Exact Change

Released in 2000, Exact Change has been played on folk radio from California to New Zealand.  A selection of both original songs and covers of my favorite tunes, it caught the attention of some of my all-time folk music heroes like Christine Lavin (…a gorgeous, rich voice [and] an ear for clever lyrics…I’m so happy to know that she is out there singing songs like these in here part of the world. Lucky them!”) and David Roth (“Sandy’s a splendid singer and musician, and her songwriting stands straight and true alongside the likes of Cosy Sheridan, Dar Williams, the Berryman’s on her debut disk… an artist worth hearing…”).

Bob McKenzie of Soundbytes Magazine in Canada had this to say about the album:

Cash is an interpreter of songs, and a fine one at that. Only two of the songs on this release were written by Cash. The rest were clearly selected for their sense of story and for the power of their telling. Given the wide variety of material from which she could have chosen, Cash demonstrates a finely honed instinct for excellent writing and for stories certain to move an audience.

Cash has a powerful voice and an evocative, theatrical vocal style. This is not the voice or style we would usually associate with a folk singer. Rather, Cash has the power and broad interpretive style of a Bette Midler or Barbra Streisand or, in earlier years, perhaps Ethel Merman or Martha Rae. This is big, open performance that is as much acting as it is singing.

Click on a song title to read the lyrics.

Nine Gold Medals
Pirate’s Bounty
Bye, Bye, Future
New Toys
You’re Aging Well
Orange Cocoa Cake
Root Canal of the Heart
The Star Spangled Banner and Me
Car Phones and Airplanes
Exact Change

Nine Gold Medals
by David Roth/Maythelight Music/ASCAP

The athletes had come from all over the country
To run for the gold, for the silver and bronze
Many the weeks and the months of their training
All coming down to these games
The spectators gathered around the old field
For cheering on all the young women and men
As the final event of the day was approaching
Excitement grew high to begin

The blocks were all lined up for those who would use them
The hundred yard dash was the race to be run
There were nine resolved athletes in back of the starting line
Poised for the sound of the gun

The signal was given the pistol exploded
And so did the runners, all charging ahead
But the smallest among them he stumbled and staggered
And fell to the asphalt instead
He gave out a cry in frustration and anguish
His dreams and his efforts all dashed in the dirt
But as sure as I’m standing here telling this story
The same goes for what next occurred
The eight other runners pulled up on their heels
The ones who’d been training so long to compete
One by one they all turned round and went back to help him
And brought the young boy to his feet

Then all the nine runners joined hands and continued
The hundred yard dash now reduced to a walk
And the banner above that said “Special Olympics
Could not have been more on the mark
That’s how the race ended with nine gold medals
They came to the finish line holding hands still
And a standing ovation and nine beaming faces
Say more than these words ever will
So much more than these words ever will

Pirate’s Bounty
by Sandy Cash, Bud-Man Music/BMI
I’ve never been a swimmer
But the kids are out of school
So I pack ’em up and drive them
To the local swimming pool
They jump into the shallows
Bodies flashing in the sun
But soon they’re at my deck chair
And begging one by one

Ride me on your back so I can sail across the ocean
Lift me up so I can brave the stormy sea
Hold me in your arms and I’m the fiercest pirate captain
And I’ll rescue you if you’ll believe in me

Now my first grade swimming lessons
Left a memory blue and cold
Dropped with strangers by the poolside
Trying to do what I was told
The teacher saw me waver
And kind, said, try once more
But no matter how she coaxed me
My feet never left the floor
For three whole weeks I faked it
And believed that no one saw
Nine fat zeroes on my swim card
My mom’s silence said it all
Guess she was embarrassed
Didn’t know quite what to say
But I know that I was thinking
On the long ride home that day

Ride me on your back and I can sail across the ocean
Lift me up so I can brave the stormy seas
Hold me in your gaze and I will never more be frightened
And I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me

I walk through the water, feel the warmth of the sun
Feel the clutch of their arms that says
I am the one
Once a small, lonely child, now a mother and a wife
Looking back, moving forward
It’s the journey of my life

Still walking through the shadows
But in a very different way
I stand firm as they float weightless
Venturing further every day
The bounty they bestow on me
My glorious pirate crew
Is to know I can weigh anchor
I have sailing still to do
Now my little one’s sweet breathing
Blows a whisper in my ear
And before I feel quite ready
She kicks off and disappears
The bubbles grow more distant
Then her head breaks through the waves
The jubilant girl overboard
That no one had to save

She says, Watch me swim, I’ll show you
How to sail across the ocean
Let me go and I can brave the stormy sea
Held within your love I learned what freedom’s really made of
And I’ll teach you, if you’ll believe in me
I’ll teach you, too, if you’ll believe in me.

