Reckoning

by Jen Chapin

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about

Reckoning was recorded, mixed and produced by the esteemed 5-time Grammy Award winner Kevin Killen, who has mixed, engineered and produced with U2, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Jewel, Bobby McFerrin, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Shawn Colvin (among many others).The album reckons with the challenge of balancing creative ambitions with the immediate demands of mothering small children — combined with a good dose of social commentary. In the poignant “Let it Show”, Jen sings to her not-yet firstborn “… the one thing you should know/is find your joy and let it show,” then in the candid tango-tinged rocker “Go Away:” “I love when you go away/my patience returns like a long lost friend..” Jen’s band cooks right along under her intimate portrait of a broken food system in “Feed Your Baby” and “Insatiable,” her indictment of our militaristic and security-obsessed culture, while the sensuous reggae of “Don’t Talk” extols the virtues of non-verbal marital communication (i.e. sex!). Other songs include the fiery “Don’t Rush Me,” emerging from the experience of childbirth, and “Gospel” — a celebration of social movements for economic justice and democracy around the world.

Basic tracking for the songs took place in mid-March at Mission Sound in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, overdubs followed at Stephan Crump’s home studio, and mixing at Killen’s favorite mix room, Zona Dulce in NYC. Reckoning was mastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig at his Gateway Studios in Portland, Maine. Killen describes Reckoning as “a very evocative album,” and the collaboration as “a wonderful and fun experience with an incredible talented array of players.” These players include Jen Chapin’s long-time creative collaborators: her Grammy-nominated acoustic bassist/husband Stephan Crump, “unflappable melodist” (New York Times) Jamie Fox, “singular” (Village Voice) Liberty Ellman (guitarists), “highly regarded” (All Music) drummer Dan Rieser, and the “powerful” Martha Redbone (New Yorker) on background vocals.

Jen says, “I’ve always worked with intimates — old friends, longtime partners, even my husband. So I knew that I needed to trust Kevin Killen as a friend, as well as a master music maker. Our first meeting at a Brooklyn coffee shop on Flatbush Avenue confirmed what I had always heard — that, along with his formidable skills and experience, Kevin possesses a rare decency and unassuming kindness. So after an hour or so of our talking in happy shorthand about music and recording, I asked him if he might accompany me to pick up my 3 year old from pre-school. Of course he obliged and jumped unflinchingly into the chaos — helping search for missing shoes, engaging with shy toddlers, carrying backpacks, and generally affirming the wisdom of my choice! Later, in the studio, Kevin created an adventurous space where we were all free to experiment, to take risks — he just made things happen!”

credits

released May 28, 2013

Jen Chapin
vocals
Stephan Crump
electric & acoustic basses, string arrangements, glockenspiel
Liberty Ellman
electric & acoustic guitars
Jamie Fox
electric & acoustic guitars
Dan Rieser
drums & percussion
Chris Brown
hammond organ, celeste, clavinet, piano, wurlitzer, farfisa
Martha Redbone
background vocals
Julia Biber
cello
Luke Cissell, Rachel Golub, Jessie Montgomery
violins
Ambrose Akinmusire
trumpet

Recorded at Mission Sound, Brooklyn, NY March 11-14, 2013 by Kevin Killen assisted by Myles Turney
additional recording at The Butler Plaza by Stephan Crump
additional keyboards recorded at Green Door Studios, Brooklyn, NY
mixed at Zona Dulce, NYC by Kevin Killen
mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studio, Portland, ME

Cover painting by Tifenn Python
Design by Burton Yount & Gordon H. Jee
Photos by G.E. Masana
Makeup by Cheyenne Temperio
mixed by Kevin Killen
Mastered by

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Track Name: It's All Right
A roach got caught in the kitchen
Old transmission died
Tax man well he’s taking us
Takin’ us for a ride
Half of my face ain’t workin’
It wont’ move on one side
Gravity pulling me pulling me
Deep down
Deep down and wide

Will we get any sleep tonight?
I don’t know
Bouncing checks and another fight
I don’t think so
All things grow toward the light
This I know
Through this wall on the other side
It’s all right

Plump drops fall from the ceiling
Dripping down on our bed
Curling up on the bathroom floor
Knees wrapped round my head
Call off the show
repack the bag
Drink scotch whiskey down
Time to find a new religion
Maybe a new resolve
No frowning

