The Hour Before

by Elaine Romanelli

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Catchy tunes for searching souls. (If you like Dar Williams or Sara Bareilles, you'll like Elaine!)

'The Hour Before' offers a collection of beautifully crafted songs, taking listeners into stories both serious and playful.

Chosen as one of ten 'Favorite Albums of 2017' by nationally syndicated Chicago DJ Rich Warren of The Midnight Special -- AND by three more DJs from around the country!


released April 21, 2015

Co-produced by Elaine Romanelli and Si Kahn.
Recorded by Chris Garges at Old House Studio in Charlotte, NC (tracks 1-8 & 10), and Mark Dann in NYC and Woodstock, NY (track 6 vocals and tracks 8 & 11)

Mixed & mastered by Mark Dann,

All songs written & performed by Elaine Romanelli (SESAC) ©2015 Elaine Romanelli.

Elaine Romanelli: Album design and layout.

Nejat: All photographs of Elaine except back cover clouds & keyboard/guitar.
Melanie Hubener: Back cover digital composition, retouching.
Chris Mindrum: Liner notes photo editing.
Yolanda de Montijo: Front and back cover design.



all rights reserved


Elaine Romanelli New York, New York

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Track Name: 25
25 feels like nothing to me
I wish you’d stop pointing out
It’s a quarter century
Come and dance with abandon,
Be messy, and free
Here’s to life as a fresh 25

By 35 I’ll be working like crazy
Running some kind of company
And saving the planet
I’ll have moved from the city
To a town that’s more lazy
I’ll have a backyard when I’m 35

By 45 I think I’ll have it made
Or else I’ll be back in school
In the 29th grade
I’ll have married my true love
We might raise up some babies
But I’ll still be sassy when I’m 45

Though what if life doesn’t follow
My big plans
What if unforeseen barriers daunt me
Will my internal compass
Keep guiding me back
Or will the paths I abandon
Still haunt me?

Some day I’ll be retiring from…
When I get that gold watch
I hope you’ll all still know me
We’ll shimmy and shake
With our arthritic knees
Like we did when I turned 25

‘Cause all I know is I love to dance
To be lost in the music and motion
And one thing that won’t change
Is I cherish my friends
Like they’re golden

25 feels like nothing to me
So let’s all stop pointing out
It’s quarter century
Come and dance with abandon
Be messy, and free
I don’t care how old you are
Pretend to be me
Let’s be young and immortal, and joyful
And we will remember
The rest of our lives
How it felt when I turned 25
When you turned 25 … we turned 25
How it felt when I turned 25
Track Name: Forty Back
You are overwhelmed, I know
I’m not picking up the slack
I’m awash in my own woe
One foot forward, forty back

I am struggling to speak
You’re not picking up the slack
You’re defeated more each week
One foot forward, forty back

How’d it come to this
What set us adrift
Thought these rings would keep us
Facing our true north

But we are headed nowhere fast
And we’re not picking up the slack
We’ll be miles apart before we notice
One foot forward, forty back

All the bills piled to the sky
No one’s picking up the slack
We’ll be desperate by and by
One foot forward, forty back

How’d it come to this…

But we are headed nowhere fast
And we’re not picking up the slack
We’ll be miles apart before we notice
One foot forward, forty back
Track Name: Real
It was clear
When he broke his hand that day
After walls I would be next
Except my Grandma’s vase
I won’t miss anything
Got the car, took the kids and left
Nobody knows
Just my momma and the children
They seem more together than I feel
I didn’t see it coming since you ask
I never did
Hard for me to fathom that this is real

We first met in a diner on a Friday
He paid my bill and asked me on a date
He knew Airplane & the words to ‘9 to 5’
Everything about it felt like fate
Finally someone who held open the doors
Washed the dishes after every meal
I didn’t see it coming when he asked
But I said yes
It felt like a fairy tale turned real

When it starts, you’re so stunned
Never thought that he’d be one
First the doubt, then the fear
I gotta get us out of here
Help me get out of here

My youngest asked
How much longer now
I’ve been wondering that, too
But we are safe
I’ll be damned if my kids witness
Any of what I saw Mom go through
Two hundred miles
‘Til we cross another state line
I can rest between turns at the wheel
You never know what’s coming
But I think we’ll be okay
One step at a time is how we’ll deal
With what is real
This is real
Track Name: The Difference
That is the difference, she said
I am not fearless, anymore
Love cannot go to my head
Caution is blocking it at the door

I feel you pulling me to you
Your tractor beam charm
Has unsteadied my stance
I long to fall into you
To let down my guard
At the hint of your glance

But often what happens is this:
Love does not blossom, I don’t know why
Bitterness follows the bliss
Next time you hold back instead of try

Falling’s so inviting
The tingle and tangle of limbs and of lips
You are so enticing
Your breath on my neck and your hands
On my hips

I am no frail wounded bird
I am no jezebel, spinning through spoils
I feel alive, and ready to thrive
But you are a kite or a cliff
And no way of knowing yet which

So I’m going home now, she said
Don’t say you’ll call me, just don’t or do
Yeah, it’s a big empty bed
I know you were hoping, I was too
Maybe tomorrow’s the day
fearlessness rises again from the ash
Maybe I’ll call you and say
I am immortal, who cares if we crash

Til then, goodnight and sweet dreams
It’s always so lovely to be with you
Track Name: She & He
He thinks she is beautiful
No matter what she’s wearing
Even if she’s been in those same clothes
Since Tuesday
She thinks he is fun to be with
Even when he’s arguing
Because he’s had too much caffeine
To see straight

