There’s a blind Puma in a wire cage down the road. A wise old american mountain lion, on a medieval farm in Switzerland. Rescued from a zoo, I’d guess. Living on horsemeat and memories. At midnight on New Year’s eve I heard him growl for the coming year. Wistfully. Dreaming of the ancestral mountains of New Mexico or Colorado, whilst sniffing the midnight air fresh down from the Alps. Like this old puma, we’re all misplaced expatriots, thankful for another year, living on memories and whiffing the air of eternity. I’m thankful for love and limb; also that “One to the Heart, One to the Head” and “Blood and Candle Smoke” made dozens of year-end “best of” lists for 2009. Also grateful to have seen Leonard Cohen in Phoenix last summer – ripping the heart out of four hours of original music. Delivering the Gospel in the Desert. Just when the glow was fading from that memory, last week, my friend Alec delivered a link to a video of Jesse Winchester singing a song on Elvis Costello’s TV show. It’s a heartfelt saga of teenage love, rendered by a true master; with sincerity and quiet passion. We tend to forget about Jesse, but there he was. Telling me again why in hell we’re in this game. Cutting to the heart of the matter. Right near the end of the song the camera slides over to Neko Case; sitting next to Jesse on stage –and a tear rolls down her cheek. Do I have have to say more? That’s it. That’s why we’re here. In this age when we’re drowning in the worthless bilge water of tired celebrity – like who cares if Willie Nelson duets with Norah Jones, or Bono sings with Springsteen? It’s a ragged dress rehearsal of a celebrity circus that carries no original, gutsy spark. It’s all rote; a Starbucks CD sitting next to the Sugar Cookies. Then Jesse Winchester nails it. One to the heart and head; that tear rolls down Neko’s cheek. What songs are supposed to do…that’s why the good ones were written. To move the heart for a moment. Have we forgotten? We live in this age when people can’t tell the difference between Madeleine Peyroux and Billie Holiday. And this is a grand difference; like red Kool Aid verses hot Blood. But maybe I’m just a blind old disgruntled puma prowling a cage in Switzerland…looking for something to gnaw on. Something with meat. The lion in winter. It’s time to shut up and write new songs; not forgetting Leonard Cohen in Phoenix and Jesse Winchester… and that tear rolling down Neko’s cheek.
Happy New Year and thanks for hanging in there with us….TR. Swissland.
Jesse Winchester link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uKGWpqnS8E