderful little short story of a song, we hear a very common story of a simple man looking for honest work so he can send money to his family back home in central Mexico.

The man outside, he works for me, his name is Mariano
He cuts and trims the grass for me, he makes the flowers bloom
He says that he comes from a place not far from Guanajuato
That’s two days on a bus from here, a lifetime from this room

I fix his meals and talk to him in my old broken Spanish
He points at things and tells me names of things I can’t recall
Sometimes I just can’t but help but wonder who this man is
And if when he is gone will he’ll remember me at all

I watch him close, he works just like a piston in an engine
He only stops to take a drink and smoke a cigarette
When the day is ended, I look outside my window
There on the horizon, Mariano’s silhouette

He sits upon a stone in a south-easterly direction
In my heart I know that he is thinking of his home
I’ve never been the sort to say I’m in to intuition
But I swear I see the faces of the ones he calls his own

Their skin is brown as potters clay, their eyes void of expression
Their hair is black as widow’s dreams, their dreams are all but gone
They’re ancient as a vision of a sacrificial virgin
Innocent as the crying from a baby being born

They hover around a dying flame and pray for his protection
Their prayers are all but answered by his letters in the mail
He sends them colored figures that he cuts from strips of paper
And all his weekly wages, saving nothing for himself

It’s been a while since I have seen the face of Mariano
The border guards, they came one day and took him far away
I hope that he is safe down there at home in Guanajuato
I worry though, I read there’s revolution every day

Words and Music by Robert Earl Keen
© BMG Bumblebee o/b/o Keen Edge Music

WL – Lead Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar
SM – Acoustic Guitar
MB – Fiddle

3. American Wake

Imagine a time before Google Maps, before MapQuest, before even the super-sized road atlas you could get in any Walmart…a time when “America” was as unknown as the dark side of the moon…more myth and legend than reality. By the end of The Famine in 1850, nearly one third of the entire population of Ireland had left the country in “coffin ships” for the New World. The odds of surviving the trip and returning home again was so low that families often held a “wake”, a party celebrating the life of the those they were unlikely to see ever again.

In the year of forty-seven
A new tradition came home
From necessity came a brand new name
For the hunger that stalked their bones

They got their affairs in order
And gathered their friends around
What was left of the food and the whiskey too
Was rounded up from this town
Well, they listened to the lies and the stories
A last chance to look them in the eye
Like a walking corpse behind the horse
And you didn’t even get to die

An American Wake was all they had
They never went back to their native land
They left to find a place to stand
With everything they could take
But first they had to face their American Wake

Well, the Brits all said it was written
The famine was willed by God
The Tory crimes of the London Times
Sent many to die in the bog
Some gave gifts for the journey
Some only had tears and a prayer
An eleven week ride when they caught the tide
If they even lived halfway there

Then a jig was danced, and one last chance
For the father to face the son
As the keener wailed they could count the sails
In the rising of the sun
There were blessings and toasts, they buried old ghosts
And they drank to the now and then
As the minutes passed by they tried to deny
They would never see Ireland again

Word by Brent Hoad / Music by Brent Hoad, Stephen Phillips, Ian Byrne, Norman Dahlor
© Elderspub Music

WL – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Irish Bouzouki, Drums
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
SM – Acoustic Guitar
TB – Whistle
KR – Accordion

4. City of Immigrants

I first played this song with The Hounds of Finn in Minneapolis, where we were all immigrants of one type or another. Music has always had the ability to bring people together despite our differences, and create something new and special…an alloy that is stronger than its component parts.

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
I don’t need to go travelin’
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black, city of white
City of light, city of innocents
City of sweat, city of tears
City of prayers, city of immigrants

Livin’ in a city where the dreams of men
Reach up to touch the sky and then
Tumble back down to earth again
Livin’ in a city that never quits

Livin’ in a city where the streets are paved
With good intentions and a people’s faith
In the sacred promise a statue made
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of stone, city of steel
City of wheels, constantly spinnin’
City of bone, city of skin
City of pain, city of immigrants

All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Every one is everyone
All of us are immigrants
Every one

Livin’ in a city of immigrants
The river flows out and the sea rolls in
Washin’ away nearly all of my sins
Livin’ in a city of immigrants

City of black, city of white
City of light, I’m livin’ in a city of immigrants
City of sweat, city of tears
City of prayers, I’m livin’ in a city of immigrants
City of stone, city of steel
City of wheels, constantly spinnin’
City of bone, city of skin
City of pain, I’m livin’ in a city of immigrants

