Sisterly

by Jean Rohe

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1.
04:25
2.
3.
04:23
4.
03:22
5.
07:13
6.
04:50
7.
04:26
8.
04:05
9.
10.
06:58

about

The cover of songwriter Jean Rohe's latest record, Sisterly, is an imposing portrait of the writer as her hair is braided by another woman. “Braiding someone's hair is so intimate and loving, also kind of servile, and at the same time it's this complex power dynamic,” she reflects. “I mean, you literally have control over someone's head.” Like the portrait, Sisterly's ten narrative songs illustrate and complicate traditional notions of power and intimacy, and in doing so, explore the very nature of how we communicate with each other.

credits

released November 2, 2018

CREDITS

All songs written by Jean Rohe and arranged by Jean and the band
Jean Rohe––singing, acoustic guitar, electric guitar (5), field recordings
Liam Robinson–– pianos, electric pianos, synths, organ, accordion, singing (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Christopher Tordini­––electric and acoustic bass, singing (8, 9)
James Shipp––percussion, synths, organ
Bob Lanzetti––electric guitars (1, 2, 3, 4, 10)
Skye Steele­––violin (6, 8)
Kate Ferber––backing vocals (1)
Patrick Breiner––saxophone (9)
Jordan Perlson––drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10)
Chris Berry––drums (3, 5, 7)
Jefferson Hamer––additional acoustic guitar (2, 10)
Rebecca Solnit interview excerpted from On Being (9)

Produced by Liam Robinson
Engineered by Ryan Dieringer at Seaside Lounge and Jake Lummus at Grand Street Recording, Brooklyn
Additional recording by Peter Karl at Peter Karl Studio and Chris Berry at OneThreeFour Studio
Mixed by Brian Forbes at The Gallery
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music

Photo: Krysta Brayer
Illustration: Thais Beltrame
Design: Ange Luke

GRATITUDE

Much gratitude to these imaginative and generous musicians for lending their ferocious talents, dedication, and friendship to this project. Thanks to my parents, to Danny. To Andy, Sara Joy, Jess, and all the Yggdrasil crew, past and present. To Nitzan, to Melanie, to Ilusha. To Summit Sisters and first listeners: Shaina, Heather, Ben, James, Song Forum. To Ethan for design help. To all the supporters/funders who helped see this to the finish line. Thanks to Sekou Sundiata, Nicolas Henin, Janine di Giovanni, Brené Brown, Rebecca Solnit, Michelle Alexander, and songwriters at Sing Sing and Rikers for the journalism, art, scholarship, and humanity that informed some of these songs. Thank you, Mimo, for listening and loving so deeply. You have my heart.

© & ℗ 2018 Laundry Line Music, BMI

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Jean Rohe Brooklyn, New York

Jean Rohe writes one-of-a-kind narrative songs, concerned as much with the internal world as with the external. Her latest record as a bandleader, Sisterly, is a collection of songs about communication and missed connections, and tackles topics from love, lust, and longing to prisons, police violence, and migration. - “remarkable in so many ways I can think of no comparison” Elmore Magazine ... more

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Track Name: Live
Live

I don't listen to the radio, I ain't watching any TV
I don't listen to those CDs or mp3s, I don't watch a lot of movies
I just need to have you live, live, all the time
Live in front of me
Oh, I got to see you live, live, all the time
Cut the power, light a candle now, Honey, oh, I got to have you live

You're the star in my favorite show,
You're the hottie in the band
Your single's at the top of my charts,
Oh, and I'm your biggest fan
I don't wanna have you far and away,
Don't wanna watch you on a screen
You know what I mean

'Cause I don't bother with the virtual,
The vicarious review
You're the only one I'm following
And I like everything you do
But don't think that you can phone it in;
No one's on the other line
If you can't give it to me live it isn't worth my time

I don't listen to the radio, I ain't watching any TV
I don't listen to those CDs or mp3s, I don't watch a lot of movies
I just need to have you live, live, all the time
Live in front of me
Oh, I got to see you live, live, all the time
Cut the power, light a candle now, Honey, oh, I need you live

