*Special Guest Mentalist - Don Allred*
People of Earth! There is much more to these albums than I speak of here (and
their DVD familiars are worth renting), but behold the mix-maps of what
munches most persistently through my listening:
IF I HAD POSSESSION
THE SOUL OF A MAN (Columbia/Legacy) (CD/DVD)
. "People driftin', from door to door." On the soundtrack
Wim Wenders's THE SOUL OF A MAN, Lucinda Williams drifts the line, but then
she's slapping the rest of Skip James' "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues"
the bar, like there's more where that came from. (She knows there better be.)
Next door, not only is Cassandra Wilson in Mississippi, she's also got J.B.
Lenoir's "Vietnam Blues." But here she learns to address the needs of
"Mr. President, you better clean your house, before you go." Cassandra's
like Lenoir's own, when he sings "Alabama," is almost distractingly rich,
his words cut through both tracks.
Turns out Skip James really DIDN'T miss (his falsetto's appropriated
ghost of)"Crow Jane" 'til she was gone (how could he?). Now he's fascinated
this feeling, this windfall. And "you can't take her place, can't take her,"
but "someday you got to die." Looking forward? He's not looking away.
In "Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues," Skip (channeled by the
almost-as-elusive Garland Jeffreys) is admitted, because (he coaches staff), "you's
a good man, you's a po' man, we can understand." He gets better, and promises
to make his doctor "a wealthy man," luring me past Bible-searching Blind
Willie, who finds "nothin' but a burnin' light."Until Uncle Lou Reed gives
pause, as he wheelchairs by, cackling 'bout a silver spade and a golden chain, in
Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." (Sounds like
alluvial allusion to all the velvet that's fit to fit, so truly underground.)
Uh, yeah---good'un, Lou.(Ditto 'most everybody else on here, even Nick the
THAT HOME ACROSS THE ROAD
Steve Earle: JUST AN AMERICAN BOY (Artemis/Ryko)(CD/DVD)
Country is a place always fuller and emptier than it seems.
Especially counting that sought-after, hard-to-maintain, hard-to-avoid home on the
emotional range. Home has known to go so crazy, all you can do is see and raise
it, and settle into a blazing saddle, if you can.
So country music has a certain transgressive circuit-riding
(sometimes should-be circuit-breaking) tradition, from Uncle Dave "Knoxville
Macon, and Harmonica Frank ("Tham-POO") Floyd, on down to Dixie Chicks,
worst offense was saying, in public, that they were ASHAMED to be from Texas,
for ANY reason. Of course, Toby Keith gets points on the emotional transgrange
for "The Angry American."(Replete with hats-off intro as beautifully sung
setup for "a boot in your ass.") Even further up in there: "The
which he wrote from the viewpoint of a furry l'il *furriner. *(Like one from
the days of overt minstrelsy, but still!)
(When well-tempered Crown Prince of Hat Kenny Chesney is pulled
from "Good Stuff" dreams of being a Granpa, by news of impending Pahood,
keens,"There Goes My Life," it's beyond country-unthinkable, or even
trans-stinkable, it's impossible, so never mind.)
And then there's what Perfesser Cledus T.Judd once dubbed
"Hankenstein." Steve Earle is the Baron of that, and the serfboard too,
the restless mud of AMERICAN BOY, a self-made golem. He also bids blurry biped
John Walker Lindh to rise, and wills dead heroes, both moldy and moldier, to
follow. (Sure, Woody G.'s forever young. But Steve also likes to quote Abbie
Hoffman: "We told an army to stop, and it stopped." Didn't the Vietnam
at least nine years, not counting before and after we kept count?).
Keeps going until he's just in it for the electricity, past
reanimation or even shock: "The Unrepentant," supposedly about a suicide
some other kind of soldier), is always lurching towards "Somebody's gotta do
suhbdygdoit," and into another guitar-squall. (Each one topping the last, if
only by piling on.)
Even more perversely, Steve's not always as sloppy as he seems. A
scrawny voice, true, and one that tended to get tangled in his nose even before
cropdusting, but (especially here, on squatter's stage), it's clear enough. Hope
outshines self-righteousness, ambition smokes up pretension (eventually). Yet
his hoedowns with the Acoustic Dukes can get as sweat-inflamed as his
rave-ups with the Electric 'uns; must be why his solo set has to step outside, and
"around the world with the Ft.Worth Blues," and other local-infection
tattoos, in permanent rotation on a Lone Star-spangled headbox. Because you really
can't go home again, especially if you never left. "Suhbdygdoit," amen.