Nels Andrews

Nels Andrews

 Santa Cruz, California, USA

Indie Folk deep rooted American Imagery, musical shades of Calexico, and Astral Weeks era Van Morrison.


new album "scrimshaw" available in 2012

april 10 Netherlands, germany, sweden
June 10 UK
Nov 15 US

preview here:

Early praise for Scrimshaw:

"Strikingly intimate album that combines deft storytelling with a warmth of tone and gentleness of pace..awash with layers, metaphors and echoes woven into subtle, contemplative contemporary song. Like finding a seashell at the back of a dusty cupboard, putting it to your ear and hearing the ocean". Rachel Divine Folk Radio UK

'The nine songs are a delight. Scrimshaw is full of good music, deft singing and clever, original lyrics' (4/5) - The London Telegraph, UK

"Literate, melancholic songs of life passing" (4/5) The Irish Times

“The scrimshaw songs are so carefully made, like the stuff of the title itself, fine etchings on bone. Nels is a master carver, an artist patient and obsessed enough to turn a whale of an idea into something delicate and beautiful from any angle.” Anais Mitchell American Songwriter/Poet

"A true wellspring of 21st century music." album of the week, Iain Anderson, BBC Scotland

Once this record went in the cd player, it did not come out for literally months. We dove into the world of Scrimshaw and swum around in the dark lush tones and haunting poetry. This is a true poet's masterpiece. Every word is a jewel, placed purposefully with skilled hands. A flowery way of saying that Nels Andrews' Scrimshaw is undoubtedly one of my favorite records of the last ten years. " Raina Rose Indie songstress

"Scrimshaw glows magic - at once a love letter to the world as we know it and an elegy." Nuala Kennedy, IE

"Scrimshaw is a collection of songs of flickering characters and places, like an early Vitascope projection on a peeling wall." Steven Rapid Lonesome Highway, IE

"(Some) of the most beautiful and touching songs I've heard at this end of 2012, a voice that comes for my heart, chills run along the back, one can not resist such magic." Ricardo Martillos Distorsioni, IT

"With Scrimshaw Nels Andrews delivers another masterpiece" Eric Van Damburg Scipio Heaven , NL

"More soul, more intrigue, ****/ ***** " Menno Pot, de Volkskrant, NL

"There's those albums you grow to love over time, and then there's those albums which, you're so in smitten with everything that artist has ever done, that you're completely in love with their newest work almost from pure anticipation.  And then there's those albums, like Nels Andrews' Scrimshaw, that exceed even those lofty anticipations and expectations.  He has such an effortless singing voice, and a timeless writing voice. These tunes are all deep with symbolism, and vivid with imagery.  And they sit together elegantly as a single unit.  It's a truly beautiful album."
-Danny Schmidt last of the hardcore troubadours

“The rhythm of the ocean... and light and shade dynamics reminiscent of Astral Weeks. As great singers do, Andrews has the gift of making the ‘La-La-La’ coda sound as profound as ancient philosophy” (4/5 stars) Rock’n Reel Magazine, UK

Nels Andrews has spent the last decade wandering, gathering songs, and singing them all over the globe, sharing them around campfires, coffeeshops, clubs , festivals, and living room floors. Modern Folk.

Critically, he’s struck a nerve, earning songwriting awards from prestigious US festivals such as Kerrville, Telluride, and Mountain Stage. BBC 2's legendary DJ Bob Harris (The Old Grey Whistle Test) recognized his work as an album of the year. He has been in the top 5 of the year Americana UK charts, as well as KRO Dutch National Radio, Alt-country NL, Ctrl Alt Country (Belgium), and the European Radio Americana Chart . Nels’ premiere album Sunday Shoes continued to find itself in Top Ten albums of the year lists, almost always as the only independent release. His second album, Off Track Betting, received similar critical acclaim, leading to headlining shows at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and national television broadcast from the legendary Bim Huis in Amsterdam.

Nels will release his third studio album in 2012 entitled ‘Scrimshaw’ and joining up once again with acclaimed producer Todd Sickafoose (Tiny Resistors,Anais Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Andrew Bird, Yoko Ono) and , features his touring band Jonathan Goldberger (Tiny resistors) and Brandon Seabrook (Peter Evans, Mark Ribot, Trevor Dunn) and wildly talented friends from all over the country. The record was recorded overlooking the Naval Yards in Red Hook Brooklyn, and tells stories culled from a time off the road, working as a chauffer in Manhattan and watching his infant son grow into a toddler in his Brooklyn apartment. The record debut in Europe in May at #1 in the Euro-Americana charts.

