Down to the River

from by Whelan

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I was messing around on my 12-string musing about the driving proto-rock stylings of Ledbelly and Willie McTell and pretty soon “Down to the River” began to take shape. The lyrics concern two individuals whom we might encounter in a blues situation: a recovering lush who’s in the process of lecturing a serial womanizer about the errors of his ways.


Down to the River c. 2014 Sidney S. Whelan

What do you do when life ain't worth living'?
Best to hit the road, best to keep on singin'
ABC, what beats in your chest?
DEF, who left you blessed?

I went to the well one two three many times
Some of that corn liquor goes down like a crime.
Bone-dry one day, dead-soaked the next
You can tell by that and the Holy Text

That I'm goin' down to the river, gonna see if it run dry.
Either that or gettin' ready to bust out
Floodin far and wide. Either way it's nothin' but trouble.
Nothin' but trouble all my days,

Well I'd try to explain but you wouldn't understand
What a woman like that means to a man.
'Cause your cold heart and head of stone
Got you thrown out of house and home.

You went through the backdoor 1 2 3 many times.
Now she got a lawyer and you payin' the fine.
Judge lookin' down from his big oak desk
You can tell by that she’s well and truly vexed.

Now you're goin' down to the river. Gonna see if it run dry.
Either that or gettin' ready to bust its banks
Floodin far and wide.
Either way it spells nothin' but trouble.
Nothin' but trouble all your days.

Well my friend, this ain't cool.
I'm done runnin' around.
Nothin' but fellas sittin' on barstools.
And an occasional workin' gal.
Now who's actin' a fool?
Hey bartender, what's the tab?

A woman like that makes life worth living
But this hard life is unforgiving.
She may be here today then gone the next
You can't blame a fella for feelin' hexed

I ran thru Hell one two three many times.
Fell out winded on the other side.
Listen here woman, I love you the best;
You know by that I been put to the test.

Now I ain't studyin' that river I don't care if it run dry.
Ain't gonna fight it if it bust out, floodin far and wide.
I won't be in none o' that trouble.
If you're with me for all my days.
If you're with me for all my days.
If you’re with me for all my days.


from The Story of Ike Dupree, track released December 21, 2014
Vocals: Sid Whelan, Capathia Jenkins, Robbi Hall Kumalo, Darryl Tookes
Trombone: Alan Ferber
Trumpet: Eleazar Shafer
Saxophone: Phillip Whack
Drums: Richard Huntley
Percussion: Mark Manczuck
Bass: Marco Panascia
Organ: Jerry Z
Guitars: Sid Whelan



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Whelan New York, New York

Sid Whelan is a veteran guitarist who for many years backed singers in world music acts. Recently he returned for songwriting inspiration to his love of American music pre-1960: the blues and country, folk, bluegrass, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and jazz. He has begun a songwriting project with those influences in mind, tackling often difficult themes of contemporary American life for his lyrics. ... more

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