Bye, Bye, Future
by John Forster, Limousine Music/ASCAP

I hear my dad come home
I hear my mommy call
I watch them read the letter
I see their faces fall
I may be only three
But I am not a fool
I’ve just been rejected by the
Riverside Nursery School

I’m bad… bad, bad, bad
What am I gonna do?
I’m fine in a sandbox
But I choke in an interview

Bye, bye future, bye, bye dream
Bye, bye happy, bye, bye self-esteem
My epitaph will be she hit her peak at three
And then took eighty years to die
Bye, bye future, bye, bye

Oh, no, another letter
Must be from my safety school
I’m breaking out in hives
I can’t control my drool
They’re reading, read, read, read
They’re talking, say, say, say
They’re laughing, oh, oh, oh!
I thinking I’m on my way

What a proud girl am I! Rivka Mizrachi’s playgroup!

Hello future, hello clout
Old boy netowrk, that’s what school’s about
And years from now, when Time and Newsweek
Interview my sitter
She’ll say “Early failures hurt her, yes
But did not leave her bitter
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood
The sun is out and life is good
Hello future, hello!

New Toys
Words and Music by Milo Binder

I’m just a fire engine,
blood red and shining
If you want the man can take me from the window
and pack me away
I’ve got a battery operated siren
with wheels that really turn
Promise Mom we’ll be quiet ’til we’re home and we’ll play

Take me to school on Monday
Show me to your friends
Put your GI Joe on my ladder
Bury me in sandbox ’til recess ends

But I can save Barbies’s Dream House from burning to the ground
If you save me from Daddy’s closet when he’s found me lying around

I’ll be patient in December when Christmas brings new toys
And when you peel the paint from off my fender –
try not to make a noise

And after the garage sale
Leave your tag upon my hood
And when you go on off to college
and leave me here for good

And someday you’ll think about me
Someday when you’re bored
‘Cause now Christmas comes around
and you
don’t get

You’re Aging Well
Words and Music by Dar Williams

Why is it that as we grow older and stronger
The road signs point us adrift and make us afraid
Saying “You never can win,” “Watch your back,” “Where’s your husband?”
Oh, I don’t like the signs that the sign makers made.

So I’m going to steal out with my paint and brushes
I’ll change the directions, I’ll hit every street
It’s the Tinseltown scandal, the Robin Hood vandal
She goes out and steals the king’s English
And in the morning you wake up and the signs point to you

They say “I’m so glad that you finally made it here,”
“You thought nobody cared, but I did, I could tell,”
And “This is your year,” and “It always starts here,”
And oh “You’re aging well.”

Well I know a woman with a collection of sticks
She could fight back the hundreds of voices she heard
And she could poke at the greed, she could fend off her need
And with anger she found she could pound every word.
But one voice got through, caught her up by surprise
It said, “Don’t hold us back, we’re the story you tell,”
And no sooner than spoken, a spell had been broken
And the voices before her were trumpets and tympani
Violins, basses and woodwinds and cellos, singing

“We’re so glad that you finally made it here
You thought nobody cared, but we did, we could tell
And now you’ll dance through the days while the orchestra plays
And oh, you’re aging well.”

Now when I was fifteen, oh, I knew it was over
The road to enchantment was not mine to take
‘Cause lower calf, upper arm should be half what they are
I was breaking the laws that the sign makers made.

And all I could eat was the poisonous apple
And that’s not a story I was meant to survive
I was all out of choices, but the woman of voices

She turned round the corner with music around her,
She gave me the language that keeps me alive, she said:

“I’m so glad that you finally made it here
With the things you know now, that only time could tell
Looking back, seeing far, landing right where we are
And oh, you’re aging, oh and I am aging,
Oh, aren’t we aging well?”

Orange Cocoa Cake
Words and Music by Lou and Peter Berryman (with some slight changes by Sandy!)

Hello Joanie, this is me; say I found that recipe for
Orange cocoa cake, so Joanie get a pencil quick, because can
You believe I’m by myself? Al’s at work, the kids are out
They’re playing house, all three of them, they’re all out on the deck

One half cup unsweetened cocoa, one half cup of boiling water
Quarter cup of butter and a quarter cup of short’ning,
Two cups sugar, one eighth teaspoon salt, teaspoon of vanilla
One and one half teaspoons baking soda, ‘scuze me just a sec

Dave, dear, I’m right over here
Would you like some crackers and baloney
Are you having fun? Don’t get too much sun.
Please excuse me, while I talk to Joanie

Two eggs Joanie, David, David, crackers dear, not malted milk balls
In the cupboard, Joanie, one cup buttermilk or sour milk
One and three fourths cups unsifted ring, baloney in the fridge
Unsifted general purpose- David did you really check

