We have only one WORLD yet! -- Fall 2001: 7th issue -- If we destroy it, where else can we go to?
Four Days in
the Heavy Soul Life Featuring Emmylou Harris
by Joe CARNEY
I see myself, and
it seems so clear.
8:50 PM Friday.
You can still find a seat this late at a free reggae show at Prospect Park. The families (good looking families) come and spread out their blankets. Some even succumb to the purchasing of rainbow, neon parade necklaces (2 for 5) for the kids. The illuminated running around and balloon chasing that this sets off makes it a bit crowded up on the grass. In fact, dreads, soccer jerseys, plaids and flowing dyed fabrics, knuckle to heart greetings, not much smoke at all, smiles, jerk, guinness and heineken soon swell the lawn to capacity. Despite this, there are still plenty of folding chairs to be had near the stage. Most here would rather stand and sway, catching up with old friends and enjoying the background vibes, than commit to plastic and metal. I have no problem finding a prime spot on the left aisle two seats over from a long skirted, denim topped, lock wrapped, ebony, Brooklyn business woman who nods in groove to her pre-music meal of yellow rice.
It's only a few moments before the lights dim and the beautifully colored green and blue (for now) woofer shaped band shell rattle-buzzes with heavy, heavy low-end riffs akin to a Duane Allman/Dickey Betts instrumental. Those waiting on the lawn rush to fill the aisles and shake and skank before Culture's leader presents himself. The people are neither crouched or silent, but the thunder speaks. Beckon of Rastafari.
In the beginning was the world...and the world was Jah.
Joseph Hill, dressed head to toe in black leather, rises as the new moon in a bluish spotlight, flailing and hopping, a Rasta windmill, for the invocation.
Jah bless you. And. Run it...
The horns sprout from a synthesized keyboard, and bass and drums ripple the two with the guitar's "chenk, chenk." Culture is off. The Jamaican flags flutter in the sweet reggae music of each offering, up to and even through the grinding gear, screeching break cymbal, psychedelic dub stoppage that breaks down about every other tune. Collision. The pulpit is lowered for the people to space-reverbed drums and single note piano and horn. The sermon as follows:
Stand high. Stand tall. Free Africa.
This is where my mind races and drifts. Lovely woman. My woman. Jah love. What I want. Under the stars. I love......
* * * * *
6 PM Sunday.
Down east in heat waved Manhattan, by the Brooklyn Bridge, Irish cool stares me in the face. The bartenders here (friend and friend of) have taken an interest in our post tennis-hack drinking. We talk about Brooklyn with Dermot (all of the other boroughs are gob-shites) and with Paul Weller's "Wildwood" blasting in the background, I point to my own neighborhood across the river. "You can see our place from here." Ice waters all around, but the inevitable beer hits my dehydrated-self hard.
The tone and the language and the cross views of the setting point clearly. There is something of the man that I want to be for Inga at the Paris Cafe. It is hard to relate, but I picture myself when we are together, when we are apart (we are Apart) of walking through life with her in a perpetual Indian Summer or Fall that probably only exists a few weeks a year in Dublin or London or Brooklyn or even Portland, Maine. Still, like Play Misty era Clint or Mystery? Clive I lean slightly ahead of myself as I hold her hand or push the shopping cart or turn to view her entrance at the pub. She is carrying a new painting, wrapped in brown paper. After we finish our drinks, I grab my guitar and we head up the street in perfect jacket weather to the movies. There's something of that in these guys, I think. With the bridge looming so close, and aiming towards New England, I figure that if I can relate to these ambassadors of my ambitions on their own turf, somehow she will know. I felt the same way a few weeks ago when the nice lady at Town Hall told me "I'm sorry, dear, the Weller show is sold out. "
Grabbing for the in betweens, collisions of intent and content happen. Paul wails on, heavy soul, and the overdriven 335s egg me on. One and a half beers in it's nothing but misfires or one ups on Sexy Beast, Ray Whitstone, Roth, The Hit, even Weller. "Oh yeah, that was the...' "You saw that one, too huh?" "That's a different record, but..." John has a bit of friendly mean in him and I am quickly seated in the still trying section. Dermot splits and I turn down a free shot. We are Apart. I leave a good tip.
