The Verdigris

by Beau Jennings

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    Compact disc including all 13 songs from 'The Verdigris'. Cardboard sleeve case.

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1.
I feel my blood start to move a little faster Here where the river brings here burdens A darkness before the dawn And a glow beneath the surface I was young when i first heard the sound Now I’m looking to get younger still Looking for when the waves were made of grass Before this place started up to fill Before the water came rushing in Before a marker could be made I’ll sing a song instead For the life here floating in this place May the water always be still When the clouds above start to gather May the thunder clap and the lightning cheer When the wind takes the story to scatter
2.
I can see you there a little ways upstream And I’m waiting here quiet til I know what it means And I’m open to receive just whatever it is Whatever you sent floating down the Verdigris Well I grew up on this rive i know you did too And I can’t help but see a line there from me to you I try to get a better look at just whatever it is Whatever you sent floating down the Verdigris I feel it welling up inside I feel the waves start to speak I used to ask all kinds of questions Now I just believe Well I used to be fluent it used to roll of my lips Now the only thing rolling is the Verdigris When i wake up this all might be a pretty good joke With all these empty beer bottles set afloat With all these boats bleeding trash it gets ridiculous If you’re trying to find some truth on the Verdigris But the water just reflects whatever it sees It might have once seen you now it only sees me So I reach down to break the surface with my fingertips And lose myself in the current of the Verdigris So assign me some me land show me where i can stay Put a stake in the ground put the flag away Well I used to be fluent it used to roll of my lips Now the only thing rolling is the Verdigris
3.
Tonight I come to this house to the foot of the bed I lay and I listen for some long ago sounds Like a typewriter key striking a page Or horses out on the polo grounds Well I don’t hear any sounds I don’t see nothing move No paper on the desk nothing in the drawer Just some boots here with me at the foot of the bed And a piano downstairs they don’t play anymore Did I come here looking for a friend or a ghost What was i gonna find out here on the coast If you get a new body would it be the same What are we gonna find on Santa Monica range Up through floors and along the walls I coulda sworn that I heard the laughter ring A vase full of roses on the table downstairs A roof full of birds, a choir to sing It takes an empty house to get the full idea Of someone who belongs that’s long ago gone And the only way left I know how to get through Is by covering ground and singing a song First I hear the piano start to play Then I hear bare feet coming up the stairs I close my eyes and I set out the boots When I open my eyes the boots aren’t there I hear a typewriter key start striking I hear the backdoor open horses outside waiting Walk over to the desk and I see a new page I read the first line and I start shaking
4.
I had a dream that I saw Woody and Will They’d made camp at the foot of some hill There was no sound and no wind was blowin’ There was no fire they were both just glowin’ They were waiting on someone but it wasn’t me I was just there to witness some kind of trinity One where no one was a god no one was even a king They were just three windows Looking at how things used to be Oh please tell me please tell me Who will that third one be Grandpa he used to sing ‘”Wreck of the Old ’97” He made it sound like that conductor Skipped the ditch and instead found heaven Yesterday was his funeral, there at the top of the hill I got to thinking ‘bout them old ghosts like anybody will And then off in the distance he came walking up slow It was like looking in a mirror when he got up close He said ‘’would you fellas know just where it is I might be?’ First they both looked at him then they both looked at me Then Woody grabbed his guitar and he started to strum Will looked up over his glasses And the new guy started to hum And pretty soon he was singing like it was all just beginnin’ The first lines of a dream, wreck of the old ‘97
5.
Seedlings 03:09
I followed my mama down the hall Up to the shelf there against the wall We covered the seedlings up from the cold I crawled in her arms and I just let her hold me I’d holler in the yard I was a happy fool I’d holler even louder on my way to school But all that was ‘cause deep inside i knew My mama’d live forever and I’d live with her too I was only eight years old But things were clear enough The doctor’s hat was his hands Those hands were giving up Mama there in bed her back was to the door I just stood there with so much Of the world before me Mama every good thing that I’ve ever done Mama every lasso that I’ve ever spun Mama every story that I’ve ever told Has to end like it began With your arms there to hold me