I like to watch you watch you watch you watch you doin' what you do
I like to watch you watch you watch you
But then I got to touch you touch you touch you touch you
You know I want to touch you touch you touch you touch you
So I gotta get you live

I'm the figure in your fantasies,
I'm the woman in your dreams
I'm the hustle in the bustle, Babe,
I'm the straining at the seams
And you know I got that thing that you need,
Gonna make you feel alive
And you know it in the bones of your soul,
There's no way that you'll survive
If you don't get it if you don't get it, oh, you got to get it live
If you don't get it, if you don't get it­

I don't listen to the radio, I ain't watching any TV
I don't listen to those CDs or mp3s, I don't watch a lot of movies
I just need to have you live, live, all the time
Live in front of me
I got to see you live, live, all the time
Cut the power, light a candle now Honey, oh, I got to have you live
Track Name: Ashes to Ashes
Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Gears will slip and wheels will rust
Night is falling and our days are few
So I will spend them all with you

Sail me east, sail me west
Sail to the one that I love the best
He'll be waiting at the door
Love me till I can't take no more

Hold me tighter, hold me tight
Hold me down and make me right
Make it so the scars don't show
So we're the only ones who know

There's a temple high on a hill
The thirsty gods can't get their fill
It's there we love and it's there we lie
And every night it's there we die

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Gears will slip and wheels will rust
Night is falling and our days are few
So I will spend them all with you
Track Name: Wings
Wings

They all stood out in the prison yard
And they built wings out of scrap wood and cardboard
This ain't no metaphor
When I talk I talk straight
If I run I'm running late
And what I said I seen you bet I saw
They were building wings in the prison yard

I don't know where they got the wood
Or the hammers and the nails or the notion that they could climb
Out from underneath their crime
But the watches and the clocks
The calendars, the locks spun back
Feel the years unwind
Oh, those prisoners turned back time

The river runs south
The train runs up and down its lonesome track
Every Saturday all the men run down
To call their families back at home
Time used to run a straight, relentless line

Til the day they built their wings
And the wings, they hit the air
And the air stirred up the seasons
And strew them everywhere
And now they're back before their sentence
Back before their crime
Long before the reason
Long before the rhyme
Before the birth of a boy into poverty
The birth of a nation in slavery
The sweat of the many and the wealth of a few
The hurt called caring, the lies called true
Before Icarus ascended to the sky
Before anybody told him not to try

They built their wooden wings so light
Strapped to their backs, see them shimmer in the bright sky
And one by one see each man fly
Past the turrets and the guards
The razor wire and bars
Down the Hudson and out of sight
Oh, those prisoners took flight.
Track Name: Genevieve
Genevieve

Genevieve, lay your burden down
I wanna go out dancing
I wanna paint this town, Genevieve
Be my good girl, now
Your worries won't go missing
And you've had plenty of time for crying, my beautiful Genevieve

Genevieve, I know what you've been through
I heard all about your suffering
I seen what they did to you, but Genevieve
It's a pain your mind can't soothe
Give it over to your body
I wanna see you move, Genevieve

Give me just one dance, Genevieve
Give me just one, Genevieve
Get it out on the floor
Do it for me, Genevieve

Genevieve, there's a lie for every tongue
There's a tongue for every bite of it
A hand for every slight of it, but Genevieve
There's no safe place you can hide
It's a big ol' scary world out there so
Come on out, come on outside

Why your eyes so dull?
Why the rusty stare?
I know you got your shiny jackknife
Still hidin' in there
And I remember when that blade could cut me through
I just want to move with you, Genevieve

Give me just one dance, Genevieve
Give me just one, Genevieve
Give me just one dance, Genevieve
Give me just one more, one more, Genevieve
Get it out on the floor
Do it for me, if you can't do it for Genevieve
Track Name: Sisterly
Sisterly

Home alone, the first warm night
The beginning of the season for neighborhood street fights
I coulda stopped him, called the police
I coulda courageously brought my trash down to the street

I don't know what it was all about
I heard something about sex, something about “Lemme hear you shout”
And from the window in a street lamp round
I see him pull her hair, he chokes her and drags her down

Oh, for shame, for shame, for shame, for shame on me
In the game, the game of fuck and fight and flee
In the name, the name, the name of “it wasn't me,”
Well, tonight I'll take the blame

