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Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall

by Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra

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credits

released November 8, 2019

Recorded at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN on March 26 and 28, 2019
Recording Engineer and Concert Sound: Jay Perlman
Tracking Engineers: Tom Garneau and Nicholas Pettigrew
Projection and Lighting Design by Paul “Arlo” Guthrie

Mixed by Andy Thompson at Instrument Landing
Mastered by Bruce Templeton at Microphonic Mastering
Management by Becky Hoffman
Executive Production by Lazerbeak and Grant Meachum
Front & Back cover photos by Zoe Prinds-Flash
Interior Photos by Zoe Prinds-Flash and Paul Phillips
Design & layout by Kai Benson

Vocal Director: Aby Wolf
Vocalists: Ashley DuBose, Cameron Kinghorn, Matthew Santos, Aby Wolf
Drummer: Joey Van Phillips
Electric Bassist: Andrew Foreman

All songs arranged for orchestra by Andy Thompson
(with percussion arrangement by Joey Van Phillips on “Jumprope,” “Fighting Fish,” and “Skeleton Key”

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Dessa Minneapolis

Combining wit, tenderness, and poetic sensibility to rare effect, Dessa spins delicate and charged stories and animates them with her expressive alto voice, arresting for its honest, clear simplicity. Transcending the restrictions of genre to reveal an astonishing multi-platform voice. Member of the Doomtree collective. Essayist. Rapper. Amaretto enthusiast. ... more

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Track Name: Jumprope (Live)
Girls on the block
turn rope calling out
the same games
that I played:
it goes turn
around, then jump
touch the ground, then jump
wake up to find work
and look for love
but when that rope comes round you jump
That rope comes round you jump.
Jump.
Jump.
Jump.
You sterilize the needle with a lighter and a prayer
you sew your empty pockets closed
cut off all your hair
you train up on the mountaintop to weaponize the blood
you bring your body back to sea level to see what body does.
And it runs.
And it runs.
And it runs.

Chorus
It was just jumprope then
you try not to get hit
you try to stay in;
don't let em talk that down
it's still jumprope now.

You hope you get the fast horse
Some of what you ask for
never let a broken heart k-keep you from
the dance floor
have a little fun.
Have
a little fun.
Girls on the block
turn rope calling out
the same games
turn around
touch the ground
wake up to find work
and look for love
but when that rope comes
round—
rope comes round you jump
Jump.
Jump.
Jump.

Chorus
Track Name: Good Grief (Live)
Chorus
They say there’s good grief
but how can you tell it from the bad?
Maybe it’s only in the fact
good grief’s the one that’s in your past.

I got snow in my pockets
went down again
head first
laced drill bits to my pointe shoes
pirouette
through the hardwood to paydirt.
Night falls, day breaks;
Time has a funny kind of violence
and I’m
tryna keep in mind
it can’t leave you the way it finds you.
Good grief:
I’ve heard people say it
what a
phrase, what a state to be in
but I don’t know
where they go to get get
that feeling.
My knees stay clean not much for praying
I do my own stunts and my own saving
but there’s something amiss
something I been missing
Maybe, maybe.


Chorus
This time my best wasn’t good enough
well, fuck, usually it is
and the air got a little rough
took off the fuselage, the engine, and both wings
but I’m willing to work for this
just show me where to dig
and I’m ready to hurt for this
I know exactly what this is:
Good grief
I want that good grief
the one that heals me
that leaves me clarified by fire
when I’m burned clean
tempered by light and heat
Ah, by the dead of morning
I’ll be better for it
And then fortified I’ll rise.
Bust the hydrant, let it spray champagne
Wings are broken but I felt no pain
It’s real today, I know this feeling, let it rain

Chorus
Secrets don’t like to be kept
All mine jumped over the fence
I guess I should be upset,
but I’m in my nightgown on the lawn
thinking, better that they’re gone
I’ve been afraid of this so long
it’s a relief when it goes wrong.