6.
Now she might have took my eyes first But her light never burned like hers did And the more you told me no it got a little bit more cold And when it finally froze around the world I slid I met every girl worth meetin’ I passed every door worth passin’ Now I hope you can hear what I’m about to tell ya Cause Betty baby I’m not askin’ How come your family thinks that way How come betty you don’t set ‘em right How come you don’t tell ‘’em about the letters I send you That you read when they’re asleep by candlelight I know you got a lot of questions You think there’s no way this train isn’t crashin’ Well as long as it’s rollin’ I don’t care where it’s goin’ that‘’s why Betty baby I’m not askin’ I’m stepping off the platform at noon I’m gonna meet you at the altar in the yard And as you come walking down the path between our families I’ll scratch my head over how we got this far over how the verdigris floods in the spring over how the sky turns black and starts flashing how miracle’s only a miracle only If you don’t got the answers that’s why so Betty baby I’m not askin’
7.
Got in line for soup this evening Left my car on the side of the road No food in the kitchen no gas in the tank No job to wake up for tomorrow They say there’s lines to jump out the window They’re selling plots out on the east river You can pay all the money you ever made But she takes more than you can give her I’m in the sharpest part of Manhattan Down where Wall Street just dead ends But it’s not sharp enough to draw any blood Or start payin’ for any sins We got Will Rogers on the radio And we’re listenin’ for some kind of hope I walked outside and I sat on the steps I felt the wind through a tear in my coat They say it gets worse before it gets better But I’m not waitin’ round for any news I take the stairs back up to my old office Got the economy stupid blues I walk over and I open the window I guess I’m the last in line I turn up the radio loud as it’ll go Speakers blown but his voice sounds fine
8.
I settled here in my thirty first year A Cherokee civil war soldier And a son of the trail of tears Me and Mary built this house between the Caney and Verdigris Fattened our cattle on bluestem grass And then we sold ‘em up in St. Louis Well first to come was the Missouri Pacific track Then boomers lined up on the border A gun was fired and that was that Then Mary gave birth just one more time I called him Will he called me Pa And as he grew up I sold most of my herd Became the Wheat King Of Oologah I framed the windows to the house that you came up in You looked outside them at a state just being born I hung the doors through which someday you’ll go east But you’ll just come back through the west like a springtime thunderstorm Come back through the west like a springtime thunderstorm I couldn’t keep him in school or keep a rope outta his hands And I couldn’t keep the Cherokee Nation From progress you understand But as I worked to line us up with the white man’s decisions He left to find his fortune at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Well here I am in New York City where I’ve come to see his show Where I’ve come to try and understand A world I just don’t know They all line up to shake his hand and I do too after what I saw We just stood there grinnin’ I called him Will and he called me Pa I never knew just what to make of him And my pop never knew just what to make of me You remember all you’re trying and you watch it play out again They wanna be like you but they hide it by trying to be free
9.
Everyone came down a believer From the New Amsterdam Theater They walked out with a mystic glow Onto 42nd street below I’m just telling you what I read About a rooftop revival before Times Square was dead Those people were lights spilling into the streets Scattered into the night where the avenues meet They're a long long way from home He went down to his dressing room below Passed the girls and the drinks and the shows He drove home to his wife and kids And wondered if his own light was hid He thought that he should maybe pack it up Let someone else spread the good word on the rooftop above Cause he was starting to feel the call Of his prairie home with no streetlights at all He's a long long way from home I went walking down Broadway Looking for traces of that old way Stood below those giant street signs Made up of all those scattered lights I looked up to the top of the New Amsterdam From the sidewalk where they made me stand They shut rooftop town a long time ago There were reports of some mystic glow I'm a long long way from home
10.
I'm not as high as you used to be But I tried getting close When they built up everything around They blocked out this city's ghosts Up through the floors and along the walls I thought I heard the laughter ring When I step out, out into the air I open up and I start to sing A little bit higher now Tonight my prayers may need a little help Tonight my faith may need a little proof So here I am as close as I can get On a New Amsterdam roof