Now, I'm not known for being sisterly
Let the strong girls win and cut the weak ones free
The boys lie, they say the boys are mean
Said I better get myself a spot on the boys' team

Because the boys know how to win the day
Bathed in blood, they built our world that way
I got the phone, I'm standing in the hall
Every man for herself; I never made that call

Oh, for shame, for shame, for shame, for shame on me
In the game, the game of fuck and fight and flee
In the name, the name, the name of “it wasn't me,”
Well, tonight I'll take

The blame

Now a song is a leaky paper cup, it can't hold it all
Thought I should call the police but then I thought again
Quick on the draw, kings of the law,
Ain't nobody gonna ask them
To keep the peace for us

One violence or another
If I'm not sisterly, well, they sure ain't no brother to each other
Watch 'em frisking the boys on Nostrand Avenue,
frisking all the kids on Nostrand Avenue
So before you judge me,
tell me exactly what number you think I shoulda been dialing
When they got a cage for every kid up at Rikers Island
And they got a key for every cage for every kid up at Rikers Island
[And maybe there's a bullet in the head]
They got a special cage for this girl down on the street
fighting back fiercely in front of me,
you know a song is a leaky paper cup, it's a leaky paper cup
it can't hold it all

And it leaks into my dreams; you know,
if I had it all to do again I'd come down into the street and stand
Between every fist, between every face and every hand
that ever met, even if it broke alla my bones
Instead, I come to you with this soggy vessel,
this leaky paper cup
And the memory of a girl who fought it out alone.

Oh, for shame, for shame, for shame, for shame on me
In the game, the game of fuck and fight and flee
In the name, the name, the name of “it wasn't me,”
Well, tonight I'll take
the blame
Track Name: Safety
Safety

I am completely worn at the elbows and the knees
The skin of my palms is shredded sore
There are more borders to cross and more leaky boats to board
Before we find our refuge from this war

The bitterness bears down on me
It's the bile that burns a hole upon my tongue
It's our new Sweet 'n' Low neighbors whose “Thank you very much”
Lets us know that we're not welcome
Thank you very much, you're not welcome

Oh, safety
Who is safe?

I've thought long and hard about safety
And now I know it's an illusion at best
There can be no shelter strong enough
There is no peace, there is no place for us to rest

We opened up our doors and we took the streets
And the clouds parted for only just so long
Before the bombs came raining down
And dusk fell on our freedom song

How can I put this so you'll understand?
Won't you wear my shoes and walk around awhile?
Now your home's a pile of rubble and the little girl you love
Is lying somewhere in that pile

So where can you go when you can't go home?
When you're not even sure you want to be alive?
When the only ones to turn to fear the horrors that you flee
Will invade when you arrive?
Panic strikes when you arrive.

Oh, safety
Who is safe?

Now, I've thought long and hard about safety
And now I know it's an illusion at best
You build your walls up high enough
And suddenly the outside is all one unwelcome guest

Or you can open up your door, you can take me in
You can risk it all in sharing what is yours
We both have more to gain together
Since I found myself awash upon your shores

Now I come to you in my greatest need
And I only wish you'd reach your hand to me
It doesn't promise anything
But nowadays that's gonna have to pass for safety.
Track Name: Secret Hours
Secret Hours

You waken every morning far too soon
Startling the bed, the dark, the moon
But even so, you bless each dream
that seized your sleep before the closing
Of those secret hours

She rises in the night to soothe her child
Woken by his cries, hungry and wild
She takes him to her breast
and though her eyes are tired she is smiling
Through those secret hours

I fumble in the dark to find a pen
Woken by some strange idea again
And bleary-eyed I take it down
so I won't forget it in the morning

Oh, the dawn,
Opens up our eyes and breaks the spell: the secret's gone

He toils in the darkest hours of night
Never went to bed, had to get it just right
Nobody to spoil those peaceful hours of work
before the dawning
O, those secret hours

Your flight is taking off at six AM
Not a wink of sleep from now till then
I hold you as I try to memorize each line
of our bodies intertwined
I try to steer the path of a star
that brings the morning out from the dark
Try to halt the glow
that's breaking, breaking, breaking through the window

Oh, the dawn
Opens up our eyes and breaks the spell
All those things we thought we knew so well
Eden was the night before they fell
The secret's gone
Track Name: Never Enough
Never Enough

It's never enough, is it?
It's just never good enough.
I do my very best to keep you satisfied
And I think maybe this time I'll get it right,
maybe we can celebrate and stuff
But just one look at you and I can see that it isn't good enough,
It isn't good enough, no.

