Wisconsin River

by Chris Richards

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    CD copy of Chris's 6th full-length album, Wisconsin River.

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1.
Sawdust Town 02:57
It’s Sunday morning of 8 October Mama made breakfast while we finished our chores We all walked home from Sunday church And you couldn’t see the sun in the sky no more It’s been three months since the last good rain And the forest all around us dry as hay The smoke’s gettin’ thicker and Daddy’s worried He’s been diggin’ ditches ‘round the house all day Night has settled in an eerie quiet When brother points a finger to the southwest sky Treetops orange and red and growing Now I see the panic in my Daddy’s eyes “Run, Florabelle, go run to the river! Y’ain’t got time to put your shoes back on Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river! Fire is coming to a sawdust town” The wind’s whipping up, you can hear it coming And I’m running as fast as my legs will go Through panicked horses and deer and people It’s chaos in the streets of Peshtigo “Run, Florabelle, go run to the river! You just might make it if you don’t fall down Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river! Fire is coming to a sawdust town” Take a right at the corner where the church is ashes Left at the corner where the schoolhouse burns Balls of fire rain down around me It’s a wild inferno everywhere I turn “Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!” The flames are nippin’ at your calico gown Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river! Fire is coming to a sawdust town” I can’t see the water but I know I’m near it From the splashin’ and the screamin’ and the cries of pain Oh, my God, it’s right behind me! It must be the arrival of the devil’s train “Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!” And don’t look behind you as it all burns down Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river! Fire is coming to a sawdust town” “Fire is coming to a sawdust town” © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
2.
Hard Frost 02:52
We spent all afternoon raking leaves into the beds Preparing for the first of many long, cold nights ahead You cut all of the daisies back, and I brought the pots inside If you’re not paying attention, it’ll catch you by surprise So I went l went looking in your office for the Farmer’s Almanac And when I saw your cellphone’s screen light up, a chill went down my back There’s a hard frost coming in overnight A wind shift, and everything’s crystallized Once exposed, hardly anything survives There’s a hard frost, a hard frost There’s a hard frost coming in tonight I’ve endured my share of winters, I’ve been around the block But you’re never quite prepared, you’re never ready for the shock Now you’ll have to prune the dahlias and the roses for the year ’Cause when the morning ice is melted, I’ll be a long, long way from here There’s a hard frost coming in overnight A wind shift, and everything’s crystallized Once exposed, hardly anything survives There’s a hard frost, a hard frost There’s a hard frost coming in tonight © 2015 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
3.
So I’m 3 drinks in at the Buckhorn Tavern Got to noticing a picture hung behind the bar “Hey, Ole, who’s in this photo? The young man standing next to Dillinger’s car?” And my buddy Ole the bartender says, “His name was Walleye Fingers Had a shop in Crivitz where he sold live bait Told stories that would blow your mind He knew everything to know about the Dairy State” He was... Walleye... Walleye Fingers He just missed making all the history books Walleye... Walleye Fingers Bonafide legend of the great Northwoods He carved a Log for his friend Les Paul And he did a little sketching for Frank Lloyd Wright Brokered a trade for a young Brett Favre And he taught Hank Aaron ‘bout gemutlichkeit He was... Walleye... Walleye Fingers He just missed making all the history books Walleye... Walleye Fingers Bonafide legend of the great Northwoods Now, you might find it difficult believing I asked him one time if it all was true He said, “I swear on the mustachioed reliever My brother Rollie wouldn’t let me lie to you” He was a lifelong confidant of Liberace Showed Suzy Favor how to lengthen her stride The inspiration for Arthur Fonzarelli And he gave Bob Uecker “Just a bit outside!” He was... Walleye... Walleye Fingers He just missed making all the history books Walleye... Walleye Fingers Bonafide legend of the great Northwoods Walleye... Walleye Fingers You’re not gonna find him in the history books Walleye... Walleye Fingers Bonafide legend of the great Northwoods He was a bonafide legend of the great Northwoods © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
4.
He came from near the Winnebago The tall, beloved Ho-Chunk chief His people called him Yellow Thunder He was the man who would not leave He was summoned by the white man’s leader Who made him sign away their land Shipped them cross the Mississippi He would just walk back again Didn’t really matter how he got there He could feel it deep inside his bones Nothing on this earth could stop him Yellow Thunder walking home I grew up not far from this river I was lured away by dreamers’ dreams The promise of an endless summer And everything that leaving means Now I’ve returned to walk the river Lone, but not alone at all Something trails a step behind me A shadow that’s a bit too tall Didn’t really matter how he got there He could feel it deep inside his bones Nothing on this earth could stop him Yellow Thunder walking home We look out at the wide Wisconsin Fleeing serpents carved this stone Wanderers, always returning Yellow Thunder walking home Didn’t really matter how he got there He could feel it deep inside his bones Nothing on this earth could stop him Yellow Thunder walking home No, nothing on this earth could stop him Yellow Thunder Walking home © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
