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John Depew

by John Depew

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Wish I had a nickel, wish I had a dime Wish I had my own true love to warm this lonely life I left my sweetheart in Virginia, and I came out west alone Said I’d send her some money for a railroad fare just as soon as I found home Rode with Freddy Jackson out on the open range We shot 100 buffalo and we left them carcasses lay I wish I had my own true love 100 hides up to Ellsworth, they brought a quarter each Old Jackson gambled his money all away, now he’s broke as broke can be But me I bought a mule team and a bull tongue moldboard plow Gonna stay and make my living, boys, the best way I know how I wish I had my own true love This land is long and lovely, suits me mighty fine Gonna build a little cabin on the Ninnescah river Gonna live in Ninnescah time I wrote my sweetheart a letter saying come whenever you can She sent me back my last gold dollar, said she’s marrying another man I wish I had my own true love
Hog Killing 04:57
A bullet to the head, and a knife to the throat Not one, but both, to do the job right We’ve pinched and skimped, cussed and cried To keep the feed bins full and the mortgage paid But God, how I love these frozen nights Step through the barn, hold the lantern high Our breath all melding crystalline All life exhales in silence Let them all stand still for the bullet, let them die with the sound of the shot in the air Let them each lock eyes with the shooter in the moment before the shot rings Let the jugular blood spring hot to the knife, as hogs turn to people By our hunger, by the blood on our hands, we persist a little longer We walk alone over grazed out milo stubble fields Thinking about the payments due in the coming year The cattle bunched up to the south of the cedar trees Not far from dried up well and the water tank We walk the same path right down to the dust Feet and hooves alike trace the same tracks Throw my bones in the gully where the sheeps’ and the hogs’ bleach white When my time comes Let the stroke or the heart attack drop me, let me die on my way to the ground Let me go on a tender word that my wife and my kids might remember Let me leave some advice for my grandkids: “Stay home and fry yourself a sandwich” By our hunger, our bond is renewed, and we persist a little longer
Are you lonely there, in the corner of the cemetery yard Or wherever exactly it is you are? I don’t have too much to say, talking to the open air Well, anyway, if you can hear me, I guess you’d already know There’s an Indian blanket flower coming up in the middle of the mugwort And the beads that your dad left hanging on the trellis, they’re rattling in the wind There’s not a cloud in the sky and I wonder why Cause I can feel this humidity weighing me down And I haven’t been able to get out from under it I weep for my daughters And I weep for the world they’re growing up in I weep for the friends that moved along And I weep now for no reason at all Now there’s three little girls gathered round the piano They’re pounding out melodies I’d never dream of I hear you singing their bedtime songs upstairs in the lamplight My heart runneth over knowing how lucky I am I weep for the wife who still loves me And I weep for the world that she lives in I weep for the friends that moved along And I weep now for no reason at all
I sent a prayer on the back of a raven Addressed to the walls of the Leprechaun Canyon In hopes that the maker’d forgive the confusion Of neural connections for the thoughts that flow through them Oh my God, you found me Scrambling through the narrows of your mind I sent a prayer in the curl of a ram’s horn May we remember our wildness, the reason we came here May we take on the power of Pitamakin Overlook May our hearts reflect something of this vastness and solitude Oh my God, you found me Topping out the ridge line When my heart breaks, when my cup overflows When I’m brought to tears hanging off the side of a mountain Or on the fountain green road, Walking in a late summer sunset with my daughters I’ll be out in the back yard staring up at the funnel cloud And if it swallows me up and spits me out in the stratosphere If I fall, may I know I’m falling If I die, may I know I’m dying To those I love, may they know I love them And while I live, may I be absorbed in every moment
A Better Day 02:46
Tell me what’s so wrong with singing Jackson Browne Or sitting quiet when the singing does no good? Tell me why you’ll paint a hundred portriats of a hundred perfect strangers When you came to paint the sunset over Tabagauche It’s America. We got bills to pay Keep on showing up and hoping for a better day Tell me what’s the number I should shoot for in my 401k Before I can leave this place and go out on my own I should be thankful for the good things that I’ve had, don’t I know it… Have I stepped in the same trap as every man I’ve ever known Though I smelled it from a mile away? Traded hope in dimes and pennies for security Found it wasn’t quite the life that I expected it to be In America. We got bills to pay Keep on showing up and hoping for a better day And on that day, the list grows ever longer what I want to do Twenty years of wishes that I’ve held onto I hope I’m strong and I live long enough to make it worthwhile. Tell me what’s so wrong with singing Jackson Browne Or sitting quiet when the singing does no good.
Blue Heron 03:04
