Tag Archives: Pilgrim

“Singer” — album review by Phantom Tollbooth

Andru Bemis has very different career goals. He says he always wanted to be a hobo, but he found jumping off a train with three instruments and a box on CD ended up being a pretty good way to get himself arrested, so he did the next best thing-he bought 16,000 miles of train tickets and hits the rails. Is this guy a throwback or what? Interesting character.

Describe his music as folk or bluegrass-Bemis calls it po’folk. Arlo, Van Ronk, early Dylan weave in and out of his original material-but to pinpoint him is impossible. His songs are deceptively simple with an earthy, intimate feel.

The instrumental opener, “Kibbie,” has a distinct train sound to it-as do many of this songs-with a pushing, chugging rhythm driving us into Bemis’ wild array of characters like Ivah and Beulah. Quite inventive musically, he uses a sewing machine (a Singer) as a rhythm instrument.

“I’m Chasing the Moon” and “Pilgrim” sum up the overall lyrical feel of the album. Always on the road, always looking for someone or something else. There is an overall sadness to the songs-kind of a lost-little-boy sensibility.

Only on the spiritual “Do Lord” do you get sense of hope, however he sings is as a question.

“Do Lord, do Lord, oh do you remember me?”

A ’30’s cowboy, ’60’s hippie or someone’s kid brother, Andru Bemis speaks to us with a familiarity that is addictive. — Bob Felberg; The Phantom Tollbooth

Uncommon Ground (Chicago, IL) with Rachel Ries, Mike Reeb — live recording by Richard Lynch, photos by Erik Pennebaker

Recording courtesy of Richard Lynch / Uncommon Ground
Images courtesy of Erik Pennebaker

“Singer” — album by Andru Bemis

It’s 5:30 on a Tuesday morning, and it’s just about bedtime. In fact, it’s almost exactly two years to the day I mailed the last album, …Plays Past His Bedtime, to the duplicator – perhaps I shoulda named this one “…Plays Well Beyond Past His Bedtime or Bedtime? What Bedtime?”

Even before recording PPHB, I intended to create an album called Singer. In fact, Val shot these wonderful photographs of my sewing machine (20 bucks from the West Chicago St. Vincent De Paul) a month or two before that fateful day when I realized folks would actually pay 10 bucks for a simple 18-song demo recorded over the course of one late night. Of course, I couldn’t help but occasionally wonder over the last three and a half months what form of insanity has recently overtaken me: PPHB / Singer = 1 night @ $10 per CD / 3 1/2 months @ $15 per CD

I’ve always considered myself to be a somewhat intelligent boy, and though I’ve never cared much for mathematics I think I’ve managed to figure out some of its basic concepts. When I apply these concepts to the former equation, I come up with a couple derivatives over an algorithm (with a remainder of 14.2%). And so – encouraged by the power of mathematics – I press on.

I suppose only time will tell whether the numbers have lied to me, but until then I’m awful happy to be awful happy ’bout this new album, three years in the planning and three months in the making. Some of the songs are old, others are new. I’ve borrowed a couple tunes from hither and a few more lyrics from yon (isn’t that what good music’s about anyhow?) and I’m not too good at the blues … I don’t remember the rest of the rhyme, but it prob’ly doesn’t apply anyhow.

Here – named in honor of my favorite electric singer – is the new, old acoustic album I’ve been promising for so long. It ain’t perfect, but I certainly hope it’ll keep you pleasantly occupied for another year or two whilst I catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Yer good friend, Andru

  • Andru Bemis (sewing machine, banjo, guitar, voice)
  • Susan Bernard (pump organ)
  • Jephri Carey (piano, voice)
  • Kevin Casey (guitar, mandolin)
  • Daniel Gnidovic (voice, mandolin)
  • Wilson Ramsay (harmonica)
  • Mike Reeb (drums)
  • Troy Stansberry (bass)

Produced by Andru Bemis & Mike Reeb for Ground Vinyl Records. Recorded in analogue September–December 2003 by Bemis at the following locations:

  • Andru Bemis’ house (South Haven, MI) – sewing machine, guitar & vocals
  • Don & Lois Bemis’ living room (South Haven, MI) – guitar & vocals
  • Nathan Bemis’ attic & dining room (South Haven, MI) – pump organ & bass
  • Kevin Casey’s living room (Wheaton, IL) – guitar & mandolin
  • First Congregational Church (South Haven, MI) – piano, guitar & vocals
  • Daniel Gnidovic’s living room (Wheaton, IL) – mandolin & vocals
  • Wilson Ramsay’s living room (Elmhurst, IL) – harmonica
  • Jeff Reeb’s basement (Highland, IN) – drums & banjo
  • Polly Reeb’s living room (Lansing, IL) – drums
  • Residence Inn by Marriott, Rm #219 (Holland, MI) – guitar & mandolin

Mixed & mastered December 2003–January 2004 by Bemis at home. All songs, lyrics & music by Andru Bemis, except #6 (Hard, Ain’t it Hard) by Woody Guthrie, new verses by Bemis; and #12 (Do Lord) traditional, additional verses by Bemis. Layout & design by Bemis. Singer photographs by Valerie Broucek.