11.
Argentina 04:21
Richie now we really done it We got out and now were far from it Far enough from home to find out what it is we got Burning down inside our guts Whatever we had there wasn’t enough Now we’re waiting in New Orleans for a boat that’ll never dock A boat bound for Argentina Sounded pretty like a ballerina But ballerinas spin and drop just like the clouds back home We didn’t bother to check the route Walked in to buy a ticket they sent us back out Said you're just waiting in New Orleans for a boat that’ll never show Now of course we’ll make it down south eventually And we won’t make a dime and after six months you’ll leave I’ll stick around a little longer and I’ll find work with Texas Jack And the world will know my name when I come back Richie remember how we said We gotta get out before we get dead The only land left for us is calling out in spanish well Richie whatever it is that brought us down to the water like this is waiting in N'Orleans on a boat we can't let vanish Richie if we make it south eventually I promise I'll find it even if you have to leave I promise I'll find some road or trail or track I promise that they're gonna know our names when I get back Well that boat of Texas jack’s went all around the world They put a rope in my hands and I just twirled and twirled I lost my ticket back in a game of cards Trouble goes up farther from home you are But then Richie I met this gypsy lady Gave me a handkerchief said when i was ready To give it to the girl who takes my heart So i tied it round my neck And i wear it all around While i save back up Til i hear the sound Of em loading up the boat Of em setting up the mast Of us getting back home Richie i hope i find her fast
12.
Me & Wiley 05:50
Me and Wiley blazing a trail To find a shortcut through Alaska for the us mail A heavy nose and a salvaged wing They said ‘you’ll never get off the ground in that thing’ My wife Betty tried to get me to stay But I was being stubborn had to have my way I through a lasso around her waist I pulled her close and I kissed her like in the old days Me and Wiley in the air we had it under control We were putting wings on these okie souls I had my glasses down at the tip of my nose I was typing just as fast as my fingers would go I was typing just as fast as my fingers would go I think my typing kept us in the air Now of course i can’t be sure but i was willing to swear That everytime my typewriter would ring It was another rush of air beneath these homemade wings And we could feel the radio waves Moving underneath our plane and over our days We were flying through the longest nights And then we caught an air current for the northern lights But it was then we felt the plane start to lose control I felt this thunderstorm deep inside my soul I pushed my glasses back up off the tip of my nose I started typing just as fast as my fingers would go “Betty baby maybe I’ve told you all that i can Maybe god only gives so many words to each man But when I’m gone and you start missing our old days Why you just tie that rope again around your waist You just tie that rope again around your waist You just tie that rope again around your waist You just tie that rope again around your waist (a little higher now) (a little higher now) I can feel these wings getting weaker (a little higher now) I can see the propeller doesn’t spin (a little higher now) I can see the lake getting closer (a little higher now) I can feel the water rushing in (a little higher now)… I can feel my blood is moving faster Here where the river brings her burdens (a little higher now) There’s a darkness before the dawn There’s a glow here below the surface (a little higher now) Oh Betty baby I’m asking you now Come down and meet me on the Verdigris (a little higher now) At first you’re not gonna see me But just look for a glow beneath the surface (a little higher now)
13.
The wire-tapped report to Washington came From Alaska on the banks of that sad, sad lake Oh what a state the world would be in Ol’ Wiley Post he flew into the wind The Eskimo Claire, he watched from the shore He’d given ‘em directions just hours before Their engine stalled flat and their plane dipped again Ol’ Wiley Post he flew into the wind Claire ran back to town to tell what he saw The wreckage, the water, the wings bent like straw They gathered around to sing Eskimo hymns They carried the bodies back into the wind The flags they were lowered down to half mast They promised the memories of both men would last One man was called the Cherokee kid And one Wiley Post who flew into the wind Let the radio waves bring ‘em back to shore Let the radio waves bring ‘emback to shore Let em crash and roll and rip and roar Let the radio waves bring ‘em back to shore

