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Blackwater Music (2011)

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Blackwater Music lines out what has been on Spencer Bohren's mind lately: a good friend caught in the past, environmental irresponsibility in Louisiana and his home state of Wyoming, the passage of time, deep love. The usual parade of guitars, particularly highlighting the lap steel singing both sweetly and raucously, define this emotion-filled collection of all original songs. Son André Bohren is featured on drums, percussion, and gospel piano, with further assistance from a variety of New Orleans notables. All new songs by Spencer Bohren.

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Old Louisa’s Movin’ On

Marilyn and Spencer Bohren, 2009 (bmi)

House too big. House too old.
One day soon, house be sold.
Old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Family home, two hundred years.
All those voices, she still hears.
Old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Old Louisa’s movin’ on.

Fourteen families, twenty-two rooms.
One twenty-one, in the family tomb.
Short-staple cotton and indigo
Built this house on the Bayou Road.
Old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Old Louisa’s movin’on.

No one left to give a damn
Since Uncle Jack went to Alabam.
They passed him around from hand to hand
‘Til he found him a girl in Birmingham.
Called her on the telephone,
Said, “Hey, hey, Babe, I can’t take no more.”
Left Louisa all alone,
Sitting by herself in the family home.

Now Old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Sitting alone. Ain’t no one else home.
Old Louisa, she’s rambling on.
Thinks she’s talking to Dominique and Pierre.
Rattling on to the empty chair.
Hot ‘n’ sticky like midnight fire.
Old Louisa, she’s at the end of the line.

Now, old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Old Louisa’s movin’ on.
Old Louisa…
Movin’ on…

Your Home is in My Heart

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

This ain’t no dream. We both know it’s real.
It’s like some kind of miracle we feel the way we feel.
We were so lonely together. How did we drift apart?
But an angel was passing. Your home is in my heart.
Yes, an angel was passing, and not a moment too soon.
I was packing my bags. Our true love was in ruins.
All that lying and crying, we chose a brand new start.
Now and forever, your home is in my heart.

– Chorus –

It’s a fine line. It’s a very fine line
Keeping love together for a very long time.
In a lifetime sometimes you fall behind.
Things can get a little bit dark.v I need to tell you I want you.
I want to tell you I need you.
My door is always open.
You hold the key to my heart.

One hand washes the other, what they always say.
One step at a time we’re gonna find our way.
Stop, look, and listen, then take a shot in the dark.
We all need a hand to hold. Your home is in my heart.

– Chorus –

It’s Gonna Take a Miracle

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

One after another, time after time,
Sooner or later, it’s the end of the line.
We’re running out of luck.

It’s either love or money, we got to make up our mind
‘Cuz the wolf’s at the door and there’s no place to hide.
We’re running out of time.
There’s oil in the water, there’s smoke in the sky.
It’s the moment of truth, and they’re telling us lies.
They’ve run out of luck.
We can keep the wheels rolling, keep the lights on at night,
But the Big Money Boys, they’ve got it locked down tight.
But they’ve run out of time.

Uphill, against the wind.
We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
Keep your chin up and your head down.
Keep your nose to the grindstone.
Keep your ear to the ground.
It’s gonna take a miracle, but there’s got to be a way.

Oh, you can’t stop time, and we can’t turn on a dime.
Against the grain, against the wall,
Against the odds and against the law.
It’s gonna take a miracle, but we got to find a way.

So keep your chin up, your head down,
Keep your nose to the grindstone.
Keep your ear to the ground.
It’s gonna take a miracle, but there’s got to be a way.
It’s gonna take a miracle, but there’s got to be a way.

Bad Luck Bone

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

Leave that thing on the ground. It’s a Bad Luck Bone.
Don’t you touch it no more, just move on along.
The Devil pass through at night, drag his tail on the ground.
It’s a Bad Luck Bone, you better leave it alone.
Little brother got crazy when he came out that cell
You know a thing like that, man you never can tell.
Now there’s a look in his eyes like he’s under a spell.
That boy, he might get better, but he’ll never get well.

When the big wind come, you better head for the ditch.
It’s gonna howl like a banshee, gonna wail like a witch.
You won’t know up from down, you won’t know which end’s which.
That wind can level your house, that wind won’t leave you a stitch.