One and three fourths cups unsifted general purpose flour, Joanie
There I finally got it out. Okay, David, malted milk balls
Only five though- three fourths teaspoon grated orange peel
A quarter teaspoon orange extract uh-oh, ‘scuze me just a sec

Liz, Ben, I’m here in the den
Would you like some crackers and baloney
Are you having fun? Don’t get too much sun
Please excuse me, while I talk to Joanie

Joanie, one more eighth teaspoon of- Lizzie what’s the matter dear?
Baking soda Joanie. Lizzie, don’t hit Benjie; that’s uncalled for
That’s okay, Ben- Joanie three more tablespoons of buttermilk or
Sour milk- oh, come here, Liz, what’s that on your neck?

Now don’t worry, Liz, it’s only one real tiny tick. Someone,
David, go and get the tweezers, Joanie, maybe in the bathroom
Joanie, maybe we should- Ben, don’t cry, have one more malted milk ball
Lizzie, mom’ll be right there, ‘scuze me just a sec

Really gotta go, Joan, see about a tick, then we’re
Gonna have a party with the neighborhood kids
Then Lizzie has to go to an appointment at eleven
And we’re takin’ Benjie too, because he has to buy a costume

He’s in a play tomorrow over at the shul
Isn’t that tomorrow, Benjie, Benjie, wheredja go,
If it isn’t Ben remind me what’s your costume for tomorrow?
I remember now, a hamantasch

Lizzie can’t go, there’s a party in the park for all the
People with pets, well you know, she gotta go to that ‘n
Daddy gonna take her and the kitty in the Chevy
After that, we have to reconnoiter over at the Big Boy

I gotta go Joan, by the way d’ja ever
Reconsider gettin’ married, having children of your own
Turn the television down, your mother’s on the telephone
Call you back Joan, too-da-loo

Words and Music by Peter Jones

Kilkelly Ireland 1860, my dear and loving son John
You good friend the schoolmaster Pat McNamara
So kind to write these words down
And your brothers have all gone to find work in England
The house is so lonely and sad
The crop of potatoes is sorely effected
The third to a half of them bad
And your sister Bridget and Patrick O’Donald
Are going to be married in June
Mother says not to work on the railroad
Bs sure to come on home soon

Kilkelly Ireland 1870, my dear and loving son John
Hello to your missus and to your four children
And may they grow healthy and strong
And Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble
I suppose that he never will learn
Because of the dampness, there’s no turf to speak of
And so we have nothing to burn
And Bridget she’s happy to name the child for them
Although she has six of her own
You say you’ve found work but you don’t say what kind
When will you come on home

Kilkelly Ireland 1880, Dear Michael and John my sons
I’m Sorry to give you the very sad news
That your dear old mother passed on
And we buried her down at the church in Kilkelly
Your brothers and Bridget were there
You don’t have to worry, she died very peaceful
Remember her in your prayers
And it’s good to hear that Michael’s returning
With money he’s sure to buy land
The crops have all failed and people are selling
For any price that they can

Kilkelly Ireland 1890 my dear and loving son John
I suppose that I must be close on to eighty
It’s thirty years since you’ve gone
And Because of all the money you sent me
I’m still living out on my own
Michael has built himself a fine house
And Bridget daughters have grown
And thank you for sending the family picture
Such lovely young women and men
They say that you might even come for a visit
What a joy to see you again

Kilkelly Ireland 1892, my dear brother John
I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner to tell you
The dear old father has gone
He was living with Bridget, they say he was cheerful
And happy right up to the end
I wish you had seen him play with the grandchildren
Of Pat McNamara your friend
And we buried him down alongside of mother
Down at Kilkelly churchyard
He was a strong and a feisty old man
Considering his life was so hard
And it’s funny the way he kept asking about you
He called for you at the end
Why don’t you think about coming to visit?
We’d all love to see you again

Root Canal of the Heart
Words and Music by Camille West

Roger Wingtip is my dentist
there’s no one can compare
when he talks about bicuspids
he makes you really care
I once chewed three packs of licorice
to spend more time in his chair
Roger Wingtip is my dentist
there’s no one can compare

Oh Roger
you cause me pain
an ache that cannot be diminished
with Novocain
Oh Roger
when we’re apart
it feels like root canal
of the heart

One day I got the chance to tell him
what I had to say
I said ” I rink I ruv ru”
but his hands got in the way
He looked at me and said
“Yes, I think the weather’s fine today”
Only once I got the chance to tell him
what I had to say

The Star Spangled Banner and Me
Words and Music by David Roth (with very slight changes by Sandy!)

