Mother Banjo

Mother Banjo

 
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
SoloFolkAmericana

Featured on SiriusXM Radio and selected as a Midwest Finalist in the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, Mother Banjo features Ellen Stanley on banjo and vocals. Called an "outstanding poet" (Inside Bluegrass), she blends the haunting sounds of traditional folk and gospel with contemporary Americana.

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Biography

Featuring Ellen Stanley on banjo and vocals, Mother Banjo is a New England-raised, Minneapolis-based songwriter. Called an outstanding poet (Inside Bluegrass), she was a Midwest Finalist for the prestigious Mountain Stage NewSong Contest and has been featured nationally on SiriusXM Radio and CMT.com.

Following up on the success of her CDs Stray Songs and The Sad and Found (named the #10 album of the year by the St. Paul Pioneer Press), she releases her highly anticipated new album The Devil Hasnt Won on her own label So Low Recordings. An Americana gospel collection produced by Steve Kaul (The Brass Kings), it showcases her all-star 5-piece band that includes guitarist Dan Gaarder (Trailer Trash, The Roe Family Singers), bassist Eric Paulson (The Roe Family Singers, Jennifer Markey & The Tennessee Snowpants), mandolin player Jim Parker (Ukrainian Village Band, Town Hall Stompers) and pianist/drummer Ben Cook-Feltz (The Federales, Art Vandalay). Featuring lively originals and unique covers of songs that she calls pub gospel, the new album shows why Mother Banjo has been hailed for her poetic songwriting and powerful vocals, winning the praise of such artists as Josh Ritter and John Gorka.

An engaging live performer, Mother Banjo weaves humorous stories with fun covers and her own original material. She has performed at prestigious venues like The Ark (Ann Arbor, MI) and the Cedar Cultural Center (Minneapolis, MN) and has shared the stage with notable songwriters (Lucy Wainwright Roche, Cliff Eberhardt, Tracy Grammer, Storyhill) and poets (Robert Bly, Todd Boss). She has toured across North America, performed at South By Southwest (SXSW) and played a sold-out release show at the world-renowned Dakota Jazz Club, where legends like Prince, Lucinda Williams, and her banjo hero Bela Fleck have performed. In support of her new album, Mother Banjo showcased at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto and has been playing solo and band dates throughout the year.

Lyrics

Come Life

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Come life, come to me
My bones are tired
Work has driven from me all my desire

I can’t make it out
The hand is fading
The words on the pages they have left me

2. Come life, come to me
When did you lose me?
One day I woke up and there was no green

I found gray and white
A blur of snowtime
I am full of cold; I hear a crow cry

3. Come life, come to me
The light eternal
Beckons to me; I cannot but follow

Come life, come to me
I see him waiting
I guess he thought I was worth saving...

Square Envelope

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Square envelope, printed card
Nice script, hard words
You’ve set a date, I’m coming home

2. Flying, driving
Through your highway, I await
The sound of birds, the flight of me

Chours:
If I had known what comes between
Had I not gone would it be (here)

3. Butterflies and fears flutter by
A town away, a haunt of mine
It’s gray with ghosts like a song

Chorus

4. Flowers and plates, tulle and lace
A spray of love, a bouquet of
Myself, regret and a hole

5. Square envelope, circle game
I come around, you fall in
Spinning just so we’re no more...

Green Jacket

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Your green jacket, shiny and wet
It’s a shell that keeps you hiding like that
I saw you, a darting bright flame
Fiery you burn, fight ice and pain

Chorus:
But you don’t wear your crazy out, on the outside
Like a roamer so long gone, by the wayside

2. Your black shades blink at me
Dull and dim, they close too fast
You look away, find exits near
Gone with a flash, you’re in the clear

Chorus

2. Your speedy wheels pass by me
They turned and fled just like your feet
That ran up the wall and brought me down
Wild you fly, hawks circling ‘round

Chorus

3. Your warped wooden door locked me out
Sealed tight with bolts and towels
Solid and strange, you have no give
Boxes stacked high, life on the edge

But you don’t live here, on the outside
Like a lover that l lost and I can’t find

Zora, Zora

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Zora, Zora
Oh, so far
From pretty and tight high things
You can’t hide it
Your fight it
Is in you and your eyes

Chorus:
From sunrise down
You were heaven-bound...

