I’ve been doing some painting that aligns in some way with songs I anticipate recording this fall. This one, “Mercy,” contrasts the overwhelming force of nature against those of us occupying space on the planet.

That’s not really what the song is about though. The song is a murder ballad, pure and simple. But, as it happens, the murder takes place just as a tornado hits, and finding the killer is just a little less important now.

Here are the lyrics:

Mercy, Mercy

Ten miles as the crow flies, my hometown
Can you smell it? That’s the factory in the air
I didn’t mind much when that tornado touched down
It helped me to get outta there.
That was April 21st, 1991
I was living on the farm-to-market road
With a man as mean as a fire ant and lousy with a gun
He got shot ‘fore he had time to reload.

Mercy, mercy
Hallelujah, we’re cleaning up the mess
Mercy, mercy
It’s just a story, there’s nothing to confess

He was drinking up his dinner at a Black Cat happy hour
Shooting off his mouth when someone shot him down
And I saw the storm collecting past the old water tower
In the ambulance ambling through town
There’s no point in racing with a dead man in the back
Just no point in stepping on the gas
But you gotta get to safety when you hear the wind attack
Hunker down and wait for it to pass

Mercy, mercy
Hallelujah, we’re cleaning up the mess
Mercy, mercy
It’s a just story, there’s nothing to confess

When Jack the cop took me home, no light in the sky
And a blackout like a blanket everywhere
Well he handed me a flask and then he looked me in the eye
Drink some courage darlin’, don’t you be scared

There in the headlights there should’ve been a house
Shoulda been a home that never was
When there’s less than nothin’ left and you get a way out
Thank your Maker that things happen “just because.”
And no one looked for answers, they never had a clue
But some memories are just to hard to fade
It’s not the living through it that’s paying your dues
It’s not forgettin’–that’s how the dues are getting’ paid.

Mercy, mercy
Hallelujah, we’re cleaning up the mess
Mercy, mercy
It’s just a story, there’s nothing to confess
Mercy, mercy
Hallelujah, I’m cleaning up the mess
Mercy, mercy
It’s just a story, there’s nothing to confess
It’s just a story, there’s nothing to confess
It’s just a story