Cause I’m here now, and asking
melt me down, recast me
burn me clean
like glass from sandy ground
X2

Chorus
Track Name: Boy Crazy (Live)
You’ve got wheels beneath the knee
just my type, all built for speed
I still fall so easily.

I’m just boy
boy crazy.

I got foolish
dreaming on a future with you
like some amateur
in plastic pearls,
a younger girl’s perfume.
If I’m strong enough to handle this
you’re wrong to leave so soon.

I’m just boy
boy crazy.

Don’t make me say it
I know what it was
can’t you just let me call it a—
sooner or later
wouldn’t be enough
one of us was gonna fall into—
Don’t make me say it
I know what it was
can’t you just let me call it
can’t you just let me call it a crush?

I’m just boy
boy crazy.

Thought you were leaning in
thought it might mean something
off of my feet again
clean sweep
doesn’t take much, now does it?
Thought we would meet again
caught in the feeling of it
head over heels but then
it wasn’t enough, now was it?
Track Name: Velodrome (Live)
I don’t believe
My will’s quite free
I’m half machine
at least half steam
Aquinas, call on me—
How many angels on the head of your pin?
Anybody in stilettos can answer that old thing:
It’s one for the right foot, one for the left
Half an angel per pin at best.
Add wings, add heart, add harp, all set.

Chorus
We lean to turn in the velodrome
all lines are curved in the velodrome
we pitch and roll, wheels flesh and bone
total control and it’s
it’s ours alone.

It goes gospel, gossip, slander
harvest, hunger, rain dance
hand-to-god, I didn’t think it was contagious
Eve leaving Eden in a makeshift dress
with a bell to tell us when we’re hungry
there’s a bell to tell us when we’re tired
a bell that tells us to rise and fight
a bell to rise and die.
It’s just all bells
sometimes I ring myself
to see if I might chime.

Chorus
We spend our days and nights deciding
where to go and how to ride there
and in the end again
we all vote yes,
we all turn left.
We lean to turn in the velodrome
Track Name: 5 Out Of 6 (Live)
Double jointed
triple threat
I’m not some method actress
tryna see my
my descent
you’re gonna have to play the tape backwards
save that breath for choir practice
got no time for my detractors
standing on my staircase
all you are’s a fire hazard.
I put my time in now
I’m vetted, uncontested
see how an honest answer shuts down
motherfuckers asking trick questions?
I’m out here arms wide hiding nothing
I’ve done it all in broad daylight and I left the cameras running.

Chorus
I’m the phoenix and the ash
red eyes shining in the camera flash
My secret is I don’t keep none
see something, go ahead
and say something
I ain’t afraid of it
I don’t drown
won’t stay down
heat finds a way to rise somehow
Scan the crowd as I'm
coming out and I
don’t see too many rivals now.

I don’t need an agenda
I just tell the truth
let it off the leash and don’t touch it
it knows what to do
and I’m running a tight ship
every deckhand here has a five-year plan and an ice pick
they can write code, they can drive stick
I got an octave on you and a high kick
I don’t blink, I don’t block, I’m a bleeder
all I do is hit.
I don’t win em all, but I’d say I take five out of six
clock’s running better glove up—if you insist
okay, let’s see who’s really counting coup
and who’s been counterfeit.

Chorus
Cut my own gills with a pocketknife
turning my fingers in the sockets, my
daily—daily dose of - - - daily dose of lightning
just buzzed enough to get me up climbing up the kite string.
My back is aching, my belt’s too tight
I brought a chisel tip to this pencil fight
no luck, just fortified dice
I’m going morning and night
and I’m really rising
the fire on the horizon.