When you’re looking for money, keep your eye on the ground
Because you might find a dollar, man, a shekel, a pound.
But that money is evil, it can spin you around,
Make you act like a madman, make you look like a clown.

Stay away from that whiskey, it’ll mess with your head.
It’ll shake up your life until you wish you was dead.
It’ll break up your family, like the good book said.
So keep the cork in that bottle, leave the dog in his bed.

Leave that thing on the ground, it’s a Bad Luck Bone.
Don’t touch it no more, just ride on along.
The Devil pass through at night, drag his tail on the ground.
It’s a Bad Luck Bone, you better leave it alone.

Has Anyone Seen Mattie?

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

Has anyone seen Mattie?
I lost her when the water start to rise.
She’s a light brown gal, stand ‘bout five feet five.
It was early in the mornin’ when the levee start to break.
Early in the mornin’, man, the levee start to break.
Water come so quick, our clothes was all we could take.

Just a tiny crack, Lawd, then the river crashin’ through.
Just a little crack, Mississippi River pourin’ through.
Lawd, it happen so fast . . . there was nothin’ we could do.

She was headed for the schoolhouse
And she was wavin’ me goodbye.
She was headin’ for the schoolhouse
She was wavin’ me goodbye.
But now she lost somewhere. I can’t even hear her cry.

Water on the rooftops, Lawd, they’s water in the trees.
They’s water on the rooftops, and water in the trees.
I’m standin’ on the levee, water far as you can see.

I’m lookin’ for that schoolhouse
They say the water push it down.
I’m lookin’ for that schoolhouse.
They saw the water push it down.
That flood, it come so hard.
They say ev’rybody drowned…

Has anyone seen Mattie?
I lost her when the water start to rise.
Has anyone seen Mattie?

Has anyone seen Mattie? Has anyone seen Mattie?

Borrowed Time

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

Snakes crawl at night, wild dogs howl in the moonlight.
The wind, it moans and whispers, just one hour past midnight.
Down here by the border, ain’t hard to cross the line.
But every dog has his day, and tomorrow is mine.

– REFRAIN –

Living on borrowed time, anyone can read the signs.
Living on borrowed time, but tomorrow is mine!

Everyone has a secret. You gonna reap what you sow.
I was born to good luck, but I’m standing on my tiptoes
‘Cuz the water is rising, and the night is deep.
I’m out on a limb and I can’t sleep.

– REFRAIN –

Could be the Devil’s dream, might be the Promised Land.
But when the River of Hope turns to a river of sand,
Heaven knows the ending. Please give me some kind of clue.
I work my fingers to the bone, but my heart is true.

For crying out loud! Read between the lines.
It’s now or never. It ain’t your fault or mine.
The road never ends, but it’s downhill from here.
This is the real deal, and there ain’t nothing to fear.

– REFRAIN –

Take Me To Rampart Street

Spencer Bohren, 1997 (bmi)

Take me down to Rampart Street.
I want to be where they heard that beat.
On Rampart Street, man, they heard that beat!
That’s the place it all began.
Black to White and back again.
On Rampart Street, yes, they heard that beat.

-Chorus –

Work all day from can to can’t.
Sunday morning time to dance.
All day long they carry on,
Listening to that black snake moan!

Take Orleans to Congo Square.
Dance that Wild Bamboola, cher.
Cross Rampart Street, you’ll hear the beat.

Blue-black, Creole, Octaroon,
Everybody doing the do
On Rampart Street. Yeah, they stomp their feet.

Dancing on that sacred ground,
You hear that drum all over town
On Rampart Street, man, you feel the beat.

-Chorus –

Take me down to Rampart Street.
I want to be where they heard that beat.
On Rampart Street, man, they heard that beat!

Blackwater Music

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

Blackwater music, turn your lamp down low.
We’re gonna take you where the wild things go.
‘Cross the Mississippi Bridge, take the river levee road.
Out here we don’t play “Dixie” no more…
Wild as a Holy Roller church hayride,
Down the Devil’s backbone to the hallelujah side.
Feel the backbeat stomp, hear the guitar slide.
Let the Holy Ghost boogie get heater hot tonight.