2. I was blind-eyed
I was bound and tied
The wind and spit and fire
They were gone from me
Pure and empty
Let’s loose the stormy free

Chorus

3. I want tea-brown eyes
I want fists and thighs
To wrap and clasp me close
To see me through
To cut right to
The heart, the south of blues

Chorus

4. I found him fast
By boat, by chance
We passed and danced all night
I knew not his name
But he called, I came
We ran from shore to sea

Chorus

5. I found life is wide
How long, how high
With waves that rock and fight
They washed me free
Brought him to me
With salt and sand and weeds

Chorus

6. Zora, Zora
I am home now
Through mud and floods and pain
I am weather-worn
I’m bruised, I’m sore
I could not want for more

Chorus

Texas

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Texas, oh you went to Texas
You say you got to go and think
You put Scotch whisky in your drink
Texas, I lost you to Texas
Away from fields of grain
I hear you’re there to stay

Chorus:
I am a bright lone star
That shines right down wherever you are
But you’re not that way
You need a lonesome state

Chorus

3. Texas, I went once to Texas
So large I could not breathe
So much sun I could not see
Texas, I can’t live in Texas
No desert walls for me
I need my poplar trees

Chorus

4. Texas, I hope you like Texas
Is it what you dreamed
Dust, wind and tumbleweeds
Texas, do write me from Texas
Sing me your songs of heat
Say that life is finally sweet

Chorus

I’m not that way
I don’t need your lonesome state...

Wide

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. Bird on a brick-red roof
Lookin’ at me, singin’ a tune
But why can’t I hear the song from you?

Chorus:
Open up wide
We’ll let love inside
Fill us high and wide

2. Rainbow falls from the sky
From tree to tree, draws a line
Why oh why can’t I find you?

Chorus

Snow and heat rise from the ground
Darkest songs, death all around
Pull me out from the sad and found, wont’ you?

Open up wide
Let love inside
For good, for life

Open up wide

One Hello

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

Chorus:
I was one hello from saying goodbye
I could have gone before
But I stayed on the line
I held on too long
Now you’re gone

1. Your hands called me
To dance and see
The wide wild sky
I came and went
Like love notes sent
Sweet words for memories

Chorus

2. I heard you speak
Like swans in trees
All wrong but lovely still
I should’ve scared them off
When you talked
I was off dreaming

Chorus

3. I wake to you
Morning songs on cue
A voice upon the air
I turn it round
That soft white sound
It’s snow and static now

It’s snow and silence now

This Fall

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

1. We could use the rain this fall
We could scrape the leaves and all
Our hearts and fields could start again
We could make believe and say
It’s spring in here today
The green and trees are here to stay

Chorus:
What’s inside, what’s at stake
Our old farm can’t make it
Through a frost
All this loss is
The coming of the fall

2. We could chop the wood for heat
We could mend and seal the seams
Of all those cracks and holes
We could can and jar for months
But still we’d not have enough
The cold and hungry times are near

Chorus

3. We could save our crops from harm
We could tempt and fight the storm
And say we all died trying
We could plow that ground and ask
That God come down at last
And save all we have sown

Chorus

Lying Down with Sinners

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

Lying Down with Sinners

1. I was at the garden wall
Went to the edge, took the Fall
Ate the apple, jumped right in
I dove down to a pit of sin

Chorus:
I’m lying down with sinners
Lying all night long
Lying to myself
That I know...
The right from the wrong

2. They told me with a face like mine
I could cheat the work of time
So I stole my every wish
No one told me it would feel like this

3. I have lived like one on fire
Sampled each of my desires
I look good, I look clean
But my soul is not free

4. I once was a better man
I had heaven at my command
I threw it all, all away
Now I lie in the bed I made

Firebird

Written By: Mother Banjo/Ellen Stanley

Firebird

1. I have to run
Leave this town by the noonday sun
I have to run
My prints are on the gun
I have sinned
What a mess I’ve gotten in
I have sinned
I want to begin...again

Chorus:
No more raging like a fire
Hard and wild
I want to rise up
And fly
Leave the ashes here
Stretch my wings
I want to rise up
And sing...

2. I can’t believe
That God or you can forgive me
I can’t believe
I can be redeemed
I can’t take it back
Now the blood’s on my hands
I can’t take it back
I lost everything I had

3. I cannot run
Must live with the things I’ve done
I cannot run
But the devil hasn’t won

Rise like a bird and sing...rise
Like a bird of fire...rise
The devil hasn’t won.

Set List

Mother Banjo sets are filled with mainly originals, but she often includes covers and traditional material as well. Songs that frequently make it into sets include:

- We Are Witness
- Any Way I Do (Tracy Grammer)
- Come Life
- New
- The Line
- White Love
- Revival Train
- Leaving (Josh Ritter)
- Lying Down with Sinners
- Firebird
- Oh, Susanna (Public Domain)
- Fly Song
- Green Jacket
- One Hello
- Texas
- Morning Train (John Prine)
- No Waiting
- Wade in the Water (Public Domain)
- Rise Up, Sinner
- Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World (U2)