about

Beau Jennings wanted to make a record about New York. Originally from Oklahoma, Jennings had made a name for himself as a songwriter with a gift for making records that married lush, brooding music with honest and insightful lyrics. Jennings was living in Brooklyn when he sat down to write his second record, with every honest intention to make an album that fully encapsulated his experience in Gotham. Yet despite his best effort to stay on topic, Jennings found himself drawn to memories of growing up in the small town of Inola, OK; not far from Oologah, OK, the birthplace of the world famous Oklahoman (and Jennings’ boyhood hero) Will Rogers. “I’ve always loved Will Rogers and he always just seemed like the patron saint of where I’m from. You grow up with God and the Bible in Oklahoma but Will is kinda mixed up in there too,” Jennings notes. “The Verdigris River flows from his hometown to mine, and I couldn’t help but see that as a kind of opportunity to grab whatever he sent floating downstream”.

Once Jennings succumbed to the undeniable pull of the muses the songs came quickly; as did ideas for ways to properly document them. Inspired by the field recordings Alan Lomax made for the Library of Congress in the 1930’s, Jennings decided to travel to places Will Rogers had been during his life. There he would record on site the songs as they pertained to each location. There was Rogers’ birthplace in Oklahoma (now covered by Oologah Lake); there was Times Square in New York City where Rogers first became famous; there was the North Slope of Alaska, where Rogers died in a plane crash. From abandoned radio stations in Los Angeles to demolished homes in Arkansas, Jennings chased Rogers’s ghost across the country. Jennings and his guitar rode planes, trains, cars, and ATV’s to the locations. He also brought along a film crew to document the journey. Director and friend Bradley Beesley had already made several critically acclaimed Oklahoma-centric documentary films (Okie Noodling and The Flaming Lips - The Fearless Freaks) and was the natural choice to help capture Jennings’ quest for Will Rogers on film.

With Beesley’s guidance, Jennings created the feature length documentary film The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers. With the field recordings providing the soundtrack for the film, Jennings wanted also to create a studio album simply called The Verdigris, allowing him to explore the sonic space that the spirit of Will Rogers seemed to be creating in his mind. At Blackwatch Studios in Oklahoma, Jennings teamed with trusted producer and friend Jarod Evans (The Flaming Lips, Broncho) to oversee the process, which took place concurrent with filming.

Arriving at the various locations, Jennings noticed the environment would have an effect on what he felt a given song needed in terms of structure, lyrics, or just feeling. “A few times along the way - and this would often be the night before we were to shoot a scene - something told me I needed to rewrite the song. I would write weeks beforehand, trying to imagine how they would play out on site,” says Jennings. “Yet when I would arrive I would feel a strong pull to rework them.”

Once a scene was shot and the song shape was finalized, it would be then brought back to the studio to be tracked. “The constant back and forth got frustrating sometimes, I really wanted to knock out one then the other. But there was no way to do that and have the film and album be as coherent as they needed to be without that process”.

Most songs performed in the film itself are solo affairs on the acoustic guitar or piano. Yet the studio provided an opportunity for exploration, and while most of the basic tracking was performed by Jennings and Evans a few friends stopped by to lend a hand. Sufjan Stevens provided backing vocals and banjo to the haunting “First Line of a Dream” and “Scattered Lights”. Composer/songwriter Allan Vest (Starlight Mints, doubleVee) brought an Aaron Copland-esque string score to the tender “I’m Not Askin” as well as epic album closer “Me & Wiley”.

The resultant songs are cloaked in heavy atmosphere, conjuring a world part remembered and part imagined. The Verdigris is an album about trying to understand, process, and ultimately connect with a long lost source of inspiration. It’s the only true album completely based on the life of Will Rogers, and yet it stretches beyond that as love letter to Jennings’ home state and ultimately to the idea of embracing one’s roots as a way of growing up.

For more information, contact: Ever Kipp / Tiny Human - ever@tinyhuman.com

credits

released January 27, 2015

Produced & Mixed by Jarod Evans at Blackwatch Studios
Mastered by TW WALSH
All songs inspired by the life of Will Rogers
All songs written and sung by Beau Jennings
String and other arrangements on “I’m Not Askin’” and “Me & Wiley” by Allan Vest
String arrangements on “Seedlings” by Jarod Evans, Daniel Foulks & Steven Stark
Photography by Bradley Beesley | Layout & Design by Beau Jennings

Beau Jennings - vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, harmonica
Jarod Evans - electric guitars, bass, keys, drums, programming
Chad Copelin - bass, keys
James McAlister - drums, percussion, glockenspiel, programming
Dustin Paige - drums
Daniel Foulks - violin, viola
Steven Stark - cello
Sherree Chamberlain - background vocals
Sam Billen - background vocals, guitar, keys
Sufjan Stevens - background vocals, banjo, piano

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Beau Jennings Norman, Oklahoma

After years in Brooklyn fronting americana rock band Cheyenne, singer and songwriter Beau Jennings was in search of a new backing band upon returning to his home in Oklahoma. The Tigers – based out of Norman and a wrecking crew of some of the best musicians in the state – were already known as the go-to backing band for songwriters from the area and were a perfect match for Jennings’ new songs. ... more

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