Nels has shared stages across the US and Europe with the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Dick Gaughan, Slaid Cleaves, and The Tallest Man on Earth , and twice on the main stage at


petal to a bee

Written By: nels andrews

All the rolling hills of evergreen
pull me like a petal to a bee
long women in short dresses
swaying in the summer breeze
everything is still but the leaves

I can hear home calling me
I can hear home

and I was down in china town
ten umbrellas opened up before the first drop came down
and it happened in stop motion like
lillies in the spring
I lit up like a new bride with a ring

Its late december leaving's on my mind
and hollywood has honeysuckle on the vine
cherokee you courted me
with warm rain and cheap wine
while raymond chandler winked from a buzzing neon sign

Jesse's Mom

Written By: nels andrews

jesse's mom thought she was born with gypsy in her blood,
when she laid down with a black man
in the west arkansas mud,
back before those things were done

hallelujah to the fat man, with the skinny little books on jesus
hallelujah to the gospel choir on hazeldine
there will be no more hard times out in louisiana
and nothing resting heavy, on little jesse's mind.

But nowadays, there's no gypsy trains
just run down motels with weekly and monthly rates
and jesse sat, and watched tv alone


through 14 schools in 13 years
and jesse's brown skin grew tight
to the taunts and jeers, of the jealous boys
who didn't like the traveling kind


jesse's tall and lanky now, with his father's feet,
and his momma's eye for flight
he could sell it all, kiss this job goodbye
and leave his baby in the middle of the night

dollar and the dream

Written By: nels andrews

i've got a hundred dollars on a sure thing
in the fourth race in del mar
easy money knows where to find me,
chatting up waitresses in seaside bars
it's a hotel by the highway
it's no cottage by the see
and the space in between the dollar and the dream
going to be the end of me

i was stationed in san diego in the spring of '85
i'd burned all the bridges in mora county
damn near lucky to be alive

i left behind my boyhood companions, they're emptying bottles where the asphault ends,
making mist of the dust in moonlight moutain roads,
and shadowboxes of my friends

i smelled bay rum on the wrist of the west wind,
his blistered sandals filled wth sand,
i clutched the mighty caribbean ocean,
it spilled out of seashells in the palm of my hand
but the tall ships all are sleeping, they are teathered to the shore,
and its allways the same, like a moth to a flame,
she will leave you wanting more

Shoot Out The Stars

Written By: Nels Andrews


come on let’s shoot out the stars tonight

we got bullets in the bonfire

and there’s courage in the wine

and the bikers’ speed gonna burn out their eyes

come on let’s shoot out the stars tonight

hey let’s bury the bad blood tonight

he’s been seen with your sister
but man so have i

and the town’s too damn small for a roving eye

come on let’s bury bad blood tonight

there’s mud on the fireroad
not looking too dry

the sweat from our skin rise on up into the night

let’s rest our backs in the grass tonight

we’ve been goin since sundown and no one can drive

so lay where you’re standing and sleep where you lie

Lets rest our backs in the grass tonight

temple incense

Written By: nels andrews

pulled valentines from my pocket

Burned them in a backyard fire

Traced her name on the back of my wrist
with bailing wire

and I 
smashed a plastic pony
pulled pennies from a mason jar

just to spill my story to strangers

In the downtown bars

And meanwhile

temple incense burning in the street

Brings a little magic to the shufflin feet

Oh the skyline’ll make you feel so small

Lately it don’t make you feel young

And you weave through old men cursing the foot traffic

In their native tongue

“In the old world things different

and I worked as an engineer
Now I ferry drunks latenight from midtown to Brooklyn

Bellies full of beer


temple incense burning in the street

Bring a little magic to the shufflin feet

If the ashtrays all were empty

And the bottles all corked up tight

I’d probably be punching that clock come Monday
and your dress would still been white

 I’m in the backroom folding 5s and 20s

 laughing at my own private joke

Come tiptoe our front porch at midnight

Pockets full of smoke

And meanwhile

temple incense burning in the street

Brings a little magic to the shufflin feet


lady of the silver spoon

Written By: nels andrews


Hey there lady of the silver spoon

Tell me how do you keep your dahlias in bloom?

Do you sing to them softly by the light of the moon?

Hey there lady of the silver spoon

Hey there rider on the 95

Tell me how do you keep that young man alive
With your FM heroes on your nightly drive?