They are so in love
You will roll your eyes

She will always talk to strangers
Charms the pants off anyone
Who meets her
Even if they don’t speak English
He can sit alone for hours
Playing with the dog
Or reading articles
On why the moon looks yellow

How they fit so well
Is a mystery

But they have what I wish for you
Dry your tears; he’s not the one who will

Love you in the morning when your eyes
Are crusted shut with sleep
And kiss your nose in wonder
That he’s found you
And you will love the freckles
Clumped in threes along his neck
And think he smells terrific
Even when he’s sweating

He won’t start a fight just to try to win

Stay your perfect broken self
He will meet you as you are

And the sparks will fly, or maybe not
It could be awkward
You may not be instantly agog
Like in the movies
But kindnesses will pile up
And soon enough he’ll crave your laugh
And you’ll adore the frown lines
On his forehead

When we see you kiss
We will roll our eyes

You will make popcorn on Fridays
And stay in
Track Name: Red Tail
This ledge is plenty big enough
We’ll be fine for a while
Until they grow
But the hunting is harder without him
How could he know

He soared through the open sky
Now he is gone
And we don’t know why

These canyon walls are deceptive
Dark and smooth underfoot
The surface sheer

And the echoes confound me
Any way you turn it’s hard to hear
I will adapt by and by
But I long for the open sky

Blue and vast
Scent of summers past
Undulating fields and sentry stones
Take me there
Updraft of warmer air
Home to rest my hollow bones

For now this city suffices
I can manage here alone
And we have almost made it
Through this toughest of times
On our own

As soon as the weather turns dry
We’ll ascend to the open sky
Grow up, my babies, and fly
Let me show you the wide open sky
Track Name: Starting Over
When the house lifted to the sky
It was not like in that movie
The screaming of the wind
And the splintering of the wood
There’s no place that is safe
If you’re not inside a shelter
I wedged into a doorway
Hid my face under my hood
And prayed

Summer is the season
And we’ve all been through it plenty
The whole town hits the basement
When the siren starts to sound
But this time there was silence
Just the funnel, out of nowhere
Trees, cars, people
In the path where it touched down
All razed

Up inside
I can’t describe it
Roiling swirl of dirt and noise
A thousand tiny darts attack you
As best you can

Classes started late this fall
In trailers in the back lot
I’m out for a while
Gonna join the class below
Seems unreal that life goes on
As if it didn’t happen
People say with time
All the signs of it
Will slowly fade
Track Name: Heart Has to Know
You’ve been turning up a lot
Smiling your hellos
You’ve been mumbling sweet words
Staring at your toes
You finally bought me dinner
We drank too much wine
Now I suspect you’re thinking:
‘Your place or mine’

I want your hands on my body
But my heart isn’t ready
I want your lips on my skin but I won’t
Ask you in tonight
‘Cause my heart has to know that it’s right

A little bird is trilling
There’s more to this than lust
A little bird has mentioned
You’re someone I could trust
And anyway it’s thrilling
Just to hold your hand
Why skip all the little joys
And risk a one-night stand?

I want your hands on my body…

I confess I am terrified by the flash I see
You and I, several years gone by
We appear to be quite happy

Damn, your eyes are gorgeous
Shimmering and bright
Maybe it’s too early to be calling it a night
Touch my arm again, please
I can stay, for now
A couple moments longer
Then I’ll break loose somehow

I want your hands on my body…
I want your lips on my skin
But you still can’t come in tonight
I want your hands on my body
But my heart has to know that it’s right
Track Name: The Year of Death
First it was Larry, collapsed in the street
Then it was Sarah, of a stroke
Then Jenny and Adam
Who never did meet
At least this way no one’s heart is broken
Except mine
One every month
Each month for a year
What’s up with you people, anyway?

Facing the year of death alone
Facing the year alone
Facing the year of death alone

Next it was Thomas - at least he was old
Then it was Laurie, who was not
Then I closed the curtains
Stopped answering the phone
Started saying, “I love you” a lot
To everyone
Except for one guy
One guy in a year
Of too many unexpected sorrows

Facing the year of death alone…

If God is real, he’s certainly creative
About how to get the job done
Baby, I’d fear the reaper
If I were you

After Vanessa, I finally went numb
Barely registered Peter or Daisy
But that guy kept calling
Boy I thought he was dumb
Clearly not superstitious, clearly crazy
To want me
An echoing jar of broken heart shards
Still saying ‘there must be meaning in this’

Facing the year of death alone…

If God is real, he’s certainly creative
About who he brings together
Baby, I’d stay in pieces
If not for you

Facing the year of death alone –
If not for you
Track Name: Shine
Come with me, raise your eyes
Rest your heart and hand in mine
It is not too late
We are all longing to see you
Free your light and shine

You are not alone in feeling broken
Not alone in doubt or debt
We’ve been just as overwhelmed
As you are
Struggling with our own regret

Come with me, raise your eyes…

Who you are
Someone’s been wanting
Waiting, just as much as you
What you have is what’s been missing
Try again to let it through

Come with me, raise your eyes…

It is not too late
We are all longing to see you
Free your light
And shine
Track Name: Afterward
In the car
I thought of what to say

I turned the wheel
But you were already on your way
I saw you walking through
The one-way door

Before you turned
I tried to catch your eye
Don’t the years merit
One look over your shoulder goodbye

If I’d said different things to you
There might not have been
An afterward

I know after words
Are spoken
They cannot be unheard
But you did not warn me
It was kryptonite that I hurled

I only meant to say
We both have feet of clay
I love you anyway

I know you can’t come back
The place we made is gone
But I could come forward
And together we could move on

Before you know
New roots would grow
Who said what when
Wouldn’t matter then