Will we get any sleep tonight?
I don’t know
Bouncing checks and another fight
I don’t think so
All things grow toward the light
This I know
Through this wall on the other side
It’s all right
Track Name: Insatiable
She is insatiable
She is she is

He didn't really know her
He loved her just the same
Star-trapped in her Latin words
And the glitter of her name

Her rediscovered taste for secrets
Camouflage and wire
tapping trumpets, stifling rooms
Self-detonating fire

She is insatiable
She is she is

She had been a trusting girl
No one had ever done her wrong
Now vengeance is the drone
Toughness is the tone
The same note in every song

Daylight visible through iron bars
Daylight swallowed up by cash
Now vengeance is the drone
Bluster is the tone
Contracts up in smoke and ash

She is insatiable

Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do now?
Track Name: Let it Show
Little man little man I can see
You are not such a mystery to me

Little questions little highs little lows
In a row
Senses overflow

I've been thinking 'bout this sad sad world
About survival and the one thing you should know
Is find your joy and let it show

Will you be bumpy like a pine cone
Cover your soft heart
Try to be alone?

Will you be smooth like sanded timber
Wood grain winding
Graceful and limber?

I've been thinking 'bout this way processed world
Of authenticity and the one thing you should know
Is find your joy and let it show

All the slick faces on the TV
They tell us be fearful
We are warned very soberly

Don't you listen turn away turn away
There's different melody to play

I've been thinking ‘bout this sad sad world
About survival and the one thing you should know
I've been thinking on this fascinating world
About survival and the one thing you should know
Is find your joy and let it show
let it show
Track Name: Don't Talk
I know I know I know I know
we're such a cliché
the lady tries to talk it through
while the gentleman tries to wish it away
the floor is piled with wasted words
scorecards discarded
fortresses unguarded
we couldn't keep track
of who's winning
cease fire
let's stop go back to the beginning

then we won't talk anymore

you laughed out loud
interrupting my breakfast and making my day
finally it's you with something burning
something you just had to stay
so we shook off the schedule
off of our shoulders
the clock ticking bolder
we kept it at bay
let's lose track
of the hours
the silence here
the evening is ours

then we won't talk anymore

outside
there's no clutter
sentences well they don't sputter
they just float into the sky
washed clean by days of rain
they all complain about the wet
you and me we get it
we just let it cool us down

now we won't talk anymore
Track Name: Feed Your Baby
city shut down the B84
was our only good ride to the grocery store
paycheck goes to the glucose strip
patience goes to the 95 minute bus trip
30 hour week -- I wish they'd give me more
and I wonder what it's all for
when I can't feed my baby no more

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
too hard feed my baby

Granma grew her yams in the yard
in the Carib sun chile it's not so hard
but she traded that sun for the cold and the cash
strong hands picking up office trash
you never dig dirt with a new green card
but her fingers still ache for the yard
now that feeding her baby's so hard

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
too hard feed my baby

junk food minefield on the tv
dinnertime battle him against me
change the channel try not to see
starvation
still starvation
in the 21st century

worry worry work and cry
full warm breast goes limp and dry
wilted leaves still priced too high
red raw fingers fill the sack
raid the trailers send them back
silos rotting still I lack
enough to feed my baby
its tough to feed my baby
Track Name: Paris
That we were four
By the rainbow
At the Tour Eiffel
Watered coffee
It was just as well
To stay earthbound
Not to ascend with the multitudes

That we were four
Venturing four
That we were four
Racing up the grimy serpentine
To the metro past the tightrope line
We walked a long time
Along the banks with the ducks and the dreamers

That we were four
Lingering four
That we were four
Lazy mornings
Behind lush green
Windows framing balcony scenes
Of many-hued lives
Bringing us into belonging

Here is where the whole world wants to be
Here we promenade
Over castles
Over centuries
I've got no heavy bags
I'm free to be tongue-tied
I'm free to write new history
And I'm just glad to be here

That we were four
Magical four
That we were four
Plotting just how he might ask his turn
On new playgrounds there's so much to learn
He's such a brave boy

Qu'est que c'est quatre
On fait la maison sur la place Crimée
C'est juste le faite de nous
L'espace pour jouer
Pour jouer ensemble
Together we four are belonging here
Track Name: Go Away
I love when you go away
Then I get to clean up the mess you made
Stare through the streaks in the glass all day
Here with the boredom I've begged for begged for