Hey there rider on the 95

Like a white swan glides on a black lake nest

She will bring up a baby to her breast

And then I will sleep finally an honest men’s rest

Like a white swan glides on a black lake nest

Tell me how high the sun and how low the moon

When your wallpaper peels in your emptied out room

Over pictures of your children who have left us too soon

Tell me how high the sun and how low the moon

barroom bards

Written By: nels andrews

oh sweet william is it true you’d sung?
rhyming couplets in foreign tongues?
and drank dry the fortunes of banker’s sons
in the el farol bar
“i skipped songs on the river there
I grew long, then cut off my hair
found that love wasn’t really fair,
and real beauty is wild”
a poet in exile and gentleman’s crest?
unsung, un-knighted, and un-repressed?
how you charmed your muse to the little death,
and a helium sigh
“i let her play actress, i let her play queen
strangers could really be anything
when borders make amber of the warmest dreams
and the prettiest scars”
sons and lovers send letters home?
ships in bottles from messages grown?
how the wind shed the skin of that boy you’d known,
and annealed a new man
“i poached sheep with a bowie knife
wrecked el camino’s and socialites,
jumped blind at the fence, thinking sure i’d find
we’ll all land somewhere in time”
barroom bards and river stones don’t shine so bright, when you get them home
come greet the dawn then with me and mine,
who sing of dead kings and compromise
poor sweet william, all full of wine
on your kitchen floor


Written By: nels andrews

by the time you finally came undone
it was there with the family and everyone
in the the tattered backseat of a
swedish sedan
dried foam yellowed your nervous hand
dried foam yellowed your nervous hand
too tall for the playground, but not too young
you’d mixed robotussin and malibu rum
kicked your feet, the moon rose and fell
horses on a carousel
horses on a carousel
you come home ragged and you come home curt
we can smell the city on your your shirt
by the length of your hem
and your torn lapel
we see you’ve been sinking in the wishing well
an army of butterflies in a bushwick loft
playing swiss family robinson, little boy lost
he courted you there like a bowerbird
but you could not break him from the herd
you could not break him from the herd
you come home ragged and you come home curt
we can smell the city on your your shirt
by the length of your hem
and your torn lapel
we see you’ve been sinking in the wishing well
Caught between the shore and sea
you broke your stroke to laugh
your clothes outgrown, but you cant go home
and you are neither kitt nor calf
follow the sliver fish upstream
wake up portside of a starboard dream
bewildered, you’d have never known
the curb could cause such vertigo


Written By: nels andrews

i will be brownstone
you be wisteria,
you’ll make me rush in the spring time
close as you’ve grown to me
you’ll stay mysterious
the butterfly lash of a new vine
there in the morning sun,
up where the blossoms were
you’d cling to me , shuttle woven and gossamer
you could make a pigeon coo a meadowlark’s song
when i was the creekbed
and you were still wilderness
caught in the cuff of a morning coat
then sprung from the cobblestone
until couples in evening dress
swooned oakmoss and amber
around your throat
streets of a certain age
grow thin from the tireless feet
what do they want? ,
im only east 7th street
then you’ll be the the brown stone
and ill be wisteria
you’ll pick me up when our autumn falls
softened by chandelier
and ever ethereal
memories in oils on our walls
goodbye new amsterdam
there where our memories hung
for we may be old, but the night and the world are young


Some Pig 2001 (self)
Sunday Shoes
2004 Little Kiss Records, Lucky Dice Netherlands
2005 Catamount Records, Shellsock, Fish, UK
All 10 tracks recieved heavy airplay folk/americana radio
2006 Duct tape and Whisky split single w/ aj roach
2007 American Meth Soundtrack (Val Kilmer)
2008 'Off Track Betting' Reveal Records (UK), Lucky Dice (NL), self (US)
2008 "The New Twang" Universal Records Australia
featured song -'Milk And Honey'
2008 "Before The Goldrush" Contemporary Songwriters cover their musical forbearers in the spirit of mentorship, proceeds benefitting Teach for America.
"I Hope I don't Fall in Love With You" by Tom Waits, also featuring tracks by Neko Case, Okkervil River, Pieta Brown, The Swell Season, William Fitzimmons, Tracy Bonham, and others.

2010 "Best of Studio 6 Sessions" Rounder Europe VPRO presents live tracks sam baker, Danya Kurtz, Chris Smither, Kelly Joe Phelps, Joe Henry,Tim Easton, Bruce Cockburn, Eliza Gilkyson, Darrel scott Mary Gautier, Eillen Jewell, Chuck Prophet

2012 "tribute to jack Hardy' Smithsonian/ Folkways

2012 "Scrimshaw" Lucky Dice Benelux , self UK / US

Set List

45 min - 1.5 hours of original material