The Verdigris

by Beau Jennings

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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Limited edition, 11 songs on 12" vinyl record. Pressed on classic black or 'glow beneath the surface' clear 150-gram vinyl. Includes download code for entire 13-song album - every song included on vinyl plus 2 additional songs not included on vinyl.

    Includes unlimited streaming of The Verdigris via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    edition of 300 

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

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

    Includes unlimited streaming of The Verdigris via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 5 days

      $10 USD or more 

     

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04:21
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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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about

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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Track Name: A Glow Beneath the Surface
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
Track Name: The Verdigris
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
Track Name: Santa Monica Range
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
Track Name: First Line of a Dream
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
Track Name: Seedlings
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
Track Name: I'm Not Askin'
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’
Track Name: Economy Stupid Blues
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
Track Name: Wheat King of Oologah
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
Track Name: Scattered Lights
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
Track Name: A Little Bit Higher Now
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
Track Name: Argentina
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
Track Name: Me & Wiley
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)
Track Name: Into the Wind
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