Chorus
Track Name: Dixon's Girl (Live)
Oh someone taught
Your walls to talk
But if they ask me
I ain't heard a thing

Back to the wall, bat to the ball, back to the drawing board
Back to the wall, bat to the ball, back to the drawing board
Back to the wall, bat to the ball, back to the drawing board
Again

There was a snow storm in Jackson
When you and I met
At a club called Saint Sebastian's
But the sign said something different
I remember thinkin'
That I didn't have a shot at Mississippi - Television told us
Which roads they were closing...
There goes a rap show

Everybody knew you
As the wife of a famous man
Everybody who knew said
There goes Dixon's girl again
Even the walls all lean closer
When she plays the piano real slow

I haven't met too many women in this business that I really like (echo)
But you can hold a little liquor
You could hold a conversation
You could hold your own mic, and
Even that night I learned the truth about your man;
You gotta be big to treat pretty girls bad

And it's not much, but my money's on you
It's not much, but my money's on you
It's not much but my money
It's not much but my money
Not much, but my money
My money's on
Youuuuuuuuuuuu

Well I heard from the rest of the world you're in trouble
Bad news moves like fire that you fight on the phone
And I'm too far away, my well-wishing can't touch you
But I think of you still more than you might suppose

Everybody wanna see you with your hair down
Wanna hear you hit the high note
Wanna know if they can get you for a little less, Girl
I don’t
I know how the stones can fly
Had some hard goodbyes
Call me up, day or night
Free drinks and bad advice

And it's not much, but my money's on you
It's not much, but my money, my money's on you
It's on you
It's on you ooh-ooh ooh-ooh
Yeah my money's on you
It's on you
It's on you-ou-ou ooh-ooh-ooh
Yeah my money's on youuuuuuuuuuu
Track Name: Grade School Games (Live)
Love
Drugs
Sex
Pain
Those are just grade school games,
nothing major
nothing ages
Nothing changes
but the names and dates.

Fear
Pride
Faith
Shame
Those are just grade school games,
nothing major
nothing ages
nothing
stranger
than the neighbor’s place.

HOOK
You can’t make me play by all new rules
Some kids barely practice but I do

VERSE 2
Love
Drugs
Sex
Pain
Those are just grade school games,
nothing major
no new dangers
the operations
Of arcades don’t change.

Blush
Pull
Push
Blame
Those are just grade school games,
nothing major
Old behaviors
trade some favors
then give chase, take aim.



HOOK
You can’t make me play by all new rules
Some kids barely practice but I do

I’m old enough to know how this goes and how it all plays out
The end is always when the ring is empty and we all fall down.

Love
Drugs
Sex
Pain
Those are just grade school games,
nothing major
nothing ages
nothing changes
but
the names and dates
Track Name: Call Off Your Ghost (Live)
Last night, old friend, big wedding
And I knew you'd be there too
Look at us, all grown up
Collared shirts and high heel shoes
You crossed the room, just the decent thing to do
Make sure we've all been introduced
You brought your new friend
I brought mine shake hands
Pay courtesy its due
But it takes its toll
And it takes its hold

[Hook]
We've lived too long too close
So call off your ghost

Now you're asking can't we just be friends
But this bell in my chest still rings
And it's better to just pretend
That I can't see you waiting
Can't hear you call my name and
I know how much you hate it
But babe I've got to walk away
You once said if we were careful
That we could do this all our lives
Although one of us got clumsy
And both of us got wise
And now we're not so young
Seems our wishing well's gone dry

[Hook]
We've been living too long too close
And I'm ready to let you go
I'm ready, so call off your ghost

I think she lives around here
I see her almost daily
All I can do to stop myself from saying something crazy
I don't think badly of her
I hope she makes you happy
It's just a lot to ask to watch your future walking past me
I know that jealousy's a perfect waste of time
But left to my devices
I've spent far too long wasting mine x2

[Hook]
We've been living too long too close
And I'm ready to let you go
I'm ready, so call off your ghost x2
Track Name: The Chaconne (Live)
Now the bough breaks

The books I read
Said you were a fragile kid
Just as I imagined it
Your story goes:

Another nosebleed
Roses on the pillowcase
The fever breaks
And you're back on earth again

You rehearse
In the living room
The nursemaid comes mid-afternoon
To say "you've practiced long enough today"

She takes your bow
It's suppertime
But oh, your only appetite
Was fixed on the chaconne you'd hoped to play

So soon you're off
To the academy
The honours
And the accolades

First a darling
Then a marvel
When we met
I was still a young girl

But you had changed, already famous
Your name was a contagion
You were vain and hard to take
All the same, I was brazen

How the tides rise

I don't suppose you'd tell the truth
So I won't ask you anymore
All the things that we do
To pass the time between the wars

I don't regret a single day
Heard your chaconne on every stage
But your love sleeps in a velvet case
So what'd you bring me for?
What'd you bring me for?

