The Department of the West

by Deborah Crooks

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1.
I don’t want to see a ghost I got plenty on my mind for this one lifetime Don’t think I‘m not haunted, Don’t think I take for granted All those I carry in my bones Some days I’m heavy with history Some days I’m lit by the mystery of it all Forest trees, a symphony A new arrangement every year First the aspen, then the fir Changing color, growing clear Clouds build their way into a storm A daily matinee lightning, thunderclap, paint the flyway Some days I’m heavy with history Some days I’m lit by the mystery of it all I don’t want to see a ghost I don’t want to see a ghost I got plenty on my mind for this one lifetime
2.
The horse is still in its corral The swallow pauses on the roof February’s snow might not ever melt this year Love will have to find its own proof We can laugh or cry about time How it moves too fast how slow it bends From one angle it looks hopeless From the other heaven sent Let the river do the running Let the river take its course Let the river rage and calm Gravity times force I'm still finding my way toward center Move past this idea of something more Some days you know I feel five years old Crying over that fake teapot that wouldn't pour No this isn’t child's play Gravity can bring us together or tear us apart Only we can decide To turn toward an open heart Let the river do the running Let the river take its course Let the river rage and calm Gravity times force Your heart has all the answers Just like the earth has all the water it will ever need The weight of it all can bring us down Or give us the ground we need
3.
03:30
Dreaming of bees, honey on the comb the way they swarmed and flew on their way to a new home One big whir, queen and drone, making honey Fill up the Folgers cans, under skies bright and sunny Trading fruit no exchange of money Grapes on the vine, meant for white wine Apples, pear tree, so much honey Then the neighbors came apart and filed for divorce Built a big road and buried their horse Put up that long fence across from the pond and field of clover One day you come home, find its all over Stolen honey, no longer true Stolen honey, can happen to you Some things are sweet, but you don't really know it Until what was once plenty is no more The world turns and turns, the planets they line up We rise at dawn, pour coffee into a favorite cup Hoping for honey, hoping for honey, hoping for something sweet
4.
03:56
In the night I hear the rain Think of how she said my name Something about the sound of falling water How I never felt quite her daughter All signs lead back to mother To remind and recover More to a book than its cover If I only turn the page Don’t go in past your knees Tide might take you away Ota sin svetog duha The words we learned to pray Caution was her superpower After all she couldn’t swim Fear a shield of protection Hope’s dark twin All signs lead back to mother I couldn’t help but reflect her But a mirror could not protect her And a frame can be a cage Tejee graja mala All us bad little girls Just might grow into women Who can heal the whole wide world All signs lead back to mother To remind and recover Choose to resent or forgive her Go ahead now, turn the page
5.
03:48
There are different ways to read the stars those that are near and those that are far Watch them shoot across the sky I wonder where you are I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink but darkness carries you down a dusty road Broken wheels, misplaced hope, a heavy load to carry The stars are blinking lives once true once we were all brand new And oh how our garden grew Pull a card from a deck Chips are down I place my bet On a second chance, a third with you Remind me what we once knew Oh how our garden grew It’s dark now, what will the stars tell I’ll make a wish, wish you well Clear skies, a pure heart, a light in the dark The stars are blinking lives once true Remind me what we once knew Oh how our garden grew When we were all brand new
6.
Lost the job now you’re losing the house Gonna put one last log on the fire From a tree planted long ago Finally cut it down after decades watching it grow Great Grandpa’s rifle on the hearth Apache’s called him Chief Wolf Not a hater still a fighter Indian War guide Time to smoke out this misplaced family pride Here we stand but this land was never ours No matter who spoke truth or who lied Settled scores, this land was never ours In a war there are always two sides Yeah your made of Irish a little Cherokee That’s what you were always told But no one said who ventured into that squaw’s teepee How honor can be bought, taken and sold Split the wood, split it again, roll it down the hill, dad used to give you ten Ten cents for every log, eucalyptus, Monterey Pine Now you see so many things were never yours, never mine Here we stand but this land was never ours No matter who spoke truth or who lied Settled scores, this land was never ours In a war there are always two sides Throw another log on the fire Oak burns best long and slow Your heart maybe breaking But it’s our turn, our turn to go Here we stand but this land was never ours No matter who spoke truth or who lied Settled scores, this land was never ours In a war there are always two sides
7.
03:52
I’m done with the sweet, the sugar on my teeth The ache of too much too soon Syrupy come-ons, oh come on        I’m ready for something new in my spoon Complexity not simplicity      A whole new depth a different degree Yea bitter, yes bitter is my new sweet Enough of the saccharine ruin  It’s a different phase of the moon I’m after substance not just a treat     Keep the fluff, I’ll take the heat  Integrity my indemnity A strong blend of profundity Yea bitter, yes bitter is my new sweet Call it remaking the rules No more suffering fools Done wasting time on simple minds Careless words, those unkind Integrity my indemnity A strong blend of profundity Yea bitter, yes bitter is my new sweet  Complexity not simplicity      A whole new depth a different degree Yea bitter, yes bitter is my new sweet Yea bitter, yes bitter is my new sweet
8.
04:27
Yeah that was me you saw when you were drinking at the bar I almost came up to say hi but you were already heading for the car Maybe not trusting your eyes, but yeah that was me Setting up the microphone, pulling out the guitar Been round the world but when you come back home doesn’t look like you’ve gone far But that don’t mean you can’t be proud of who you are Long roads, dark roads, loose ends riverbends Happy to just be walking around, no longer afraid to stand up and make a sound Not like back when you thought you knew me and i barely said a word Your hand up my skirt didn’t even bother to flirt And I thought that was OK I got in my head and went far away Pretended it wasn’t happening so yea back then I sure didn’t sing Long roads, dark roads, dead ends, misspent A little jazz, a little blues, song about the joy of finding new shoes That fit you perfectly who cares how they look So go ahead judge all you like You can’t touch me now and I’ve got the mic And I know to name things exactly as I see them Low roads, high roads, truth, freedom Long roads, dark roads
9.
To get from San Francisco to Marin You must cross a bridge or board a boat Ferry ride to the other side of the Bay Embarcadero to Sausalito Houseboats bobbing, No Name bar You could pull to the curb in your car Come pick me up Come meet me on the other side But you weren't that kind, not ever Instead you wrote me letters With perfect handwriting Handmade paper at the post office Five blocks from horse hill Turn a key, sit on a bench, cry to start my day All I wanted you to say Come meet me on the other side Maple trees going from green to red Time passing before our eyes To get from then to now I don’t know how We did it To get from Marin to Oakland You must cross a bridge or board a boat Ferry ride to the other side Larkspur, Jack London Square Sailboats listing, Last Chance Saloon, I’ll wait for you there Come pick me up Come meet me on the other side Come pick me up I’ll meet you on the other side
10.
03:43
Mountain holds us steady and strong Earth rumble moves us along First a boulder then a rock Falling turning, knock knock We’re just river stones Finding our way home Together and alone We’re just river stones Into the water/ we fall Resist the stream or heed the call? Surrender to the currents spell Where we land is for time to tell We’re just river stones Finding our way home Together and alone We’re just river stones We lean against each other We get carried away Break each other down Hold each other sway Rough and edgy, smooth and light Do you go with flow or hold on tight? All different centers of gravity Current comes sets us free We’re just river stones Finding our way home Together and alone We’re just river stones
11.
Snow dusts the hill there’s frost on the grass Mergansers diving without a gasp There’s so much we all can say But listen harder To what the land will tell you What the land will tell you River valley where the bears did roam Pronghorn hoof prints lead to the unknown Sage as far as the eye can see Will you believe? What the land will tell you What the land will tell you Get the sleep out of your eye Might be we all need to cry Once we listen To what the land will tell you Winter has broken onto the day It’s cold now but we’ll find our way Just a trace left of who used to call this home You thing you're first but you’ll never be alone If you listen To what the land will tell you What the land will tell you