Words and Music by Steve Earle
© Wc Music Corp. o/b/o Exile on Jones Street Music

WL – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Irish Bouzouki, Tenor Telecaster, Drums
BP – Bass Guitar
TB – Uilleann Pipes, Whistle
KR – Accordion
FC – Harmony Vocals

5. American Tune

You don’t have to cross an ocean to be an immigrant…sometimes all you have to do is move from one part of the country to another. Growing up, I moved every 3-4 years due to my father’s job, so home has never been a specific place but wherever my family happened to be. And wherever we were, we always had music to share. This is a song about resilience, waking up every morning, putting one foot in front of the other, and moving on down the road to a “better place”.

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
But I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home
So far away from home

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
But it’s all right, it’s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiling reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right, all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying is to get some rest

Words and Music by Paul Simon
© Songs of Universal, Inc. o/b/o Paul Simon Music

WL – Lead Vocals
RB – Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Bass
SM – Banjo
LR – Cello

6. At Home with the Exiles

Ed Miller inspired me to pursue my love for Scottish folk music, and I’m honored to share this song about his personal experiences as an immigrant from Edinburgh to the wilds of Central Texas.

Across the Atlantic he did fly
Left old Scotland, he know not why
Never dreamt that he’d say goodbye
Didn’t plan to be an Exile

He landed in Amerikay
For just a year or so to stay
But he’s still living here today
Happy among the Exiles

His only homeland is six foot high
For its independence he will die
No matter where his feet may fly
He’ll be at home with the Exiles

Between two places your self can get torn
The place you live and the place that you were born
For one you knew, and one seems so foreign
When first you became an Exile

So many trips there he’s made back
To enjoy the music and the craic
But each time his bags he repacked
And gone on home to the Exiles

And his amigo from the Andes high
A samba or a cuica can bring tears to his eye
But his team, and his wife, and his son who’ll grow high
Will keep him happy as an Exile

And the fiddler mannie frae Aberdeen
Make his living on an IBM machine
But he never forgot the Bordies where he’d been
Before he became an Exile

For there’s good thing here, and there’s good thing there
There’s love, food, and music everywhere
And there’s always friends with these things to share
If you enjoy your life as an Exile

For narrow national pride is for a mind that’s small
I’m only too happy to have these friends all
And find the true meaning of International
Everyone is an Exile

Words and Music by Ed Miller
© Grian Music (Uk)

WL – Lead Vocals, Irish Bouzouki, Drums, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
FC – Harmony Vocals
MB – Fiddle

7. The Rovin’ Dies Hard

Some were forced to leave, some chose to leave…but all were looking for something better, something more. This seminal song of Scottish immigration was recorded by the Battlefield Band in 1987 for their “Celtic Hotel” album, and is one of my favorite songs of all time in any genre. It as an honor and pleasure to be joined on this track by the song’s composer, master musician and noted author Brian McNeill.

My name’s John McKenzie, I’m a master-at-arms
And I carry my sword and my shield on my shoulder
I’ve fought every fight frae the Don tae Danube
None braver, none better, none bolder
I’ve stood wi’ Montrose and against him
I’ve battled wi’ Swedes and wi’ Danes
And I’ve carried the standard of many’s the army
Through many’s the bloody campaign
But now as I sit in the firelight it seems
There’s a distant horizon tae the sword buckle’s gleam
Till a pull at the wine brings an old soldier’s dream from afar
For the Rovin’ dies hard

I’m Callum McLean, I’m a trapper to trade
And its forty long years since I saw Tobermory
Through Canada’s forests I’ve carried ma plaid
And her pine trees can tell you my story
But my wanderin’ days they are over
And I’m thankful to still be alive
For I’ve many’s the kinsman who died in the hulks
At the end of the bold Forty-Five
I’ve an Indian lass now I’ll never deceive her
But there’s nights when I’d up wi’ my gun and I’d leave her
For the land where the bear, and the fox, and the beaver are lord
For the rovin’ dies hard

