Sunday, November 16, 2008
Flatlander Moon….Winter comes to the desert. The mountains glow like that old mission wine. Four days on the train with the Flatlanders; renewing my faith in American music. Gut level, dust-blown truth; honest voices. Stories drenched in red wine realism. Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely. No pretense. A guitar and a song. Not many can do it anymore. Kids wanna buy the truth inside a magazine; wannna buy an image with a tattoo and micro-wave attitude. Youth caught inside an I-pod; deaf to the call of The Raven. These guys from Lubbock - they delivered. And you shoulda' been there at the Bob Dylan - Townes Van Zandt song-swap and the Canadian prairies rolled by frozen windows. There was no need to talk much; the songs flowed: from Butch singing "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," To Jimmie singing "She Belongs to Me," to Joe calling up Woody's "Pretty Boy Floyd," Back to Butch doing Townes' "No Place to Fall," to Jimmie singing "Girl From the North Country," to myself singing "Love is Just a Four Letter Word," and Michael Martin summoning up "Dark Eyes. " Here, then, is your roots music. Here's where we come from. Voices and words, and no nodding out to the whining gods of lost economies and doddering crow-bleat about downloading and record stores. THERE ARE NO realities that undermine honest art. Tell it to Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonard Cohen, and The Flatlanders. There's just the eternal longing to tell a good story and paint a decent rhyme and vent, and bend passion into a sing-able truth. We're all blacksmiths, and some people don’t have the nerve to buy the anvil and the hammer. You might bloody your fingers and wince at the thought of your soul shivering. But those lads from Lubbock delivered and restored my belief in folksong and minstrelsy. We receive such illuminations in odd places: Pullman train cars and Mexican bars; dreams and nightmares and cold, foggy mornings. The third cup of coffee; the call of a magpie hopping across the snow. The clatter of the baggage car and the last echo of a Dylan song. Resonating forever.