Bobtown

Bobtown

 Brooklyn, New York, USA
BandAmericanaFolk

Originally formed as an a Cappella group, Bobtown's repertoire has evolved to include bits of pop, bluegrass, R & B, Americana and gospel in a roots music mash-up which is bound together by a continuous thread of innovative vocal harmonies. The band presents a unique and compelling blend of voices and instruments that move gracefully between elegy and celebration.

Biography

BAND MEMBERS: Jen McDearman (vocals, percussion, glockenspiel); Alan Lee Backer (guitar, banjo, harmonica, backing vocals); Karen Dahlstrom (guitar, vocals); Katherine Etzel (drums, accordion, ukulele, vocals)

With their distinctive original songs and vocal arrangements, Bobtown is recognized as taking an unconventional and refreshing approach to the tradition of folk music. WFUV's John Platt chose the group as one of his top three music discoveries of 2013, and Americana UK perhaps summed up the band best when they said, "If you're looking for acoustic, Gothic-folk-Americana kissed with gorgeous harmonies then look no further."

The band formed in the summer of 2007 when New York City resident Katherine Etzel wrote some field hollers, a song form she had became aware of while working the corn and bean fields of Iowa as a kid. She then recruited several more songwriters, Jen McDearman, Karen Dahlstrom and Alan Lee Backer, as an outlet to perform the songs, calling the project Bobtown after a neighborhood in her hometown. While the the group's format was mostly a Capella at the outset, they soon expanded to include wider instrumentation, and by 2010, Bobtown had released their eponymous first album of original material, which received positive reviews and airplay both domestically and internationally, as well as being featured on NPR's All Songs Considered.

August of 2012 saw the birth of Bobtown's second full-length album, Trouble I Wrought. The eclectic theme continued on this release as the band again called upon traditional roots precepts, but realigned them in a cross-genre, contemporary context. Trouble I Wrought charted on multiple Cashbox/Roots Music Reports, including the 2012 Top Radio Airplay, International. 

The band's third full-length CD "A History of Ghosts" was released in November, 2014 and debuted with the #1 song on the Roots Music Report's Weekly Top 50 Contemporary Folk Songs. The album itself spent 3 weeks in the #1 position after release and continues to enjoy extensive radio airplay while garnering rave reviews.

BAND HIGHLIGHTS:
  • 2015, 50 Best Albums of 2015, New York Music Daily (A History of Ghosts)
  • 2015, Philadelphia Folk Festival Featured Performers
  • 2015, International Festival of Ideas Headlining Act
  • 2014 Top 10 Albums of the Year, Roots Music Report's Contemporary Folk Chart (
    A History of Ghosts)
  • 2014 Top Favorite Albums of the Year, Sundilla Radio Hour (
    A History of Ghosts)
  • 2014 Top 10 Albums of the Year, WMSC's Radio Nowhere (
    A History of Ghosts)
  • 2014 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Formal Showcase Artist
  • 2014 CT Folk Festival Featured Performers
  • 2014 Huntington Folk Festival Headlining Act
  • Top Music Discoveries of 2013, John Platt, WFUV
  • 2013 Falcon Ridge Music Festival Emerging Artist
  • Top International Radio Airplay Albums of  2012, Roots Music Report (Trouble I Wrought)
  • "10 Best Albums of 2012" New York Music Daily (Trouble I Wrought)
  • 2012 Quad Showcase Artist, Northeast Regional Folk
    Alliance Conference
  • 2012 Susie Wollenberg Showcase Artist, Northeast Regional Folk
    Alliance Conference
  • 2011 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass/Steam Powered Hour Finalists
  • 2011 NPR “All Songs Considered” Feature (Bobtown)
  • 2009 Dance Now Downtown Festival

Lyrics

MAMA'S GOT THE BACKBEAT

Written By: Katherine Etzel

MAMA'S GOT THE BACKBEAT

Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
(Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)
Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)

Cornbread cooking over firelight
ain't nobody gonna need tonight
Shoes are wearin not a belt is tight
but ain't nobody gonna need tonight
Old Mary singing a Bible song
all her kin folk sing along
Mama's got the backbeat, stompin on the board
praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord

Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
(Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)
Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)