5.
(Traditional, with additional lyrics by Chris Richards) The Fond du Lac jail ain’t no jail at all You stare at the ceiling, then stare at the wall The jailer walks by like he’s deaf and he’s blind I’m sure he’s delighted I’m losing my mind There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times In the morning they give you a dry loaf of bread Hard as a stone, and as heavy as lead Thrown from the ceiling down into your cell Like something from Heaven dropped down into Hell Hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times I’ll never again go to Finnegan’s Bar With the Cardinal boys and a new credit card It was shot after shot after shot of the fog The next thing I knew I was tied like a hog There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times The copper that got me, he roughed me up good And tased me again, just so I understood The only good perp is a one seeing stars And not terrorizing the Fond du Lac bars There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times This bed must be made out of old, rotten rugs I wake in the morning, all covered with bugs And the bugs will all swear that unless I get bail I’m bound to go lousy in Fond du Lac jail There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times It’s snowy and windy, or so I’ve been told My Annie threw all my things out in the cold My mother said only, “I hope you had fun” The public defense said, “Good luck to you, son” There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail There’s hard, hard times © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
6.
I stepped off of the M&M train To cannon fire and a grand parade We’d ridden all night from towns out west To join a thousand of Milwaukee’s best We marched through Kentucky in the autumn heat Chased those Rebels into Tennessee They whipped us good at the Georgia line And we limped back to Chattanooga with our dead behind Now we’re cold and starving on the valley floor And the fever’s like I’ve never seen before Buzzards are circling overhead This was not how it was s’posed to end I’ve read my bible and said my prayers Forgiven you when you weren’t there All I ask to make us square Just do this one thing for me Don’t let me die in Tennessee We’re in trouble from the look of it Must be 40,000 Rebels on that ridge Nobody’s sure that we can break that line But we’ve come this far and there’s a hill to climb So rush the slope, boys, and duck the shells “On Wisconsin!” a young man yells As a bullet burns into my thigh I raise my rifle and I close one eye I’ve read my bible and said my prayers Forgiven you when you weren’t there All I ask to make us square Just do this one thing for me Don’t let me die in Tennessee I’ve read my bible and said my prayers Forgiven you when you weren’t there All I ask to make us square Just do this one thing for me Don’t let me die in Tennessee © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
7.
It was a warm day in an Up North summer My brothers and me Were riding on the folded-down tailgate Of our Daddy’s Grand Marquis He pulled off by the edge of the forest And the six of us jumped out With milk jugs and ice cream pails For gathering berries up Momma found the hole in the tree line And we followed her in Down a path through a dark, damp thicket Then the sun poured down again Into... Blackberry Heaven My family and me Brambles of purple fruit As far as we could see I know your voices Even when you’re just out of view Blackberry Heaven Can I stay forever here with you? Here I am, back again I’ve been gone so many years It’s so much how I remember I just wish they were here I drive down the West Shore Road Looking for that subtle seam The path that can take me back Into a sweet berry dream After a while, I finally give up And watch the darkness fall What are memories, really? Was it ever there at all? When our summers are finally over And we all go home again Look for me in a clearing in the forest A milk jug in my hand In... Blackberry Heaven My family and me Brambles of purple fruit As far as we can see I know your voices Even when you’re just out of view Blackberry Heaven Can I stay forever here with you? © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
8.
Bruiser 02:12
You went out west with a Strat on your back A song in your head, and a voice you could stack Into the sweetest harmony Played your way into rock n’ roll heights Backstage blur in the Hollywood lights It was a quicksand life Did you ever reach your hand up high? You were hardly around Long enough to be the toast of the town You couldn’t see the future They’ll sing your songs Probably long after we’re all gone They won’t forget you, Bruiser You came back here, to where you began And you started a weird little polka band The people came from all around Raise it up, drink it all down Wipe your mouth to the roar of the crowd And stumble off the stage They buy you shots, slap your back They don’t understand, so nobody asks What it was like up there A hundred-thousand miles up in the air You were hardly around Long enough to be the toast of the town You couldn’t see the future They’ll sing your songs Probably long after we’re all gone They won’t forget you, Bruiser Just a 3-inch-long Article that told the world you were gone I won’t forget you, Bruiser © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
9.