I was minding my own business with a mug of herbal tea
I hear the ringing of the phone…I answer…it’s for me
“I’m so-and-so-and-such-and-such and I do this-and-tha
I work for the Chicago Bulls, I wonder, can we chat…

The coach asked me to call you up, it seems he’s heard you sing
And wonders if your talents to Chicago we could bring
To sing the national anthem on a nationally televised game
It’s all sold out,” he says to me, I says to him “Who’s playing?”

The Bulls against the New York Knicks,” he rapidly replied
“I’ll have to check my book” I said, and cupped the phone and cried
“My prayers are answered, thank you Lord, I always knew you would”
I pick the phone back up again and say “I suppose I could…

Just one little item, though, before we close this deal
America the Beautiful just might have more appeal
Something ’bout those bursting bombs, I’ve always kind of spurned it”
He said “Star Spangled Banner, Ms. Cash” and so I learned it

I show up at the Stadium, the crowd is filling out
Eighteen thousand six hundred and seventy six, about
I take my place at center court, I’m standing on the Bull
I lift my head to look around, the freaking place is full

So there I am, I start the song, but not my usual way
Not like the whiny folksinger you’re looking at today
I raise my voice, I let ‘er rip with passion, verve and style
I go to hit the highest note, the place is going wild

I finish with a flourish “…and the home of the brave…”
Up there in the balcony I swear they’re doing the “wave”
Triumphantly I leave the court, an usher guides my way
I guess I’ll take my seat there on the bench with Michael J

Instead we take a couple turns, the next thing that I knew
We’re halfway up to Heaven in the mezzanine, it’s true
I look around, I’m shocked, I’m stunned, it’s hot dogs, peanuts, beer
Oxygen, binoculars, that’s all they sell up here

So in a somewhat strident voice I grab my friend and claim
“I can’t believe they stuck us way up here to watch this game”
Immediately the woman to my right does one of these
“Just what exactly’s wrong with this location?” she decrees

“We come to every game” she says “and this is where we sit
These are our seasons tickets, sir, and you are full of envy
And then she does a double take and breathily mumbles “Oh…
Aren’t you the one who sang the national anthem down below?”

My chest begins to swell with pride, I’m recognized I guess
With ever ounce of wit, panache, and charm I answer “Yes…”
I’m pulling out my pen, she probably wants my autograph
Instead she says “Gee, usually they get famous people to do that…”

There’s little more to recount in this poignant paradigm
The Bulls went on to win that game by one in overtime
And I went on to eat a slice of humble pie delight
For you usually get what you deserve
And I got mine that night

Car Phones and Airplanes
Words and Music by Cosy Sheridan

If I had a car phone and you had a car phone
I could call you up right now
I wouldn`t have to know where you are
I could dial in your car
And we could talk Connecticut to Kansas
and be paying the bills all our lives
People with cars with phones inside
make more money than you or I

If I had an airplane or you had an airplane
you could rest your head next to mine
Call me in my car tonight
tell me where to meet your private flight
And we`d get a hotel cause people with airplanes
sleep in very nice rooms for the night
they rush off in the first early morning light
living their lives at the speed of their flight

Some people have car phones and some they have airplanes
but only I have you
So pay phones and buses will do
the speed of a heart they don`t try to improve
And if I`d had a car phone and you`d had an airplane
we might never have met on our road
cause you aren`t where you are
you`re more where you go
Can you live your life fast and try to love slow

Exact Change
By Sandy Cash, Bud-Man Music/BMI

Old debts come due, I dig my hands
Into pockets full of home town sand
No bills can be paid off in this currency
Payment terms might be arranged
If you could promise Exact Change
But the price we pay for change is the uncertainty

I packed it all up years ago
Too old to stay and too young to know
The reason for my wild and weary travel
Tomorrow was my only friend
It dared me time and time again
To swing high on that thread as it unraveled

I didn’t need a reason I only needed rhyme
Not looking where I leaped became a specialty of mine
That we fell into this love must surely be a sign
That there would be some changes for the better
I was counting on some change for the better

You built our house of brick and steel
And fed me love in three square meals
Security in solid weights and measures
Your path to me was straight and true
I hardly knew myself with you
And that was my most closely guarded treasure
But the change so blindly counted on could never be exact
I heard myself start cursing you for all the things I lacked
The rock of my salvation filled my glass house till it cracked
And shattered in the shards was my reflection
I stood with you and saw my own reflection

We spent all that afternoon
Side by side, with pail and broom
Sorting through and mopping up and clearing
And as you kissed me on the eyes
It startled me to recognize
How little of your song I had been hearing
‘Cuz if it’s change I’m looking for we’re changing all the time
I start to feel it when I leave my bitterness behind
And If I find the change is not exact, well, never mind
As long as we can make this change together
I’d say that we’d be changing for the better.