Our latest album is celebration of the natural beauty of Washington DC's often overlooked Anacostia River and the vibrant communities of wildlife and residents that call it's shores home. Long plagued by pollution the river is finally getting the respect that it (and it's neighboring communities) deserve. To this end we've put together five new songs to help raise awareness of the Anacostia's past, present and (very bright) future. Thanks for listening - see you out on the river!
BLADENSBURG WAY | Lyrics
In 1742, during the late colonial period, Bladensburg, MD was founded and named in honor of Maryland governor Thomas Bladen. During this period the Anacostia River could accommodate ocean going vessels along it's entire length and Bladensburg's 40 ft. deep harbor (in addition to it's location on the "highways" of Annapolis Road & Georgetown Pike)* made it a natural in-land seaport. In 1747 the Port of Bladensburg became a tobacco inspection station where "hogheads" (1000 lb barrels) stuffed with tobacco were inspected and graded.
At one point Bladensburg was one of the largest ports on the East Coast (second only to Yorktown, VA)*. However the increase in tobacco production and population in the Anacostia watershed brought along human waste, deforestation and poor topsoil management. These factors led to the Port of Bladensburg quickly filling with silt and eventual become unusable. This song is set around the year 1762 once the port's fortunes started to decline.
DUELING CREEK | Lyrics
As you travel south down the river from the Port of Bladensburg towards the MD / DC border the river bends gently to the right. Into this bend flows the Dueling Creek tributary - named for the infamous Bladensburg dueling grounds situated at its headwaters. From 1808-1868 approximately 50 duels took place here to settle "affairs of honor" between gentlemen, military officers and politicians.** Some duels of note include one in 1820 between naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur and Commodore James Barron and one in 1836 between Daniel Key (son of Francis Scott Key) with a fellow Naval Academy midshipman John Sherbourne over a question regarding steamboat speed.**
This song was lyrically inspired by an article from 1858 in Harpers Magazine article about a duel between second-cousins Gen. Armistead T. Mason & Col. John. M. McClarty. It's a tragic tale, well worth the read, presented here as a dialog between them as they work toward the bloody conclusion of their feud.***
FLOAT AWAY | Lyrics
Set in modern day, it's about the songwriter's favorite stretch of the Anacostia River from Dueling Creek (in MD) to the National Arboretum (in DC). This section of the river presents a visitor with the juxtaposition between the throbbing Rt. 50 highway/Amtrak bridges that delineate the border between DC & MD and the quiet, raw beauty of a river that *appears* almost untouched by man.
CIRCLE 8's | Lyrics
This song is about the incredible skaters you can find on any Saturday during the summer at the National Park Service's Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion and, more broadly, about spending a lovely day in Anacostia Park. A true gem of Washington, DC.
CLEAN RIVERS| Lyrics
Maybe the first ever ode to a sewer tunnel - in particular DC Water's Clean Rivers Tunnel Project that will remove billions of gallons of untreated sewage from entering the Anacostia River and, by extension, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Also a reflection on/a call to our better nature to care of our environment. We figured the album needed one song to really beat people over the head with an environmental message.
*Wennersten, John R. Anacostia: The Death & Life of an American River. Baltimore, MD: The Chesapeake Book Company, 2008 (link to purchase)
**Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Bladensburg Dueling Grounds," (access July 14, 2018) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bladensburg_Dueling_Grounds
***Harpers Magazine | 1858 | Vol 16 | p.471-481 https://books.google.com/books?id=YQ8wAAAAMAAJ&dq=Bladensburg+Dueling+Grounds+Harpers&pg=PA471&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false
Editors: Henry Mills Alden, Lee Foster Hartman, Frederick Lewis Allen, Thomas Bucklin Wells
Harper's Magazine Company, 1858