I hear you keep your pretty wife alive
On only brie
They say a dozen years ago
She could have passed for me

She doesn't trust you with the baby
Maybe better that way
Safe in your study
Going grey

You're at your best
When you're alone
Above the fray
With your chaconne

Now the bells toll
Track Name: Ride (Live)
Baby, put that out
I don’t let nobody smoke in here
You sounded woke on the telephone
but faded you don’t say much
I think I wanna go somewhere.
I don’t like the quiet, that’s why you got invited—
Ah fuck it, my ride’s coming.

Streetlights on wet pavement, city shining twice
lemme out kitty corner from The Paradise.
They used to know me here
haven’t used that name in years—
been a woman too long for that song now
I been lost and I found out
high supply just drives your cost down
they don’t want you involved, just want you around.
Walking in
I gotta step over
a pretty thing leaning her head on her own shoulder
I don’t ask
if she’s alright
‘cause I think she’d lie tonight
that her ride’s coming.

Bad news on the television
two-for-ones on everything
don’t want no one talking to me
I just watch the flat screen
closed captions pass: looks like gender’s over
race came back
faith is a hammer with a book for a handle
and people in power can edit the past
can put your hands behind your back
to read you someone else’s rights
first the sirens then the lights
that looks like your ride—
your ride’s coming
Track Name: The Beekeeper (Live)
Here comes the beekeeper
With her pitcher full of smoke
She'll put us all to sleep
I hope it's dreamless and it's deep
Sweet Prometheus, come home
They took away our fire
And all that this scarcity promotes
Is desperate men and tyrants

[Hook]
What fine design
What hands
What minds
The envy of Eden
Our tools and our reason
It's clear in the animals eyes
We stand
Upright
Build fires
At night
Made on the sixth day
To rest on the seventh
And now we just try to survive

The surgeon and farmer meet
And each greets the other with a bow
They're kindred instruments, you know
The scalpel and the plow
In the shadow of the mountain
We work when work abounds
And we wear out all our prayers
When the work runs out

[Hook]
What fine design
What hands
What minds
The envy of Eden
Our tools and our reason
It's clear in the animals eyes
We stand
Upright
Build fires
At night
Made on the sixth day
To rest on the seventh
And now we just try to survive
Track Name: Fire Drills (Live)
I’ve been Wendy
living with the Lost Boys
youth spent as a deckhand on the convoy
moved every night to prove we were something
got confused
If it was from or to
that we were running.
I've seen Gibraltar
I’ve seen the Taj Mahal
Soweto, Hagia Sofia
Chefchaouen paints their walls blue
I’ve played to full rooms
I’ve played the fool too
burning through the bottoms of a pair of new boots
Cut my hair
tape my tits down
A woman on her own must be from out of town
funny, you don’t know the concessions that you’re making until you catalog em
and by then they’re many and you’re battle-hardened.
Heat makes liquid of the asphalt
keepsakes and parking tickets on the dashboard
I'm here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack;
tell Patient Zero, he can have his rib back.

Chorus
You can count my ribs
Wanna know what class I’m in—
Count my,
You can count my ribs.

You can’t be too broke to break
as a woman
Always something left to take
so you shouldn't
try to stay too late or talk to strangers
look too long, go too far out of range cause
angels can’t watch everybody all the time
stay close, hems low, safe inside;
that formula works if you can live it
but it works by putting half the world off limits.

