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A Cottage for Sale

      A dozen years or so ago, I played several shows with singer Gene Cavanaugh at Odette’s in New Hope, PA, the well-known restaurant and cabaret venue.  (Alas, it was brought to a close a few years ago by devastating Delaware River floods.)  Gene continued to perform and went on to form Philly Cabaret (www.phillycabaret.com) with three other singers, but we only rarely saw one another.

     A few weeks ago, though, we had the chance to work together again for a private performance in Philadelphia and when we were rehearsing for that I asked him if he’d like to do a song the website sometime.

     He happily agreed and chose to do A Cottage for Sale (appropriately so, I think, given sub prime mortgage crisis).  A solid old (1930) tune, it has been recorded by many people.  One of the most successful recordings was done by Billy Eckstine in 1942.  I first came across the song on an Erroll Garner LP.

     Though the tune is well known, its composer, Willard Robison, is less so.  According to Wikipedia, he wrote many songs in the 20’s and 30’s and had a band and a radio show. A Midwesterner, the rural evocations of his songs have been compared to those of Hoagy Carmichael.  Apart from Cottage for Sale, the only other tune I recognized in his list is Old Folks, which has become a jazz standard.

     Since Gene and I have only worked with solo piano or a duo, I decided to indulge him with some more instrumentation for this one. (A note about the intro: the song’s original key is E flat, but we moved it down to D flat, which got me thinking about moonlight.) Click on the title in red to hear the song.  The lyrics, a nicely effective series a doleful images, are by Larry Conley, are below.

A Cottage for Sale 

Our little dream castle with ev’ry dream gone

Is lonely and silent, the shades are all drawn.

And my heart is heavy as I gaze upon

A cottage for sale.

The lawn we were proud of is waving in hay,

Our beautiful garden has withered away,

Where you planted roses, the weeds seem to say:

A cottage for sale.


From ev’ry single window

I see your face

But when I reach a window,

There’s empty space.

The key’s in the mailbox, the same as before,

But no one is waiting for me anymore.

The end of our story is told on the door:

A cottage for sale.

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