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Sunday, August 1, 2010


after the rain

I had to put on some Ralph Stanley to listen to today. When a period of time goes by I don't hear Dr Ralph it's easy to remember how good he is at making mountain music, but when I put something on to hear, first notes bring it all back. His music is better than I can remember it. Infinitely better. To me, that's a sign of good music. It happens every time I put on Ralph Stanley music. At Galax a few years ago after hearing bluegrass competition I wondered where bluegrass went, like I didn't hear any or my ears weren't working, couldn't make out which. Walked to the parking space dissatisfied with the music I'd heard, telling myself it must be I'm in an off mood or something. Starting out down 89 I turned on a cd of Ralph Stanley from 1976, thereabouts, with Ricky Lee guitar, Curly Ray Cline fiddle. Instantly, as soon as the sound started I was hearing bluegrass. I drove home thinking when I want to hear bluegrass all I have to do is put on Ralph Stanley. It doesn't matter which album.

Had to turn it off. It pulled me in too far. I want my focus here, with you, and the music pulls it away and holds it away. Daddy's Wildwood Flower is as beautiful a tearjerker as I've ever heard. Had to listen to every verse and sing along with the chorus. And the fiddle, the banjo, Ralph 2 singing. There was never a moment that let my attention go. That's how it is with me and good music. If it doesn't do that to me, I don't care to hear it again. Like Taj Mahal. Every time I listen to him I listen in awe. Can't put a finger on why, but when I hear him my ear for music is satisfied. It's the same with Burning Spear. I can only listen when he's on. He pulls me all the way in whether I want to go or not. Prince. The Allman Brothers. Generation X. The Camp Creek Boys. I can't listen to anything like that when needing to focus someplace else. If the radio were on a heavy metal station, I could concentrate here just fine, but for the noise. I'd admire what they were doing musically, for their own way of expressing, but that doesn't take much focus. I'd have to turn it off for dulling my senses.

I like quiet mostly. Wondering if what makes a farmer different from other people is his comfort with quiet, with thinking about things, with solitude. It's a beautiful fog outdoors. Gives white background to tree leaves in the foreground. It's like Asian art. I continue to feel the beginnings of a new cycle. Don't know if what I see for the direction of the cycle is future memory or a vision of what I want it to be. I'm not ever so certain with the shape of even the near future. Seems like the future is always full of surprises. How can I guess what tomorrow's surprises will be, or the rest of this day's?

For the first time, today I listened to Billie Holiday's song Gloomy Sunday closely on YouTube. It was taken off the market not long after release because so many people were going out by suicide, in a literal way taken there by it. It's a powerful song about a real and true emotion as well as conclusions drawn. It's a beautiful song. I found on YouTube Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit, a b&w video of her standing beside a piano with piano man playing, Billie doing the best she can to stay on her feet, toward the end when her heroin addiction silenced her music and took her on out. It seemed like the film footage was made to get Billie Holiday on visual record singing while there was still something left of her. I found a video of Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees, London punk band from late 70s, Siouxsie singing Strange Fruit years later when the punk scene there was over and she went her own way. I like her singing of it as much as Billie Holiday's. I saw her in concert in 1991, one of my great concert experiences. I like her edge. I like Billie Holiday's truth.

Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson in today's film, TRANSSIBERIAN. Two very different people married from love, but so radically different she has a hard time with it. He doesn't even notice. The entire story was based in seeming. First you get the characters as they appear, as they seem, and think you got a fair picture of who the person is, then it turns out you didn't have a clue. Behind the seeming is something very different. Several instances of appearances being one thing and what's really going on another. Emily Mortimer did a tour de force role that showed she is indeed a serious actress. Woody was your cliche American man you see everywhere. The kind of guy that loved trains. Turned out his train knowledge saved their hides in the Siberian unknown on a train with people who seemed to be one way and were quite another. A mystery, an adventure story, and definitely a drama. I admired everything about the film from beginning to end.

At the same time it would be catalogued an adventure, it's primarily a relationship story, a time of she having a rough time with he, then she has an experience that messes with her head so bad she's ready to get back to their mundane life at home, ready to appreciate it. A theme running through the story was her need for roots, and he, difficult as he was in a thoughtless way, was all she had. And through this adventure she came to appreciate him in new ways and learned of his real affection for her. In that way it was a love story too. American baptist soccer mom tested to the Xtreme in something she was given to figure her way through. It's not the kind of gift anybody wants, but she'll never forget the experience and what she gained from it later along the way.

I like the kind of story where just anybody type of people get caught into something by apparent chance and then see what happens. Like in No Country For Old Men where the guy out hunting in south Texas comes up on a site after a Mexican drug dealing shootout that evidently killed everybody. He found a suitcase full of money and made the decision to take it. From then on, we see what it takes him through. He quickly found it was a force bigger than anything he could handle. It overtook him like a tidal wave. A good tale to warn me that when I find a suitcase full of money and dead people laying all about, just go on my way at a quickened pace and pretend I never saw nothin. What would I do with a zillion hundred dollar bills? Lord have mercy, it would make me crazy just having it. What? Fill up the ash tray and buy a new car? You'd see me going about like a rapper with bling all over in a gold cadillac convertible that can bounce up and down like in LA. Rich.

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