Chorus
We don’t say,
Go out and be brave
nah, we say Be careful, stay safe
in any given
instance, that don't hurt
but it sinks in like stilettos in soft earth,
like the big win is a day without an incident
I beg to differ with it
I think a woman’s worth
I think that she deserves
a better line of work
than motherfucking vigilance.
Don’t give me vigilance
by definition
you can’t make a difference
if the big ambition
is simply standing sentry to your innocence
that’s not a way to live
that can’t be what
a woman is
that
gives her
nothing to aspire to.
What that is—
what that is
is just a life of running fire drills.
We’re runnin fire drills.
Track Name: Fighting Fish (Live)
Swimming in a snifter
Pretty as a picture
Don't get it twisted man, her bite is a bitch
You can name, you can keep her
But take care when you feed her
You never can take the fight out the fish
Chomping at the drill bit
Never one to still sit
You can test my metal with a magnet and some tin snips
Ink test all I see is canines and some wing tips
Pilot pen in pocket I'm riding instinct and Inkjets
Around here we don't like talk of big dreams
To stand out is a pride, a conceit
To aim high is to make waves to split seams
But that's not what it seems like to me
Cause I wanna try I wanna risk
And I don't wanna walk, rather swing and miss
I'm not above apologies but I don't ask permission
Got a lot of imperfections but I don't count my ambition in em

Chorus
Zeno's Arrow never hits the mark
It's always hanging there over its shadow
Safe from battle, waste of arch-
er's time and trouble
Waste of effort, waste of parts
If you don't aim for the center it's a waste of the art

I didn't come looking for love
I didn't come to pick a fight
I didn't come to wave or take pictures
Pander to some benefactor, ring on every broken finger
Won't extend my wings to be clipped
I know the culture here is to stay humble but shit
If we all go round bowed heads, button-lipped
If none of us go for the bell, then who is?
My mother says I've loved too many men
But I took and left something in every single bed
The rook can look left, right—just turns his head
But the knight might rise up, investigate the grid
Gender, genre, guess I'm on one
Bent both
Just the constructs of the old world
Gone broke
Women, children let me tell you
I've been both
And it's a myth we all swim for the life boats
I didn't come looking for love
I didn't come looking for a fight
I come here every night to work
And you can grab an axe, man
Or you can step aside

Chorus
Zeno's Arrow never hits the mark
It's always hanging there over its shadow
Safe from battle, waste of arch-
er's time and trouble
Waste of effort, waste of parts
If you don't aim for the center it's a waste of the art

Self taught, self made, bet, self styled
Self saw, self came, self took island of converts
To conquer is old school
We marching in Converse
Just armed with our own tools
While my knees still flex
While my joints hold steady
Mind sharp, spine straight
Chucks laced ready
I travel by kite, travel light
At touchdown
I swallowed the dice
I make my own luck now

Zeno's Arrow never hits the mark
It's always hanging there over its own shadow in the dark
Its own shadow in the dark
Track Name: The Bullpen (Live)
Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
Walk with a switch, fire in her fist
Biting at the bit
Swing at every pitch
Coach put me in like
Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
It's all in the wrist, fire from the hip
Talk a little shit, roll thick
Whole clique
Let's begin

It's been assumed I'm soft or irrelevant
Cause I refuse to down play my intelligence
But in a room of thugs and rap veterans
Why am I the only one
Who's acting like a gentleman
Good form bad taste
Pity what a waste
All that style, not a thing to say
Looks to me like
A little of your true school
Is at the shallow end of the typing pool
All cloak, no dagger
Just smoke and swagger
I hope that your battery's charged
Cause I found this here ladder
Now your ceilings don't matter
Check me out
Now I got glass floors

Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
Walk with a switch, fire in her fist
Biting at the bit
Swing at every pitch
Coach put me in like
Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
It's all in the wrist, fire from the hip
Talk a little shit, roll thick
Whole clique
Let's begin