Tuesday 8:30 PM
Tonight, the red dirt girl wears a lime green tank top and nice, tight black/grey rocker pants wrapped around her Gibson acoustic. Thirty years after Gram Parsons' Fallen Angels bus first hit the road, Emmylou Harris has arrived at true Cosmic American Music in her collaborations with Daniel Lanois and Malcom Burn. She takes the stage backed by Spyboy, and the effect of this sparse four piece is potent. Emmylou's acoustic, rat-a-tat "cocktail" drums, bass, and dense tremelo electric guitar doubled back on itself, all wash the audience in breathing heartbeats that swell to the scope of an orchestra.
Conducting, unassuming yet radiant, Emmylou sows the seeds of Hank and Hendrix. Lanois' New Orleans has supplied the water (deep and dark) and maybe even the miracle grow. The voice soars up and out over the planted Brooklyn oak and elm and off into the hickory wind that has followed Emmylou from South Carolina and Joshua Tree. On her right side, the great Buddy Miller evokes James Burton, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Clarence White, Robbie Robertson, The Edge, and Eddie Hazel in his head spinning, yet somehow low key, guitar. He plays pleading for life, in fact, clinging in reunion to the instrument that he tells had been stolen several years ago not too far from this neighborhood. He got it back after flyers and an anonymous tip led him underneath a parked car.
Spyboy's brushes with luck and loss could have been even worse. Emmylou explains: "Somebody hit our bus today. They must have been pretty brave, because it's a pretty big bus. Something in the stars, I guess." Everyone was fine and the stars had obviously gone back to encouraging the amazing woman before us. The words and works of the set provide the materials of another collision of the drifting mind: red dirt girl, deep dark well, steel, wrecking ball, thieves, federales, hurt, Michelangelo. It all stems from the opener. "Where Will I Be Now?" In New Orleans.****
I walk around the French Quarter at just the right time of year. Early December. Early in the morning. Everything that I love most about music has led me here. The woman that I will love most has brought me here. I see the coble streets as the same ones that I walk on in Brooklyn. I seek out the things that you need anywhere. A good deli. Shade. A quick drink. Directions.
As you glide past record stores and the black sign of Napoleon House, you can feel past cultures colliding in food and thought. This is a ghost town in the best sense of the word. It can be dangerous, but it is not meant to frighten. More truly, it accents the traces that we all leave on our best days. The accents swirl until they reach the River and lie in the mud that eventually becomes the blues. You can touch this water, this mud, and somehow smile. Return to the roots and find your center. The center and the smile build and build while I wait with the Christmas tree and the high backed leather chairs. I am never more glad to see anyone than when Inga enters the lobby of the Bourbon Orleans. Her lips come with the kiss, and the uncanny ability, that always makes something good even better. The room has a balcony.
We will collide. Something in the stars.
The name Spyboy comes from the Mardi Gras Indians, their word for scouts who would move in front of the tribe on the march. As Emmylou Harris finishes the set's last number, she waves to the crowd and glides away as this Spyboy remains.
They stay and swirl the rhythms of the traces of all of Emmylou's best days (Gram, Rodney Crowell, Dylan, Willie, Townes, Neil, Patti Griffin, Gillian Welch, Lanois, Burn) guitar and bass drifting, and drifting, until only the drum remains. This heartbeat is strong in drummer Brady Blade, from Stockholm, Sweden by way of Shreveport, Louisiana. Brady speaks for everyone, wearing a T-shirt that roughly translates as BROOKLYN RULES. The last of Spyboy retreats and the crowd exalts.
Now, it is waves of thanks that collide up against the stage dock. Emmylou emerges, and even brings her dog back with her to bask in the watery glow. The dog was saved from a shelter. In total, Emmylou has four shelter dogs. (Is this the perfect woman?) Each dog has a little job. Bonaparte is the black touring dog. He knows that he has the best job.
Emmylou straps her Gibson on one last time, again for the sake of salvation and shelter. Somewhere, in New England, under these same stars, I hope that Inga can hear. It is she (and her kinship with Emmylou) who led me to tonight's red dirt road. We talk and write and she is there with her portraits and I bang my head here against computers and frets. We are Apart. For the encore, I anticipate the collisions of hope. Centered in the hush, Emmylou turns away a request for the nostalgia of an oldie and starts a less tried version of better days to come with a dear, long distance love. "Sweet Dreams of You."
In the end , it is "Thank you Brooklyn, you rock." We are Apart. Something in the stars. Wheels, take this boy away.
Buy some records.
We will be celebrating the second anniversary with the Winter-2002 issue. Deadline: January 7, 2002