A day pullin weeds and our backs are tired
but ain't nobody gonna kill the fire
singing and dancing til the dew is dry
ain't nobody gonna kill that fire
don't have much, yeah, we may be poor
but ain't nobody in need of more

Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord
Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord

Someone bring the fire and someone bring the bow
Someone make the call and someone answer
Everybody knows who makes the rhythm flow
Giving the beat a soul

Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
(Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)
Mama's got the backbeat, praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, yeah, praise the Lord)

ONE PUBLIC ENEMY

Written By: Jen McDearman

ONE PUBLIC ENEMY

High and dry, that's how you left me
How you left me, sorry Dear
High and dry, now we're gonna see
One public enemy crystal clear

Call me Bonnie, I call you Clyde
Taking every corner store ride to ride
Making way to glory nationwide
Always and forever

Partner, partner, you always say
Working every heist, hit and getaway
Risking every rush, it's the only way
And we'll go down together, but...

High and dry, that's how you left me
How you left me, sorry Dear
High and dry, now we're gonna see
One public enemy crystal clear

The time had come, our day of dreams
When they would know what loyal means
When we would show what justice brings
Winners, let's take all

But since you left me on my own
You made the deal, a pact in stone
To take a break all alone
I would take the fall

Well, who knew what my future told
To escape with life and all the gold
For you with nothing to behold
And me standing tall

High and dry, that's how you left me
How you left me, sorry Dear
High and dry, now we're gonna see
One public enemy crystal clear

SKIPPING STONE

Written By: Katherine Etzel

SKIPPING STONE

I’m not gonna read your letter, no I don’t care what it said
How can I hear your words when your sleepin in another’s bed?
If you don’t want your woman…if you play around instead
Ain’t nobody to blame when this woman done kills you dead

I really won’t
I won’t stop
I will not
Give up
I want you

My heart’s got a rhythm and it flutters like a skipping stone
Today’s precious lover is tomorrow’s tasty bourguignon

I gave you all my good deeds, and I followed where ‘er you led
I gave you everything you needed, now you’re kneading someone else’s bread
I let you run off each night cause I didn’t want to be your chain
Now you’re gonna get the bullet and I get the midnight train

I really won’t
I won’t stop
I will not
Give up
I want you

My heart’s got a rhythm and it flutters like a skipping stone
Today’s precious lover is tomorrow’s tasty bourguignon

So if you don’t want your woman, if you play around instead
Ain’t nobody to blame when this woman done kills you dead
Everybody heed my warning, somebody’s hands will be stained
If you’re sneaking out on your woman, while sleeping in the bed she’s made

I really won’t
I won’t stop
I will not
Give up
I want you

BURN YOUR BUILDING DOWN

Written By: Katherine Etzel

BURN YOUR BUILDING DOWN

House of light, house of sin…
gotta know which house you're in
if there’s darkness all around
better burn your building down

We go gently into the fold
which door opens when our stories are told?
Skies to hold me, calm enfold me
we're all going home

Gold and silver have no place
in a land that’s ruled by Grace
If your building’s weighted down
better burn it to the ground
House of light, house of sin
gotta know which house you're in
if there's darkness all around
better burn your building down

Arms wide open, embrace the ride
which road you travel fate to decide
Skies to hold me, calm enfold me
we're all going home

Better hope that it's not too late,
don't delay till you're at the gate
You can cling to your wealth unbound, or,
burn your building down
House of light, house of sin
gotta know which house you're in
is there's darkness all around?
Then burn your building down

Dot all your i's and cross your t's
He is watching all your good deeds
Skies to hold me, calm enfold me
we're all going home

Better hope that it’s not too late
Don’t delay till you’re at the gate
If you cling to your wealth unbound
Then greed shall make you drown
House of light, house of sin,
You better know which house you’re in
If there’s darkness all around
Then burn your building down

BATTLE CREEK

Written By: Karen Dahlstrom

BATTLE CREEK

Up in the morning, 'fore the break of dawn
We'll be a-working 'til the day is gone
Engines are humming…We make our pay
But we never see the light of day…

Don't lay me down in Battle Creek
Don't lay me down in Battle Creek
Before the Lord come and take my soul to keep
Carry me back to my home

I worked the fields, I pulled the plow (OOO)
Ain't no crops a-growing now (OOO)
I left the farm for the factory (OOO)
And now this town'll be the death of me (OOO)

