Scrimshaw

by Nels Andrews

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03:59
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05:27

about

"In the 1800s, whaling voyages would last 3 years or longer; several weeks, sometimes months, could pass between Whale sightings, This gave the whalers a great deal more free time than other sailors of the day. Manuscripts were penned, and finely crafted stories were told in thin line on bone. I imagine it was the romantics, if forced to sea, who would take to whaling, finding somewhere to occasionally oust their courage between long bouts of contemplation, and rum. They probably also liked the rum." Nels Andrews, 2012

"These songs were written last year, when i stayed home for a while, splitting my days between working as a chauffeur in Manhattan and watching my infant son grow into a toddler in and around our brooklyn apartment. At night, while he slept, I culled the fragments of my days, and let them sift and blend with everything blurring past me each day on the street. The city felt so full of movement and ambition at a time in my life which felt decidedly (or at least relatively) not. I tried to boil it all down for this album, these little scrimshawed stories."

This is the third studio album from singer/songwriter Nels Andrews, with songs largely set in and around New York City, (his most recent roost since Albuquerque) until he found himself living in coastal California last summer. Scrimshaw is a masterful and organic progression from his 2008 Off Track Betting. It is as if he took the muscular strength of the songs from his first album, Sunday Shoes, and blended this with the sonic range and artful instrumentation that made Off Track Betting rise from the ranks of most singer/songwriters. Nels has kept true to his folk roots, foremost he is here to tell you a story. As always, his voice is warm and captivates you, melodies hanging in your ears long after the songs end, but in Scrimshaw we can also hear the echoes of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and the influence of Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie in his writing. In "Barroom Bards" Nels suggests the textures of the San Jorocho music he's been hearing lately on the Mexican radio airwaves floating up from Los Angeles. "Wisteria" is a love story from the point of view of a flowering vine that has climbed up the front of a lower east side brownstone for a century. "Small Victories" tells the story of a bohemian enclave being evicted from the apartments hidden above Carnegie Hall. "Three Hermits" a co write with WB Yeats. "Tridents", "Starboard", "Lost Year" and "Houdini" are all tales of different sorts of love and ambition, intimate glimpses of characters orbiting a city that won't rest.

The basics tracks of Scrimshaw were captured at Brooklyn Recording in NY, (non intentionally overlooking the naval docks). Very glad for the return of Todd Sickafoose (Tiny Resistors, Ani DiFranco, Anais Mitchell, Yoko Ono, Andrew Bird) for the production and mixing, and a grand tapestry including my touring band (Jonathan Goldberger and Brandon Seabrook) and wildly talented friends from all over the country .

credits

released May 14, 2018

Produced and arranged by Todd Sickafoose.
Recorded by Andy Taub at Brooklyn Recording and Todd Sickafoose at Earycanal.
Additional recording by Jonathan Goldberger at Downhome Studios. 
Mixed by Todd Sickafoose at Earycanal.
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music. 

Todd Sickafoose acoustic bass, piano, pump organ
Nels Andrews guitars, vocals, shruti box 
Jonathan Goldberger Electric  and 12 string guitars (Tiny Resistors Red Baraat)
Adam Levy Electric Guitars (Tiny Resistors, Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman)
Brandon Seabrook  Tenor Banjo, Mandolin acoustic guitar (Peter Evans, Mark Ribot, Trevor Dunn)
Rich Hinman Pedal steel (Ben Kweller, Rosanne Cash)
Ben Perowsky Drums (tracks 1-5 & 9)  (John Zorn, Joan As Policewoman, John Cale)
Andrew Borger Drums, percussion (Tom Waits, Chuck Prophet, Tin Hat Trio)
Savanna Jo Lack Violin
Nuala Kennedy vocals, Flute  (Will Oldam, Gerry O Conner, Kris Drever)
Aj Roach vocals
Raina Rose vocals
Anthony Da Costa Vocals
John Elliot Vocals
Ian Thomas Parks Vocals

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Track Name: Tridents
The night was abandoned, but for thieves and stars
thieves and stars and abandon
i slept your graces and dreamed the bars
falling dreams of soft landings
I laid eyes on oceans, with deserts still in my hair
I walked from the bowery, to above the tree line