It's never enough, is it?
It's just never fast enough.
Don't dawdle now, my dear, or you'll be left behind
So I pick up the pace, I pick it up, pick it up
Rough it up, rough it up, we're playing rough
But still I find my toes are on the starting line
And you've left me in the dust 'cause I'm never good enough
No I'm never good enough

I am bending over backwards, I am running overtime
I don't need you in my face 'cause I've got you in my mind,
don't you know
Every waking minute of the day and it's laying me low
Suffocating me blue in the face
It's a game that can't be won,
Still you say, “Try again babe, that was fun.”
I should really call your bluff
But I can't seem to get enough.

I'm never enough for you
And so there's never enough for me
Still, somehow you thought that I would stick around
and around and around
But you say there's never enough money
Not enough time or love or joy, well, hey, that's tough.
'Cause frankly, dear, my patience is in short supply
And I have had enough,
I have had enough,
Oh, you know I've had enough.
Track Name: What Will We Tell Our Children?
What Will We Tell Our Children?

Oh, we're tripping on the trigger 'cause we're tipsy and numb
Wake up wondering, “Where'd all this blood come from?”
So now we're sighing and we're sifting the disturbing debris
Get your story straight. Honey, what'll it be?

And what will we tell our children,
our children when they ask us, “What did you do?”

Oh, we're strangers, we're squatters, we're signs of the times
And we are citizens, virtues and crimes.
And we're anxious. And it's not us who'll write this history
Judgement as citizens. Rite of citizenry.

And what will we tell our children,
our children when they ask us, “What did you do?”

Did you choose the struggle or the easy prize?
Did you organize? Did we organize?
Did we find our power
In the man of the hour or the gifts we have inside?

Did you put pen to paper? Did you sacrifice?
Did you do it once? Did you do it twice?
Do it three times, baby?
Did you just wait it out with your hands on your ears
or did you scream and shout?

Did you speak the truth when it mattered most?
Did you mean it, now, tell me did you mean it?
Did you run and hide?
Oh, your palms on your eyes. Yes, did you cry?
Oh, sometimes you cried

Did you love your neighbor, did you love yourself?
Did you give enough? Did you get enough?
Did you stay the fight?
Hold your lover close and make a little light?

Did you choose the struggle or the easy prize?
Did you organize? Did we organize?
Did we find our power
In the man of the hour or the gifts we have inside?

One by one cut the stone, two by two bone to bone,
three by three make it so, isn't it enough?
Track Name: Nothing New
Nothing New

Monday, the Eiffel Tower
Dine at the dinner hour
Order their specialty
Paired with a Burgundy and something sweet

Tuesday, a London fog
Wet Piccadilly slog
Shelter in ancient walls
Light as the drizzle falls softly on the ground

Wednesday, the streets of Rome
Wander the way back home
Home is a nice hotel
Right by the citadel protecting the town

oo, oo
It's so hard to talk to you
Stretch a sign across the ocean blue
Cast a line and pull the loving on through
You'll be mine and I will always be true
So we'll be fine, we'll be fine
This ain't nothing new

Thursday, another show
In a place where the tulips grow
Bright red, they bend and sway
Lonely and far away, their wooden shoes stuck in the ground

Friday, the Berlin Wall
Or the small part that didn't fall
Write a few words back home
Disjointed travel poem; hit send and hit the hay

Saturday, Sunday fly
In an airplane, in open sky
Practice the fragile art
Opening two worn-out hearts
Each time when we're apart and we meet on solid ground

oo, oo
It's so hard to talk to you
Stretch a sign across the ocean blue
Cast a line and pull the loving on through
You'll be mine and I will always be true
So we'll be fine, we'll be fine
This ain't nothing new

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