It was a summer night in Sparta, Wisconsin, so hot, it ached to breathe A robin’s-egg-blue Cadillac came floating down the street It slowly slid right past us, with its windows partly down Playing “Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come” Driving was Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the Negro League baseball star We followed him to the buzzing crowd down at Memorial baseball park He’d come from many miles away to storm our Coulee barns To mesmerize with his fastballs and his Alabama charm The city team took the lead with young Billy on the mound We peeked into the dugout to see Ol’ Satchel nodded out Then at the end of 3, he finally stood and grabbed his glove A murmur spread through the bleachers, and then a cheer went up Satchel came to Sparta in 19 and 59 He was north of 50, and two decades past his prime They still tell the stories of the numbers that he fanned All across the dusty diamonds of the Dairyland Satchel shuffled to the mound like he was already out of gas Rationing every movement like each step could be his last But when he took that baseball, boy, his youth came rushing back He leaned forward, reared a bit, then he slung it by their bats He threw the Looper, and the Drooper and the Whipsy-Dipsy-Do The Eephus pitch, the Trouble Ball, the Bowtie and the Screw It was “Tusser”, Nowak, Herman, first, then Kowitz, “Red” and Spink The old man had them knotted up and then off the field they’d slink Mosquitoes swarmed onto everything, but no one seemed to care Before them worked a legend, there was magic in the air And once Spinky’s little bitty dribbler had been put away with ease Satch doffed his hat and mopped his sweaty forehead with his sleeve When the game was over, he signed cards for all kids Their dads took pictures of him while they told him things he did A couple of us walked him out to that robin’s-egg-blue car Said, “Come have a beer with us, Satch, down at Emma’s Wonder Bar” He said, “Na’… I appreciate it, I’ll have’ta catch you next time, Bo Another town’s a-waitin’, and there’s a long, long way to go” “They say you’ll pitch forever, Satchel, can that really be true?” “Now, boys, what else is a colored man from Mobile gonna do?” Then the Cadillac floated back down the street and out of sight To another town, another town, another town, goodnight Satchel came to Sparta in 19 and 59 He was north of 50, and two decades past his prime They still tell the stories of the numbers that he fanned All across the dusty diamonds of the Dairyland © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
10.
Black Summer 02:45
A Tennessee tornado Took out the neighborhood They closed up all the honkytonks And now I’m gone for good The coward found the helpless ones And slammed them to the floor Nobody wants to be in this Black summer anymore It’s all gone crazy, who knows why? Maybe there’s a bad moon on the rise Gotta make it through the winter to the other side I hope that we can make it with our souls intact Black summer, don’t ever come back Black summer, don’t ever come back So I moved on to higher ground Along the western shore Found refuge here in all the places I had loved before But the sickness finally found me Then went looking for more Nobody wants to be in this Black summer anymore It’s all gone crazy, who knows why? Better wear a mask you better stay inside Gotta make it through the winter to the other side I hope that we can make it with our souls intact Black summer, don’t ever come back Black summer, don’t ever come back I thought it might be all a dream Or maybe a mistake As I watched the cellphone videos Of Arbery, Floyd and Blake I pray this is the last of it We lock that bloody door Nobody wants to be in this Black summer anymore It’s all gone crazy, who knows why? Are you coming with, or will you stay behind? Gotta make it through the winter to the other side I hope that we can make it with our souls intact Black summer, don’t ever come back Black summer, don’t ever come back © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)
11.
Ferry lights are fading in the distance A quiet settles on the lake Listening for secrets by the shoreline Underneath the stars of Hika Bay There’s a moon, tonight, over Michigan And the light dances on her waves Look to the east and make a wish again Wisconsin, I will stay Why I ever left, I can’t remember So many years have gone around the bend Let’s sing a song of new beginnings It’s so good to see you, my old friend There’s a moon, tonight, over Michigan And the light dances on her waves Look to the east and make a wish again Wisconsin, I will stay It’s in the trees up in the Northwoods It’s in the waters flowing through the Dells Standing in this spot of moonlight I’m completely underneath your spell There’s a moon, tonight, over Michigan And the light dances on her waves Look to the east and make a wish again Wisconsin, I will stay Wisconsin, I will stay © 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)

about

"Wisconsin River" is an 11-song tour through America's Dairyland by acclaimed songwriter — and Wisconsin native — Chris Richards. His 6th studio album, "Wisconsin River" received a 4-star (out of 5) endorsement from MOJO, the esteemed UK music magazine.

Notes, lyrics and additional information are available at WisconsinRiverAlbum.com

credits

released April 22, 2021

All songs written by Chris Richards,
except “Fond du Lac Jail,” traditional with additional lyrics by Chris Richards

Produced by Joe V. McMahan & Chris Richards
Recorded and mixed by Joe V. McMahan at Wow & Flutter Studio, East Nashville, TN
Mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering, Nashville, TN
Photography by DC Rambow at H.H. Bennett Studio, Wisconsin Dells, WI
Design by Chad Steinborn

Wes L’Anglois: Acoustic guitar, hi-string guitar, electric guitar, harmonica
Fats Kaplin: Fiddle, dobro, mandolin
Andrea Zonn: Violin, backing vocals
Peter Cooper: Backing vocals
Bryan Owings: Percussion
Chris Richards: Vocals, acoustic guitar

© 2021 Chris Richards

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Chris Richards Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Chris Richards is a critically acclaimed songwriter and recording artist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

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