They love me, they love me not
Pulling pedals off my bike
You gotta strike while the irony's still hot
No telling what the kids might like
And I love this job, but ah, good god
Sometimes I hate this business
It's all love backstage but then the boys get brave
Gotta say, I hope your mother doesn't listen
Excuse me, where you going
Doomtree, Minnesota
Population's growing all the time
And if you feel this
You know what the deal is
Grab a chisel tip and add one to the number on the sign

Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
Walk with a switch, fire in her fist
Biting at the bit
Swing at every pitch
Coach put me in like
Forget the bull in the china shop
There's a china doll in the bullpen
It's all in the wrist, fire from the hip
Talk a little shit, roll thick
Whole clique
Let's begin
Track Name: Warsaw (Live)
A wick with no candle
A wheel with no axle
I ride with no saddle, no lift
Then I'm dragging the kite
A blade with no handle
A brick for your window
I'm fine but I'm single
A dime and I'm the same on both sides

You're a stone-cold killer, you say
But you're looking like a part-time criminal
Waive the charade
Man, you lay it on thick
It's a dive bar, save the game
You drink and you sit
Easy to please
But hard to impress
I’m in a mood, new shoes, and a bulletproof dress
Sugar on the rim and a shot of mescal
Man, it’s murder in the morning
But it’s good for morale
Can you mortar more
Looks like you're bricking with both hands
Get the spirit level
Or the skeleton won't stand
Fuck the plan, man
I'm tryna call an audible
Probable lost cause
But I got a thing for long shots
Yes, yes, naysayers got the wrong job
Best bet when you think they got the wrong odds
And I've done some living in a glass house
High note blew the motherfucking walls off

And I sleep
With both eyes open
Standing up
Alone and holding
Off the rust
And I'm still living by my maiden name
The name I came with
The name I made
And I'm bare-faced at your masquerade
Filled a flask up before I came
Because night falls
We all wanna hear that fight song
Car running like a nylon
Brights on
Times right but the clocks wrong
Never set it, never settle in a time zone
Take what I need with me
Pray for rain but brace for whiskey
Something in the tank, money in the bank
Callin it a win we
Give a little thanks, give a little back
Busy with the grand plan
Take one last look
Left the bandwagon
For a banned book
To break out you gotta give up the chase
To make love you gotta take off the brace
And we all leave it feeling half done
Best you can do is just put a hand up
Hope grace and good works in the end add up
Find out when the pendulum hangs plumb
Track Name: Sound the Bells (Live)
Boys, sound the bells
The sun rose from the west today
I doubt we'll see it set

Oh and boys, bear it well
Put all your paper maps away
Mercator here can't help

Go lift your sails up
For one last swell
Go lift yourselves up
To sound the bells
Sound the bells

Looks like our writing on the wall
Is lorem ipsum after all
A higher tide will wash it all
Wash it all away

The lighthouse keeper's last relay:
Hand shadows and a final wave
Now's the time to rouse yourself
Spend the strength you've saved

Go lift your sails up
For one last swell
Go lift yourselves up
To sound the bells
Sound the bells
Track Name: Skeleton Key (Live)
I haven't met a locked door yet that I couldn't beat
On a chain around my neck I keep my skeleton key

Chorus
Don't waste your worry on me, I always find what I need
Come and go as I please, I've got my skeleton key

By now it's just a simple trick
Not much to see, you hear the tumblers catch and click
Then turn the key
But I've found work and welcome everywhere I've been
Cause everyone's got someplace they wanna be let in

Chorus
Along the way
The old men call me by mother's name
She looked just the same, they say
The children wave
Or hide behind their mother's skirts afraid
Strangers here still seem strange
They hear the accent, know I'm from nowhere near
But I speak the language and I know the customs here
I come from over the horizon, pass through every dozen years
Go home, tell of my arrival, the skeleton key's here

Chorus

[Bridge]
I've got my
My skeleton, my skeleton key
I've got my, got my, got my
My skeleton, my skeleton key, yeah

Chorus
Don't you go waste all your worry on me
Cause I'll make my way with my skeleton key

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