– Chorus –

You’ll be far from town
When you hear that sound.
Lawd, it shake the ground.
Turn your head around.

Twilight time at the midnight café
By the side of the tracks, ‘cross the old spillway.
Dance all night, then you sleep all day.
Stay too late, man, you’ll never get away.

– Chorus –

Let the spirit of the muddy river move your soul.
Shake it ‘til you break it, let the good times roll.
Moon going down, sky is black as coal…
It’s Saturday night until the church bells toll!

– Chorus –

Your Love

Spencer Bohren, 1981 (bmi)

I was a fool
Drinking and rambling
But then I met you, baby,
And everything changed.
You were so good for me.
Oh, you made me feel like something.
Yeah, and you lifted me!
The first time I saw you
I thought I was dreaming.
And you stole my heart
Just like a fairy tale.
I needed you
You and no other.
Ohh, and you lifted me!

– Bridge –

And I love you
Oh, oh, oh, ooh.
I love you… Yeah
‘Cuz you lifted me, yes you did,
Higher than I’d ever been before.

Now we’re together.
Each day’s a new morning.
I can feel the sunrise
Deep in my soul.
My life was empty
Before I found you.
Whoa, and you lifted me!

– Bridge –

The Old Homstead

Spencer Bohren, 2008 (bmi)

The old homestead’s broken down.
Everybody’s moved to town,
But the leaves still turn to scarlet up the holler.
The garden’s filled with weeds.
It can’t meet nobody’s needs,
While the kids are chasing that almighty dollar.
Well, my sister’s on the coast,
And my brother’s making toast
In a diner somewhere out in Arizona.
Dad’s been gone a while,
But I can still see Mama’s smile
Thought she doesn’t recognize me anymore.

– Chorus –

And the wind blows through the trees.
Lord, it puts me on my knees
When I think of all the sounds that used to live here.
I’d give everything I have just to hear my Mom and Dad
Sing those old songs they used to sing together.

Me, I been rambling ‘round
Singing songs from town to town.
I never found a wife or made a dime.
But I love every mile, and the memories make me smile.
But it might have run its course, it might be time.

– Chorus –

Now the air is getting’ cold.
Must be time to hit the road.
There ain’t no place to sleep here anymore.
But if I had my way
I’d come back here and I’d stay
And listen to the birds sing every morning.

– Chorus –

Listen to the Wind

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

~REFRAIN ~

Listen to the wind – always the wind.
The truth is carried in the sage and the wind.
Can you smell the sage? Forever smell the sage.
You’ll smell the sage when you go down in the wind.
The soldiers will be falling all around you.
Your eyes, they will not see the way.
Your heart will be your only chance to find your way back home.
Listen to the wind, smell the sage.

Your father and his fathers before him
Burned the sage and listened to the wind.
Told them that the White Man was coming,
That life would never be the same again.

The White Man killed our men
Before they stole our land.
They had no right, they had the guns.
What could we do?
They treated us like dirt, but what really hurt
They poisoned everything they touched.
They’re still not through.

Your ancient Fathers’ land
Is your Fathers’ land no more
The sky is dark; even rivers will catch fire.
But they are near the end. Their land will poison them.
Their water will bring death instead of life.

But now their time is surely ending.
And their kind will never come again.
The Great Mother will tolerate them no longer
But there will always be the sage and the wind.

~REFRAIN ~

2 reviews for Blackwater Music (2011)

  1. :

    SPENCER BOHREN – Blackwater Music

    Blues Review, October 2011

    Spencer Bohren, a Wyoming native now based in New Orleans, has traveled all over, yet still possesses a strong sense of place. He mounted an almost never-ending tour throughout the 1980s, but did so in an Airstream trailer with his wife and kids.

    In keeping, the spare and simply put Blackwater Music is a family recording in the most complete sense of the word, with son Andre sitting in on drums and piano, wife Marilyn co-writing on the CD opener, and son Django designing the CD package. This homey sense of vernacular makes for a welcome embrace, in particular on a troubadour blues like “Your Home is in My Heart.”

