One Good Year

One Good Year

Slaid Cleaves and I both hit Austin in 1991, and we got to know each other playing the same open mikes at places like Chicago House. When he showed me a first draft of this song, my first thought was that the story should happen on New Year’s Day. The actor Russell Crowe recorded it, after he buttonholed Slaid backstage and told him the song “breaks me fookin’ heart.” It’s healed hearts, as well. Many a listener has told me how the song helped them make it through hard times – which is what the song’s about. 


It’s a New Year’s Day,
Just like the day before.
Same old sky of gray,
Same empty bottles on the floor.
Another year gone by,
And I’m thinking, once again,
How can I take this losing hand,
And somehow win?

Give me one good year,
To get my feet back on the ground.
I’ve been chasing grace,
But grace ain’t so easily found.
One bad hand can devil a man,
Chase him and carry him down.
I’ve got to get out of here –
Give me one good year.

I’m burning oil.
Engine’s running rough.
I drive from job to job,
But it’s never enough.
Can’t find the will
To just up and get away.
Some kind of chain’s dragging me down,
To make me stay.

It’s a bitter wind,
In your face every day.
It’s the little sins
That wear your soul away.
If you start giving in,
Where do the promises all go?
Will your darkest hour
Write a blank check on your soul?

One bad hand can devil a man.
A good one can turn him around.
I’ve got to get out of here –
Give me one good year.

Bluebonnet Border SkinnyWords and music © 1999 by Slaid Cleaves and Steve Brooks
(512) 440-7668
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2 thoughts on “One Good Year

  1. Steve – I stumbled upon this page as I was searching the lyrics of this song that I know from Slaid. Hand’t realized it was a co-write (thanks to CD cases being shelved as soon as I convert CDs to digital files). This is the musical companion to my favorite poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The poem speaks to a work ethic inherited from my truck-driver father and the “miles to go before I sleep” represent that trudgery to get a job done in the long, difficult hours. Your song takes it a step further and crosses the boundary from physical to the spiritual. The everyday challenges wear us down and wear us down – and we get to a point of needing that positive break – a sign – that it is worth it. The reward will eventually come and “free” us from the difficulty. At least we hope. Your song really captures the moments of trepidation and doubt, taking shortcuts and wondering if that itself will eventually cost us the grace we’re seeking in reward for all this work. It inspires me.

    I ask nothing of you. Just sharing my deep felt feelings about a song that I may some day have a line or two tattoo’d on my body. “Will your darkest hour write a blank check on your soul?”

    Music is a form of spirituality for me, I suppose. It gives me peace, inspiration and hope. THANK YOU for your work. It has touched me.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Lance. “One Good Year” has turned out to be a meaningful song for lots of people, which makes it even more meaningful for me. And I’ll take a comparison to Robert Frost as a very high compliment.

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