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"HEY WARDEN" ~ Audrey Auld  (2015)    




Hard truths, sad memories and profound realizations

In early 2014 Audrey Auld received a diagnosis that shone a light on the priorities in her life. One was to return to the healthy and supportive community of Stinson Beach in Northern California. Another priority was to record, before leaving Nashville, the songs she had co-written with inmates from San Quentin Prison. Hey Warden is a collection of songs that shed light on life on the inside. 

Eight years ago Audrey played a show in San Quentin Prison in California.  This initial meeting led to her hosting songwriting workshops which continued in spite of her relocation to Nashville in 2007.  Participants would include those who had never written creatively or shared their writing with anyone, to experienced musicians who wrote and played in a band within the prison's walls. Audrey would initiate the writing session with a song swap, and then propose an idea or a title to explore in writing.  

Here's a link to photos taken by Peter Merts during Audrey's first writing workshop.

After each session Audrey would gather the papers from those who offered them. Later, at home, she would edit the inmate's words, stories and feelings into a singable song.  Audrey would bring the melody, staying as true as possible to the words on their pages. As one inmate said, "Our words, your voice". 

Hey Warden Band: Jeffrey, Ralph, Audrey, Kenny and Dennis



Produced by Audrey Auld

HEY WARDEN © 2006 Joe Askey, Larry Faisin, Charles Flagg, Doug Ingham, Felix Lucero, Koeghan O'Donnell, Patterson, Chris 'Stretch' Rich, Gino Sevacos, W. Williams, Audrey Auld
This is the first song to come from the sessions. Audrey says, "I hadn't hosted a songwriting workshop before so I decided to give them the first line of each verse over a simple blues structure and see what happened."

POOR JOE © 2012 Audrey Auld, Joe Askey
Audrey received a letter from Joe Askey which prompted this song. 

WALLS © 2007 Chris "Stretch" Rich, L.W. "Blue" Wilder, M.C., Gino Sevacos, Eric "Phil" Phillips, Doug Ingham, Keoghan O'Donnell, Mike Bradshaw, Audrey Auld
This song started with the line, "If these walls could talk"

I AM NOT WHAT I HAVE DONE © 2012 Gary Harrell, Juan Meja, Joey Barnes, Rolf Kissmann, Gino Sevacos, Justus Evans, Michael Littlebear, Andrew Vance, Khalifah Christensen, Felix Lucero, Kevin Sawyer, Joe Askey, Audrey Auld
The title of this song came from a line in an inmate's letter.  There's redemption for all of us in the contemplation of this concept.  Watch the video for the song here.

OH LOVE  © 2012 Felix Lucero, Christopher "Khalifah" Christensen, Caldwell, Joey Barnes, Justus Evans, Andrew Vance, Douglas Howell, Robbie Robbins, Rolf Kissmann, Gino Sevacos, J. Carlos Meza, David Ratliff, Gary Harrell, Audrey Auld
Audrey proposed writing a love song, which revealed the duality of love for the incarcerated man - the sweet, the bittersweet, anger, romance and remorse.

NAKED AND NAMELESS © 2012 Audrey Auld
When Audrey sang this song to the inmates during a writing session the guys spontaneously sang along to the chorus. It was a very powerful moment.  Within prison walls, the song takes on a very different context. 

BREAD AND ROSES © 2006 Audrey Auld
It is with thanks to the Bread and Roses organization that Audrey, and many other musicians and entertainers can connect with and entertain people living in institutions.  Prior to Audrey's first visit to San Quentin Prison she was given a list of rules to abide by within prison walls, including that it is forbidden to give anything to an inmate.  This song is Audrey's gift to all inmates. 

SUNSHINE © 2014 Audrey Auld
This song was prompted by people's response to Audrey's cancer diagnosis which sparked the recording of the Hey Warden album. 

Kenny Vaughan - guitars and vocals on 'Hey Warden'
Dennis Wage - piano and keys
Ralph Friedrichsen - bass and harmony vocals
Jeffrey Perkins - drums and vocals on 'Hey Warden'
Eamon McLaughlin - violins on 'Oh Love'
Percy Person - programming on 'Oh Love'

Mez Mezera - vocals on 'Hey Warden'

Recorded at Studio Forty One Fifteen, Nashville
Dewey Boyd - Engineer and Mixing
Taylor Bray - Mixing and Mastering

Cover art by Felix Lucero 'Blind Curve'

Deep thanks to Eamon McLaughlin, Ralph Friedrichsen and Jeffrey Perkins for your support and to the San Quentin Prison administration, Bread and Roses, William James Association and all the inmates who made this project possible. 


Chris Smith, Country Music People Magazine, UK 4.5 stars
"This album encompasses a number of musical genres but does so very successfully.... The spirit of country music is upheld in the lyrics themselves. The title track borders on being a country classic. This short but fascinating album gives a valuable insight to [the incarcerated life] and is well worth adding to your collection."

Marcus Thell, SCCNytt Magazine (Translated from Swedish) 3 stars
"There are some quite powerful lyrics in these songs. The starting title track is a swingin’ song, the following “Poor Joe” is much slower and very very good, the standout track on the album. I also like “Walls” and the calm “Sunshine” (a song Audrey has written about herself and the diagnosis). “Hey Warden” is not as much pure country like her previous “Tonk” record, but it’s a nice and moving album."

Jeff Lincoln
"Once you’ve ruled out the Grand Old Opry, it makes for an interesting debate what venue has seen the most country music talent. If, however, that concert hall is a prison, it’s no contest: San Quentin. The sprawling penitentiary north of San Francisco holds the most men on death row anywhere in the country. And yet Johnny Cash played there in the 50s, while inmate Merle Haggard took notes from the audience. Cash performed regular gigs in San Quentin, and went to record a legendary album there in 1969 (so did B.B. King).
Moving to more modern times, it was some ten years ago that the California (by way of Tasmania) songstress Audrey Auld held a series of songwriting workshops with the San Quentin population. This record is dedicated to, and fed, by the experience – five of the tracks were directly co-written by prisoners. Whether you’re a hardliner on crime or dyed-in-the-wool liberal, expect to be moved. Music takes on a different shape when it’s made in a setting so cut off from light. The lyrics have sharp effect, aiming right at the heart of the freedom and humanity these men (a word that gets lost on prisoners) long to feel again. Musically, Auld uses a full bag of tricks: Appalachian Honkytonk (the title track), Nebraska-era Springsteen (“Poor Joe”) or even the hip-hop accents of “Oh Love”. Her natural-styled singing voice (even with the Australian accent poking through) hearkens to country singing ladies from the past, without a hint of studio magic. It works best when simplest, as with the standout acoustic arrangement of “I Am Now What I Have Done”.
The biggest pitfall in a project like this lies in the stark material – will the darkness get to be too much? Not here – Auld mines joy in the memories of the inmates (like the taste of a mother’s cooking, or the dizzy feeling of being in love). She paints a picture of people cut off from things in the flesh, but fully alive in their spirit. Yet there’s much to endure – “If these walls could talk”, the inmates write, “They’d say tear me down”. Auld clearly identifies with the things the inmates carry: she is currently going through a serious series of cancer treatments. Don’t miss the solo-written closer about that bout, “Sunshine”, where she gorgeously connects a life that gets thrown off track to the rest of the web of life. Small moments can bring long consequences, but in the end, everything is temporary – it’s an insight that might even bring peace to someone behind stone walls. "




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