Boys will be boys
girls will be wise
let the streets take the soldier’s names
we’ll keep the skies


out past the break, the sharks are patient
the sharks, they swim patiently beyond the waves
brave boys stand with sand on their ankles
sand on their ankles and tridents raised
we stab at a beast from six fathoms under
for fortune, for glory, for fame


the tailor trusts the thread and the needle
the thread, the needle and the hand of the cloth
ignoring the passing fancy of fashion
the fancy of fashion is food for the moth
‘cousin, your coat,’ the wild wolf told me
‘can’t cover your collar and chain’


and then when you rise you’re back on the pavement,
your hands in your pockets digging for heat
knowing words once they’re sung, bare the rungs of tall timber
and fell little redwoods on ludlow street
Track Name: Starboard
by the time you finally came undone
it was there with the family and everyone
in the the tattered backseat of a
swedish sedan
dried foam yellowed your nervous hand
dried foam yellowed your nervous hand
too tall for the playground, but not too young
you’d mixed robotussin and malibu rum
kicked your feet, the moon rose and fell
horses on a carousel
horses on a carousel


you come home ragged and you come home curt
we can smell the city on your your shirt
by the length of your hem
and your torn lapel
we see you’ve been sinking in the wishing well


an army of butterflies in a bushwick loft
playing swiss family robinson, little boy lost
he courted you there like a bowerbird
but you could not break him from the herd
you could not break him from the herd


you come home ragged and you come home curt
we can smell the city on your your shirt
by the length of your hem
and your torn lapel
we see you’ve been sinking in the wishing well


Caught between the shore and sea
you broke your stroke to laugh
your clothes outgrown, but you cant go home
and you are neither kitt nor calf
follow the sliver fish upstream
wake up portside of a starboard dream
bewildered, you’d have never known
the curb could cause such vertigo
Track Name: Barroom Bards
oh sweet william is it true you’d sung?
rhyming couplets in foreign tongues?
and drank dry the fortunes of banker’s sons
in the el farol bar


“i skipped songs on the river there
I grew long, then cut off my hair
found that love wasn’t really fair,
and real beauty is wild”


a poet in exile and gentleman’s crest?
unsung, un-knighted, and un-repressed?
how you charmed your muse to the little death,
and a helium sigh


“i let her play actress, i let her play queen
strangers could really be anything
when borders make amber of the warmest dreams
and the prettiest scars”


sons and lovers send letters home?
ships in bottles from messages grown?
how the wind shed the skin of that boy you’d known,
and annealed a new man


“i poached sheep with a bowie knife
wrecked el camino’s and socialites,
jumped blind at the fence, thinking sure i’d find
we’ll all land somewhere in time”


barroom bards and river stones don’t shine so bright, when you get them home
3x


come greet the dawn then with me and mine,
who sing of dead kings and compromise
poor sweet william, all full of wine
on your kitchen floor
Track Name: Small Victories
Did you go off the deep end,
or fire island for the weekend?
to worry your wounds
in jade oceans and gin
still glossy the faces,
on the eight by tens,
and vases are blanketed with plaster
that once blanketed the wall
so goodbye to brando,
marilyn in scandal
You’ll always be the dutchess of carnegie hall


small victories are back and white on the big screen
well lit, and well cast
so take your time
go slow and easy on me
i’ve got a porcelain past


a bungalow on fairfax interior,
lit for the second act was over
before you ever even hit the stage
wine-eyed and wanting
blue sky blondes fawning
for a way to live forever,
then slip away young
Heartbroke, Gold dug
we find you ashing on a silk rug
having chosen no favorites ,
for you’d loved them all
Track Name: Flotsam
here are no shadows in a house of the sun
for driftwood or flotsam to feel shame and run
live in a tradesman van out on route one
there are no shadows in a house of the sun


bottle the solitude of the canopied air
sell it in sideshows and traveling fairs
saying “drink this and sleepwalk through times square”
bottle the solitude of the canopied air


That’s true enough for the hopeless heat seekers
How are the skeptics the true believers?
let the wee little beasties charm all their pleasers
and leave the romantics alone
and leave the romantics alone