Don't lay me down (lay me down) in Battle Creek
Don't lay me down (lay me down) in Battle Creek
Before the Lord (Lord) come and take my soul to keep
Carry me back to my home

These dirty streets are paved with sin
O, you don't know the shape i'm in
An empty bottle, an early grave
Not much left of my soul to save

I left the fields to make my name (OOO)
I have only myself to blame (OOO)
Before I die, just let me see (OOO)
The sun shining down on me (OOO)

Tell my mother I'm sorry
Tell my lover I'm sorry
Don't tell my daddy nothin'
And please (please), please (please), please

Don't lay me down (lay me down) in Battle Creek
Don't lay me down (lay me down) in Battle Creek
Before the Lord (Lord come and take my soul to keep)
Carry me back to my home
Carry me back to my home

MAGILLA LEE

Written By: Jen McDearman

MAGILLA LEE

Magilla Lee, just 23
Had loved beyond her years
Longing for more, she opened the door
To brave eternal fears

Dear Magilla Lee, she found the key
To fate, and this would mean
New meditation, true dedication
To face a world unseen

With the dream still alive
That her turn would arrive
She finally heard them say
"Everyone knows for whom the bell tolls
t tolls for thee, Magilla Lee
It tolls for thee."

Aah poor Magilla Lee, would not be free
In time and wondered why
But soon understood, the plans for good
She had two long days to die

She had two days to die
But her turn would arrive
To finally hear them say
"Everyone knows for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee, Magilla Lee
It tolls for thee."

LIVE SLOW, DIE OLD

Written By: Fred Stesney

Live Slow, Die Old

The hands on the clock go tick, tick, tock
In stuttering steps into the depths of darkness
The rain drip drops on tin rooftops
Down to the sea and endlessly repeating

Live slow, die old
Live slow, die old

The sun goes up till it goes down
And round and round into the ground in silence
Paint chips fall out in the hall
Where a picture tilts and all you’ve built is crumbling

Live slow, die old
Live slow, die old

The will to go on leaves us day by day
Collapsing under your own gravity
Everything we find we must leave behind
At the gates of eternity

Skin collects in dusty specks
On books unread beside the bed unchanging
Insect creep beneath your sleep
And the stars in the sky ignore your cry for more time.

Live slow, die old
Live slow, die old

The will to go on leaves us day by day
Collapsing under your own gravity
Everything we find we must leave behind
At the gates of eternity

COALVILLE

Written By: Katherine Etzel

COALVILLE

Long gone the doctor said
been dead for days lying in his bed
four walls of a shotgun shack his grave
hand clenched into a fist
a word seemed perched upon his lips
the track of a tear still clear on his face

they buried him up in Coalville
just an old stone fence to keep his calls at bay

Sarah, Sarah I miss you
Sarah, Sarah

Raven-haired with a flair and a zest for life
on a train to meet her man to get the best in life
but blood on the tracks, it was the Devil’s day.
They say she died with her hand clinched in a fist,
a word seemed perched upon her lips,
in the barren soil where her body lay

and they buried her up in Coalville
where a man knelt near her grave

Sarah, Sarah I miss you
Sarah, Sarah

And when the wind blows down from Coalville
you can hear him to this day

Sarah, Sarah I miss you
Sarah, Sarah

FLOOD WATER RISING

Written By: Fred Stesney

FLOOD WATER RISING

Flood water rising, Flood water rising
Flood water rising, Flood water rising

Kings and queens– down in the water
Lords and ladies – down in the water
Pharaoh’s army – down in the water
Amen

Fortune tellers – down in the water
Shamans, wizards – down in the water
Them false prophets – down in the water
Amen

Flood water rising, Flood water rising
Flood water rising, Flood water rising

Money lenders – down in the water
‘Vestment bankers – down in the water
Herbert Hoover – down in the water
Amen

Sodom, Gomorrah – down in the water
Inland Empire – down in the water
New York City – down in the water
Amen

Here comes Jesus, walking on the water
Here comes Jesus, walking on the water

Here comes Jesus, walking on the water
Here comes Jesus, walking on the water

Flood water rising, Flood water rising
Flood water rising, Flood water rising,
flood water rising, flood water rising
Amen