    Yet when the album moves into darker themes – as with the opening of “Old Louisa’s Movin’ On” or on “Bad Luck Bone,” with its echoing portent – Bohren’s lived-in authority carries a similar weight. Often accompanied by nothing more than his own Delta-infused guitar stylings, Bohren sings with a humid closeness, like an old friend sharing stories on the other end of the swing on a late-summer night. He recalls bad times and worse, as on the post-Katrina elegy “Has Anyone Seen Mattie?” with its lonesome accompaniment from violinist Matt Rhody. He wonders what it would take to right his many wrongs, as a lapsteel curls around each carefully sung lyric on “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle.” He considers salvation and what comes next on the National steel-driven “Borrowed Time” – referencing again, this shattering memory of a flooded New Orleans: “The water is rising, and the night is deep” – then lets loose another soaring lapsteel moan on “Blackwater Music.”

    “Listen to the Wind,” which closes out Blackwater Music, laments a land and a lifestyle, lost forever by the Native Americans. Andre Bohren makes a memorable contribution, adding a thrumming drumscape that sounds like a repeated accusation. Before long, however, Bohren is skipping along with a tuba-honking quartet on “Take Me to Rampart Street,” celebrating a life-saving relationship on “Your Love,” then settling in for a comfy reminiscence on “The Old Homestead.” As happy as he is talented, Spencer Bohren remains that rarest of things, a talent who’s made a life of blues picking.

    – Nick DeRiso –

  2. :

    SPENCER BOHREN/ BLACKWATER MUSIC

    Threadhead Records

    Released April 2011

    Spencer Bohren has always had a keen sense of how to turn the everyday events of life into meaningful songs that touch listeners on many levels. His latest recording gathers eleven original songs that explore a variety of issues and musical styles. His son, Andre Bohren, plays drums on six tracks and piano on another. Some of Bohren’s friends from the New Orleans musical community help out on five cuts.

    Three tracks feature Bohren in the solo format. “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” starts out with Bohren on lapsteel guitar, picking out a delicate melody. The lyrics tell a darker story about big money overpowering love as Bohren preaches that we can still prevail against the odds. His intricate picking on “The Old Homestead” frames the tale of a wandering soul yearning for the comforts of home and family. The title track is a highlight as Bohren draws otherworldly tones from his lapsteel guitar while describing the effects of the “holy ghost boogie.”

    “Bad Luck Bone” finds Bohren’s taut guitar licks weaving around the snaky rhythm his son coaxes from his drums. Andre takes you to church with his gospel-influenced piano behind his father’s stirring vocal on “Your Love.” The duo hit the mark on “Old Louisa’s Movin’ On” with Andre laying down a shuffle beat that Spencer cuts through with a thick tone and ringing notes from his guitar. Matt Rhody’s fiddle creates a mournful tone for “Has Anyone Seen Mattie,” Bohren’s moving tale of the ravages and human suffering unleashed by the failure of the levees.

    Reggie Scanlan, from the Radiators, joins the Bohrens on bass for “Borrowed Time,” another look at the darker side of life with Spencer using a National steel guitar. Bohren lightens the mood by switching to traditional New Orleans jazz on “Take Me to Rampart Street” with Aurora Nealand on soprano sax, Amasa Miller on piano and Tim Stambaugh on tuba helping to make this track worthy of its own second line.

    Two members of the Iguanas, Rod Hodges on electric guitar and Rene Coman on bass, bring depth to the ballad “Your Home is in My Heart.” Their contributions and Bohren’s earnest vocal make this performance another highlight rather than just another maudlin love song, Nealand returns, this time on accordion, for the closing number. “Listen to the Wind” is a somber look at our nation’s treatment of the Native Americans. The combination of Bohren’s lapsteel and the accordion creates an eerie sound that will linger in your soul.

    The attractive package includes a list of the vintage guitars Bohren used for this disc along with pictures of some of the instruments. Combined with striking material, Bohren’s expressive vocals and remarkable guitar playing, this high-quality release is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates blues music that successfully celebrates the music’s traditions while addressing the issues of our modern world.

    Mark Thompson

    Crossroads Blues Society / Rockford, Illinois

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