about

A follow-up to her 2016 EP Beauty Everywhere and her work with the band Bay Station, Crooks continues to explores themes of natural history (“River Stones”), family (“All Signs”), and the #metoo movement (“Long Roads”), while also addressing the nature of land ownership and Native American history (“Department of the West” “What the Land Will Tell You”) and relationship (“Let the River do the Running”).

Crooks co-produced The Department of the West with Danny Allen (Baby Buck Studio, High Diving Horses) and recorded at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studio in San Francisco. Allen also played guitars, ukulele and banjo on the album, and was joined by Mike Stevens (The Uptones, Sun Kil Moon) on drums and percussion, Kevin T. White (Chuck Prophet, Shelby Lynne) on bass. Longtime collaborator Kwame Copeland (Bay Station, Straw Coyotes), as well as Heather Davison (Loretta Lynch), Maurice Tani and Maryam Qudus contribute backing vocals. The recording was mixed and engineered by Qudus (Tune-Yards, Kronos Quartet) and mastered by Piper Payne (Infrasonic Sound).

credits

released December 6, 2019

Recorded and mixed by Maryam Qudus at Tiny Telephone, San Francisco
Mastered by Piper Payne at Infrasonic Sound, Oakland
Acoustic guitar, vocals: Deborah Crooks
Electric guitars, vocals: Danny Allen
Bass: Kevin T. White
Drums: Mike Stevens
Backing Vocals: Heather Davison, Kwame Copeland, Maryam Qudus and Maurice Tani

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Deborah Crooks Alameda, California

"Deborah Crooks makes the case for a return to the roots of rock"- Consequence of Sound
California-based songwriter Deborah Crooks' music draws on folk, rock, and the Blues. Her diverse, ever-evolving artistic path has included studying writing and poetics at The Naropa Institute, voice in India, co-founding the band Bay Station, and gigging throughout the Western US. ... more

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