My name’s Robert Johnston, I’m a man of the cloth
And I’ll carry ma Bible as long as I’m breathing
I’ve preached the Lord’s Gospel from Shanghai tae Glasgow
Where’er He saw fit to make heathens
But now the Kirk’s calling me homewards
It’s the manse and the elders for me
But the sins of the Session will no’ be sae far
From the sins of the South China Sea
And perhaps it’s the voice of the Devil I’ve heard
For it speaks of the clipper ships flyin’ like birds
Till a man’s only comfort is Scripture and the word of the Lord
For the rovin’ dies hard

My names Willie Campbell I’m a ship’s engineer
And I know every berth between Lisbon and Largo
I’ve sweated mare diesel in thirty-five year
Than a big tanker takes for a cargo
O’ the good times I’ve always had plenty
Where the whisky and the woman were wild
And there’s manys the wean wi’ the red locks o’ the Campbells
That’s ne’er seen the coast o’ Argyll
But now as the freighters unload on the quay
The sound o’ the engines is calling tae me
And it sings me a song of the sun and the sea and the stars
For the rovin’ dies hard

I’ve tuned up my fiddle, I’ve rosined my bow
I’ve sung of the clans, and the clear crystal fountains
I can tell you the road and the miles tae Dundee
Tae the back of Alaska’s wild mountains
And when all of my wandering is over
And the next o’ the rovers will come
And he’ll take all the songs and he’ll sing them again
Tae the beat of a different drum
And whenever I’m asked why the Scots are beguiled
I’ll lift up my glass in a health and I’ll smile
And I’ll tell them that fortune dealt Scotland the wildest of cards
For the rovin’ dies hard

Words and Music by Brian McNeill
© Budde Music Inc.

WL – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Drums, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar
SM – Acoustic Guitar
FC – Mandolin
BM – Lead Vocals, Fiddle, Concertina
KR – Accordion
RB – Harmony Vocals

8. Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears

In response to the COVID lockdown in May of 2020, I began a regular online Facebook livestream called “The Howl”…and it continues to this day, every Saturday night. One of the early “Howlers” (Joseph Cooper) introduced me to Seán Keane’s performance of this wonderful song, and I’m so glad he did.

On the first day of January
Eighteen ninety-two
They opened Ellis Island
And they let the people through
And the first to cross the threshold
Of that Isle of hope and tears
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years

Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears
Isle of Freedom, Isle of Fears
But it’s not the Isle you left behind
That Isle of Hunger, Isle of Pain
Isle you’ll never see again
But the Isle of home is always on your mind

In a little bag she carried
All her past and history
And her dreams for the future
In the Land of Liberty
And courage is the passport
When your old world disappears
But there’s no future in the past
When you’re just fifteen years

When they closed down Ellis Island
In Nineteen Forty-Three
Seventeen million people
Had come there for Sanctuary
And in springtime when I went there
And I stepped onto it’s piers
I thought of how it must have been
When you’re just fifteen years

Words and Music by Brendan Graham
© Peermusic III Ltd

WL – Lead Vocals, Baritone Ukulele
BP – Bass Guitar
SM – Acoustic Guitar
TB – Whistle, Uilleann Pipes
FC – Harmony Vocals

9. Sutter’s Mill

When I first started collecting songs for this album, our very good friend Alison (with one “L”) Madson suggested this one. I have a personal connection to the California Gold Rush, since my anscestors on my mother’s side – Robert Lawlor – came from County Laois in Ireland to Chicago to escape The Famine, and then moved on to Sacramento to find his fortune. I refer to him affectionately as “Stumpy Bob”, because according to family history his left leg was one inch shorter than the his right.

In the Spring of Forty-Seven
So the story it is told
Old John Sutter went to the mill site
Found a piece of shining gold

Well, he took it to the city
Where the word like wildfire spread
And old John Sutter soon came to wish he’d
Left that stone in the river bed

For they came like swarms of locusts
Every woman, child, and man
In their lumbering Conestogas
They left their tracks upon the land

Some would fail and some would prosper
Some would die and some would kill
Some would thank the Lord for their deliverance
And some would curse John Sutter’s Mill

Well, they came from New York City
And they came from Alabam’
With their dreams of finding fortunes
In this wild unsettled land

Well, some fell prey to hostile arrows
As they tried to cross the plains
And some were lost in the Rocky Mountains
With their hands froze to the reins

Some pushed on to California
And others stopped to take their rest
And by the Spring of Eighteen-Sixty
They had opened up the West

And then the railroad came behind them
And the land was plowed and tamed
When Old John Sutter went to meet his maker
He’d not one penny to his name

Words and Music by Dan Fogelberg
© EMI April Music Inc.