Thank you: Mike, Jeff, Kevin, Wilson, Troy, Daniel, Susan and all the rest of the Thieves. Special thanks to the Casey, Reeb, Ramsay, Gnidovic, and Bemis families for the use (and abuse) of their homes; Jessica Fiederowicz; Val Broucek; Sara Streit; Rachel Bemis; the Villanueva family; Jeremy Keen; Gerrit & Rebecca Haagsma; everyone at Kibbie CRC and Lombard Mennonite; and Jeffrey Dick and the First Congregational Church of South Haven. Mom and Dad, ye’re up there somewhere, but I’ll thank you again…

Thanks also (in no particular order): Suzanne and the Kufahl family; Donna, Mike & Adam; Paul, Dominic, the Larson family, et al.; FitzGeralds’ Tuesday night folks; The Verse, Garrett Soucy, Richard Burnett and the rest of the Ground Vinyl crew; Chris & Kristina (your encouragement is the reason I finally recorded this album); Amanda Mannix; Jason, Laura & Archer; Dave & Angela; Lori, Barb, the Glassers, Lisa & Rhett; Dennis, Maggie & Jack; Lou & Pete; Becka (this is yer late Christmas present); Wendy & Andy; Sarah, Eddie, Vikke, Kristin, Denise and the entire South Haven gang (y’all know who you are…); the Halinskis and everyone at the Farmers’ Market; Chris Lehman and family; Honore and the Black Cat folks; Roger, Brian, Ariel and the Door County contingent; Jason Webley; Leia; R.D. Roth; Ric Salazar; Paul & Lisa and 5 Sunset; embilena, whoever you are; Robbie, Lindsey & Annabeth; Mark, Courtney & Lady; Renee; Chris Pesel (for the guitar lessons so long ago); the Appleyard, DeVinney, & Ludwig families; Stephen Sequeira (I can’t thank you enough, for so many reasons); Patrice; George ‘n all at Baars’. No thanks to Sallie Mae…

"Singer" - Cover Art
“Singer” – Cover Art

“Pilgrim” — lyrics

Words and music by Andru Bemis

I’ve done it again, I let you down
I know it’s a sin, are you still around to see me?
I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again
Still you open the door
Still you let me come in
I’m such a mess
I told you before that I’d never be like this again
Just a failure I guess
If I were you I’d have nothing to do with me

I’m just a pilgrim, I’m traveling down this lonely, lonely, lonely road
Won’t somebody help me shoulder this heavy load?
I’m shuffling on down, got so much on my mind
And I’m looking for something that I just cannot find
I’m looking for something that I just cannot find

I’ve been there before, and I’ll go there again
Might stay away someday, I just don’t know when
But there’s one thing I know just as sure as I live
And that’s there just ain’t nothing the good Lord won’t forgive
No there just ain’t nothing the good Lord won’t forgive

“Plays Past His Bedtime” — album by Andru Bemis

New Year’s Eve, 2001, West Chicago, IL. Twenty hundred hours. Bemis’ motorbike wouldn’t start. He pushed it up the hill. He rode it down the hill. It burped a couple times. Back up the hill. Then down the hill. Burp. Then up. Then down. Burp. Up. Down. Burp… That’s how Bemis ended up recording these songs from 10:00 pm, December 31st, 2001 through about 6:00 am on January 1st, 2002. You could say it took him two years. You would be wrong, though. All it really took him was a shot of Glenlivet, two microphones, one pipe of tobacco, eight hours, a class of champagne, a guitar, another pipe of tobacco, and a couple cups of coffee. Turned out a couple days later Bemis just hadn’t opened the choke all the way on the motorbike.

Credits & Acknowledgements
  • Andru Bemis (guitar & voice)

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Bemis. All songs written by Bemis except #3 (Home To Me), Tom Paxton; #6 (Sweet Dreams Sweetheart), Fred Howard & Nat Vincent; #9 (Jenny Kiss’d Me), lyrics by Leigh Hunt; #10 (Hard Times Come Again No More), Stephen C. Foster. Apologies to Spike Jones for pieces of #13, to Woody for the end of #16, and to Sunday school teachers across America for #17. Thanks to Chuckles for the lyrical help on #18, and to Steve-O for the EV-950 micromathingie. Proudly recorded in stereo ultra-lo fidelity by Bemis. No equalization, reverberation or beautification has been applied to this recording, other than some necessary compression in the mastering process.

"Plays Past His Bedtime" - Cover art
“Plays Past His Bedtime” – Cover art
"Plays Past His Bedtime" - Original insert
“Plays Past His Bedtime” – Original insert