Last summer we went to the circus in Switzerland. It was all very boring, until the last act. The extreme artist, Freddy Nock, appeared from behind the curtain. He walked up a diagonal wire, backwards, over the crowd, to the high wire. Without a net. Fifty feet up. Then he danced across the wire and did somersaults. He has since walked up cable car wires into the high Alps, and set seven world records in seven days, walking across lakes and up mountains. He gives the donated money to UNICEF. That night he walked backwards up the wire, I thought to myself, I feel like I’ve been walking up the wire backwards in this music business…
Ah! The new record, Mesabi, is out. I’ve written here about most of the songs, at least the peripheral color. Myself, I’m still that kid listening to vinyl folk music on my Uncle George’s record player. The scene where this record begins. I can smell the furniture polish on the mahogany console of that Phillips machine and see the tubes glowing in the back, as I listen to Joan Baez or Dylan sing “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right.” It wasn’t another time. It wasn’t even long ago. It was now and tomorrow. The songs. They do that. Stop Time.
Good songs and paintings aren’t locked into a frame or an era. They defy all the odds. They stick in the blood. They change the color of your eyes. They keep the heart pumping a different tango that carries us through all of our eternities. The songs of the masters have kept me going. The only way to end this record – with its so called dark moments, with fragile and famous characters going down hard – was by shining a small light of hope back on the stories. “Love Abides.”
I picked an old guitar up on the Wall of Wave Lab studio, in Tucson, and strummed the dead strings, and layed the last song down just like you hear it. One take. Myself and guitar. A point of light to end the main course. But there are really no “dark songs.”Only hard truths. The only artistic sin is concocting untruthful emotions and clever lies, wrapped in easy rhymes. Welcome to the hit parade.
I’d like to keep walking backwards up that wire. Like our friend Freddy Nock. The Master of Air. You can see what he does at www.freddynock.ch
You can listen to what I do on Mesabi.
Adieu and adios.
Time now to take the songs out on the highway. The Minstrel Trail. We’re coming into your neighborhood; hitting the front porch with the daily paper. Songs.
The concerts are listed on our web: www.tomrussell.com
The film, Don’t Look Down, is out and also the Art book: Blue Horse/ Red Desert: The Art of Tom Russell. It’s all available at www.villagerecords.com
That’s it for now. All the news from the high wire. See you down the road.