WL – Lead Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
FC – Mandolin, Harmony Vocals
BM – Fiddle

10. The Hills of Killedmond

I had the great good fortune to meet and befriend Pat Byrne in Houston, Texas at the mighty McGonigel’s Mucky Duck (where I also met my wife). He was born and raised in the tiny town of Borris in County Carlow, and after winning the Irish version of “The Voice” in 2012, he came to Austin, Texas to record an album, and never went back! This is the first song he wrote after “crossing the pond”.

Drink from the cool Red River
And tie back your hair
Jump up from behind the tall grass
And give me a scare

Always on my mind
Pictures from the mountainside
Rolling through the hills of Killedmond

Remember when we built that little tree house
Without hammers or nails
As soon as the heavens opened
The little trail house fell

Always on my mind
Memories from the mountainside
Rolling through the hills of Killedmond

It took me a while, but now I can see
The people around made a difference in me
You gave me life, and you watched me grow
You taught me the things I needed to know
Now I’m sailing away, away to be free
The place where I’m from still lives within me
I just needed some time to be by myself
Stop following dreams meant for somebody else
When this hard life starts to take its toll
Then I know the place where I wanna go
When I find the one to have and to hold
When I’m settling down, I wanna go home
To the hills of Killedmond

Always on my mind
Pictures from the mountainside
Rolling through the hills of Killedmond

Words and Music by Pat Byrne
© Pat Byrne Publishing c/o Have We Got Music for You

WL – Lead Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Drums, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar
FC – Mandolin, Harmony Vocals
RB – Electric Guitar

11. ’39

How many times do you get the opportunity to put a song written by a guitar deity and noted astrophysicist about Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity on a folky album about immigration, and feature a champion banjo player to boot? Exactly once.

In the year of ’39 assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out
Into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas
Ne’er looked back, never feared, never cried

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

In the year of ’39 came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news
Of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and gray
Little darling, we’ll away
But my love this cannot be
For so many years have gone
Though I’m older but a year
Your mother’s eyes, from your eyes, cry to me

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand
Cannot heal me like your hand
For my life, still ahead, pity me

Words and Music by Brian May
© EMI Glenwood Music Corp. o/b/o Queen Music Ltd.

WL – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Drums
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
SM – Banjo
KR – Accordion
FC – Mandolin

12. Living in the Promiseland

Having just celebrated his 90th birthday, Willie Nelson looms large in my musical pantheon. This seemed like the perfect song to wrap up the album…a song of hope, and a song about the “real America” where we can all live together in peace, harmony, safety, and security…regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or position on gun ownership.

Give us your tired and weak
And we will make them strong
Bring us your foreign songs
And we will sing along
Leave us your broken dreams
We’ll give them time to mend
There’s still a lot of love
Living in the Promiseland

Living in the Promiseland
Our dreams are made of steel
The prayer of every man
Is to know how freedom feels
There is a winding road
Across the shifting sand
And room for everyone
Living in the Promiseland

So they came from a distant isle
Nameless woman, faceless child
Like a bad dream
Until there was no room at all
No place to run
And no place to fall

Give us our daily bread
We have no shoes to wear
No place to call our home
Only this cross to bear
We are the multitudes
Lend us a helping hand
Is there no love anymore
Living in the Promiseland

Words and Music by David Lynn Jones
© Bluewater Music Corporation o/b/o Mighty Nice Music and Skunk de Ville Music

WL – Lead Vocals, Baritone Ukulele, Drums, Percussion
BP – Bass Guitar, Harmony Vocals
SM – Acoustic Guitar
FC – Mandolin
KR – Piano
MB – Fiddle

Thanks to…

Christina – without whom none of this would be possible, Kristie Loescher, the Quillin quorum, the Piper Jones Band, Alexander Stewart, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, North Texas Irish Festival, Herb Taylor (aka “The Maker”), Alison Madson, Kyle Giacco, The Rigae, The Higgae, Kevin & Jess Kennedy, John Timaeus, Dr. Alison Davidow, Cappy & Laura Phipps, Kathleen Jackson & Richard Jones, Lala Hilbun, Doc & Kimberly Grauzer, Brenda Warren, GrammaJoyce Williams, The Howlers, all my Kickstarter backers, and all the artists who contributed to this project.

Dedicated to the memory of Mary and Wolfgang Loescher