I saw a great blue heron circling in a deep blue sky Circling around, circling around, circling around I could run these woods like a spirit that’s never been found Circling around, circling around, sink into the cold red ground I turned and wandered downstream, head held high on a slender neck Waiting for a sign, waiting for a sign, waiting for a sign Two big snapping turtles lay in the middle of the creek in a shallow spot I am not alone, I am not alone, life just keeps on moving I stand with one foot on dry land I know you’ve seen me here before Step down the bank, stretch out a hand And we’ll walk together for a while
The Orchard 02:47
Bring a shovel and sapling, bring a pail of water Say a prayer for the future, keep that hope alive Oatmeal in the morning, cornbread every night Someday we’ll have apple cider, butter, sauce, and pie The bills are due, the money’s tight but I think everything will be alright Ain’t got much in the way of things but I got you and you got me Green yellow and azure, big wide open sky Walk this road a hundred miles to see my darling smile Work my way through the afternoon hoeing corn and beans The sun goes down, run on home, she’s waiting there for me If that little tree dies, plant two more in its place Try not to sweat the small stuff, keep a slow and steady pace Got two on the ground and one on the way, the family’s getting bigger There’s a lot to learn and a lot to love and life moves ever quicker
I built a six foot fence but no gate So the barred rocks run loose anyway And a red tailed hawk will pick one off every once in a while I try not to let it bother me I built a strawberry bed to the west of the greenhouse I dug myself a grave and lined it in sandstone One of these days when the sun shines bright on the strawberry flowers Maybe 60 years from now you’ll have to lay me down Some are red and summer green, rhubarb stems and apricot leaves The wood’s all cut, the cistern’s full, let’s raise a glass to growing older When we run out of our summertime moonlit walks Down through the pasture to the banks of the Silver creek I know my heart will still long for your company Down by the water’s edge for Orion’s farewell I changed the points and the coil and it runs now The steering gear needs replaced But there’s too much work and no time to waste So I keep tension on the linkage with the toe of my right boot I try not to let it bother me I set the rows while the girls lay potatoes with eyes to the sky We covered them up while the sky turned dark and the sun burned red I climbed the silo to see if the fire was headed our way It was too far off to see but I felt that fear rising up in me I’m not afraid of going to rest I’m not afraid of dying I’ll spend the moments that I have left Out in the garden with you.
Its been 99 years since the day that I was born 63 since I was found Hanging from the rafters on an old harness line By a neighbor on his way into town The evening before was a terrible sight Came the sheriff and the county clerk By the power given them in the law and God above They’d remove us from this dairyman’s work I am the ghost in the loft of the barn Footfalls that come out of nowhere The land made an offer I could not refuse But neither could I pay what was due They gave us til the morning to pack up and go But when my darling and the children lay asleep One by one I sent their souls up to knock on Heaven’s door As their bodies grew cold in my arms Lit my lantern and stepped out to the barn I am the shadow come creeping upstairs By the light of the cars on the highway I’ll dwell in regret til the rivers run fire And the earth melts away in the bitter end
Viceroy 03:27
A hooded merganser and I had a little talk on the reservoir I said “I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life” And he said “You’re wasting it. You drink too much beer and you smoke too much sneezeweed You always want to be off in some state of sedation. You never learned to be lucid in waking.” I paddled through Wenzel cove and up toward the park boundary Saw the giant carp laying halfway out of the water Before he turned and swam into the deeper channel On up to the beaver dam with the willows hanging low over the water Tied the canoe up and stepped out Into the cottonwoods to stretch my legs. “I catch a monarch with a torn wing And I stare at it in awe Or is it a viceroy I am beholding? The insect trembles in my open hand Or is my hand trembling?” -Gene Logsdon Is the whole world trembling? You said don’t let my world grow smaller, make it larger Well, I’m trying, but I’m fighting my instincts. That’s as it should be, I guess. I’ve usually thought of myself as a decent person But I’m seeing there’s some self deception involved with that. I got so caught up in my little problems That I forgot what I was doing here in the first place It’s on the tip of my tongue. “I catch a monarch with a torn wing And I stare at it in awe Or is it a viceroy I am beholding? The insect trembles in my open hand Or is my hand trembling?” -GL


mixed and mastered by Josh Davies @ Sound Trek Productions
12 string guitar courtesy of Jim French, Thanks!
Viceroy uses a beautiful untitled poem of Gene Logsdon's, with permission
Hog Killing is based on Wendell Berry's wonderful poem 'For the Hog Killing' with permission from the author


released February 16, 2021

John Depew-vocal, 6 & 12 string guitars, mandolin, banjo


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John Depew Kansas

John is a multi-instrumentalist songwriter with a base in traditional American music, who is interested in taking old sounds in new directions.

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