I watch the wanderer lower his defense,
offer his name in the past and present tense
she’s coiled like a library cat on the fence
i watch the wanderer lower his defense


Lets have a round for the women of troy
Who sent us off men, and we came home boys
They set fire to the fleet, and smashed all the toys
Let’s have a round for the women of troy
Track Name: Houdini
all the money from the bucket is wine
but I will save my softest song
for the hollow of the platform calm
after the train has gone
There’s still Jersey on your tongue
that twists so fine and silver
“the west wind will bring me home,
and knot tassles in your hair”
fireworks over a frozen lake
far from laying lovers’ skies

when houdini slips from your sheets
she wont say goodbye


In the end the irons fell,
does all your magic need the curtain?
Does avery trunk trick need applause?
will daylight break the spell?
In a dark room music played
from accordions hung in cages
to the spirits there i begged,
for what no earthly means could hold
you’ll never tell of the trapdoor in my sweetest little lie


when houdini...


naked, freckled, fair,
we shivered by the rio grande
you and and my alphabet snare,
held tightly in each hand
anglers and conjurers know
the tackle and creel
but footlit was the rose
for the one that got away
the seine i laid for your bedclothes
washed up pretty, and empty, and wry..
when houdini slips from your sheets
she won’t say goodbye
Track Name: Three Hermits
three old hermits took the air
by a cold and desolate sea
the first was muttering a prayer
the second rummaged for a flea;
on a windy stone, the third,
giddy with his hundredth year,
sang unnoticed like a bird

la la la la la la


“Though the door of death is near
and what waits behind the door,
three times in a single day
I slept upright on the shore”
so the first but now the second,
“We’re given but what we’ve earned
so it’s plain to be discerned”

la la la la la la

“That the shades of holy men
who have failed being weak of will,
pass the door of birth again
and are plagued by crowds until
they have the passion to escape.”
moaned the other, “they are thrown
into some most fearful shape.”
but the second mocked his moan:
“They are not chained to anything
having loved God once, but maybe,
to a poet or a king
or some witty lovely lady.”


he caught and cracked his flea, the third,
giddy with his hundredth bird,
sang unnoticed like a bird

la la la la la la
Track Name: Lost Year (Off Track Betting)
you knew it by weight
but its shape was sand
it trembled in the quiver
but was calm in your hand
your words flew feathered,
true and fair
the way some black birds take to air


you’d been childlike
you’d been lied to
I was warned but moved too slow
I held arrows of Joy and Sorrow
but I could not bend (string) the bow


not another last call
not another lost year
there is a fawn asleep on the lawn
so sharpen your darts and come finish him dear
come you cowards with poison
rush in fools, cape, and blade
me, i’ll do it slow young wine,and old songs
and these plans that we’d made


I listened to the moans of couples entwined
hidden by the brick and the balcony vine
so i didn’t see who, but i knew how
There grew weeds in the garden of the wedding vow


they were childlike
they were lied to
we were warned but moved too slow
we held arrows of joy and sorrow
but we could not bend the bow


I heard the heart of a shuttering deer
There beneath the deck, saw his moth’s wing ear
as he jumped bound through the garden, the leaves unpiled
past the manicured yard,
to where the woods go wild
Track Name: Wisteria
i will be brownstone
you be wisteria,
you’ll make me rush in the spring time
close as you’ve grown to me
you’ll stay mysterious
the butterfly lash of a new vine
there in the morning sun,
up where the blossoms were
you’d cling to me , shuttle woven and gossamer


you could make a pigeon coo a meadowlark’s song


when i was the creekbed
and you were still wilderness
caught in the cuff of a morning coat
then sprung from the cobblestone
until couples in evening dress
swooned oakmoss and amber
around your throat
streets of a certain age
grow thin from the tireless feet
what do they want? ,
im only east 7th street


then you’ll be the the brown stone
and ill be wisteria
you’ll pick me up when our autumn falls
softened by chandelier
and ever ethereal
memories in oils on our walls
goodbye new amsterdam
there where our memories hung
for we may be old, but the night and the world are young

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