I'm happy you get to play
I'm glad that I get to stay here with my fantasies
They might be small but
OK
Don't want a thing but to finish my coffee

I love when you go away
My patience returns like a long-lost friend
The furies they fly out the window
Their sovereignty at its end

I need you to go away
For a minute for an hour for a blessed day
Pack up your mirror
take that ugly woman away

Do I feel guilty?
Not really
I watch your breath rise and fall in your sleep at night
Each morning
I'm reeling from
Any kiss, any touch, any smile, any kindnesses
You are willing to bestow

I love to take a walk unencumbered
I love to read and read and read and read
Anything in front of my face except you

Do I feel guilty?
Not really
I watch your breath rise and fall in your sleep each night
Each morning
I'm reeling from
Any smile, any touch, any kiss any kindnesses
You are willing to bestow

Polysyllabic words that you say
I say them back
We talk all the time
Time flies it stops it goes in a circle
I look at my watch through each story time
Some stories I love
I revel in rhyme
They fall off my lips
They drip down like wine
I'm drinking you in
I'm spitting you out
I'm trying to learn
What it's all about
I'm trying to learn
Track Name: Spare Love (Not Fair)
I like the way you love to be here
unblinking eyes so wide and so clear
no need for you to ever know fear
in this favored place filled with smiling faces

check out the way you work to break free
stretch out your arms
such activity
nothing you do will ever keep me
from holding on holding on
so tightly

not fair - that every mama doesn't have a baby like you
not fair - that every baby doesn't have a mama like you do
not fair - that every mama doesn't have a baby like you
not fair - that everybody doesn't have spare love

brave is the way you wake with a smile
let's keep this scene around for awhile
everyone falls in love with your style
how you open up all the shut tight places

gentle your fingers follow my skin
through day and night such dreams we move in
so soft your power to make the earth spin
and your story has only just begun

not fair - that every mama doesn't have a baby like you
not fair - that every baby doesn't have a mama like you do
not fair - that every mama doesn't have a baby like you
not fair - that everybody doesn't have spare love to chew on
Track Name: Reckoning
I'm weary in so many ways
too tired to keep on trying
too wired to settle down
my fight has gone and run away
too stubborn to let go
the reckoning
I know
will have to wait another day

these blues are comfortable
surrender's not so new
my time is full enough
I've lots of work to do
half-opened envelopes
pile up between my ears
while unloved melodies
amplify my fears
that my song will not be sung
that my doing comes undone

the world looks different today
more contrast
black and white
no longer shades of grey
no final verdict if I stay
or hang it up for good
too stubborn to let go
the reckoning
I know
will have to wait another day
Track Name: Don't Rush Me
All as it should be
I’m lost in a land
Without counting
Without the mounting measurements
And dilations

From this small
Drop of the sea
I reach out my hand
To hold the shore
The waves surging more on the inside
Than what you can see

There is no
Emergency
It’s all as it should be
There is no
Need to rush me

Suspended over the fire
We witches conspire
To let it burn
As tighter they turn the screws
On all the new machines

Crazy reckless and not all there
It’s just hysteria
C’mon
Get on with the show
But they know
We’re in the chapel of god
Ha ha
The goddess

There is no
Emergency
It’s all as it should be
There is no
Need to rush me
Track Name: Gospel
I was very far away
When the cardboard sign called out to the world
“the beginning is near”
opened up my lips to say something
something then swept high in the gorgeous tide
so blue so clear

clear eyes on the prize before us
clear eyes on the path laid down
from Memphis to Madison
Cairo to NYC
Here amid the law and lawless
Here where you finally saw us
Now reborn

solitary voices become one
building of a new world has begun
shopworn gospel brought back in the sun
human evolution never done

new accountability
with a new old fashioned sense of justice
justice I said justice
corporate personality
with a motive built on more than profit
justice we said justice

clear eyes on the far horizon
clear lines of connection
between water planet future and history
here amid this ugly beauty
here where all ego disappears
in true democracy

solitary voices become one
building of a new world has begun
shopworn gospel brought back in the sun
human evolution never done

It’s gonna take a long time but we’re not going away..