I didn’t know today was the 40th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald going down.
A few years ago, on a magical night, I was lucky to be in the company of some of the finest musicians a man could find himself in and one of the songs we did that night was Lightfoot’s iconic retelling of the sorrow of the misfortune of the men aboard. Here is a link to that performance.
The arrangement, by Aaron Davis, is worth plugging your computer/handset into a stereo worthy of the endeavour.
Vain and Alone in T’Sou-ke Nation.
It takes a particular vanity to do this under the gaze of a tree that that has and will outlive me and all those I love. I hope it had a sense of humour.
**A couple weeks ago I was asked to write a little note about my time on the road with Stephen Jenkinson. We were in Austin, it was hot, and I was having trouble describing the half dozen nights we had done. Here’s what I came up with. Is it unbecoming that I quote my own lyrics? We continued on through Oregon and Washington State and finish up Halloween night in Duncan, BC. It has been an honour.
Beneath the Truth
Lie the bones
Of a Truth
And I’ll bet everything I own
It’s a Truth that’s bittersweet.
Tonight I will walk on to a stage with a remarkable man in a theater built in Austin, TX, in 1871. It will be the sixth time I’ve done so on this tour, and the first time I’ve ever strapped on a guitar in Austin. After the whistles and clapping die down, he will start talking, and I will wait.
I will make a few tentative sounds,
my fingers trying to find the spaces between his words. My listening will turn into the kind that forgets the moment that has come before and is unaware of the one coming next. And I have a suspicion that this is the way it is for many in the audience, too.
At some point he will make room for me to sing and I will try to remember to sing softly so as not to break the spell cast on the room. It has taken me a while to understand that long, liquid, and legato notes are the order of the evening. Time will dance on through the night, or, in this case, will move properly and headlong toward the past.
The end will come, long book signing lines will dwindle, and we will ask each other in a stolen moment, “Well…how’d we do, Boss?”
You’d have to ask Stephen himself what these night “are” to him. To me, they are art and subversive acts of the highest order. Sometimes it is the building itself that is subverted: a recital hall, a stately ballroom, a modern concert hall, a conference room in a State Capital building, a bookstore, this opera house come Masonic temple…but mostly it is the thing that passes for Culture on this continent that is subverted, and most of what stands for Counter Culture, too.
It is not the kind of art designed to distract or entertain, nor is it the kind that takes some kind of severe gymnastics of the mind and heart to trust. It is the kind found on cave walls that simply and skillfully tell the story of the day with all of its’ sorrows, horrors, and challenges along with its’ tenderness, victories, and graces. Over the course of the evenings, the pendulum swings a wide arc…sometimes unbearably so…and standing firmly at the center is Stephen Jenkinson, more with the people than separate from them, whether they want him there or not. And given our proclivity to throw heroes up the pop charts and teachers onto crosses, the resistance to simply seeing him as a man of hard won truths and a gift for singing them is sometimes shocking.
From up where I’m standing on stage…slightly up stage left in a muted pool of light…there is only one way to measure the evening:
Was every moment,
Every vein opened,
Every chest cracked
Every word spoken,
Every note struck,
Every clunker hit,
Every word sung,
Every story told
To a point, the answer is…and has to be…and IS,
So here’s to the highs
And here’s to the lows
The human heart endures
And so it goes…
The bittersweet highs and lows.
October 16, 2015
Vain and Alone on top of WQENNELEL (Sencoten, “looking up”…known today as Mt.Finlayson).
Two pounds of silver ’round my waist, all my angels and demons chased, all breathless here around my feet, enjoying a truce.
It started, actually, as a bit of a lark: when you’re travelling alone, how can you make it seem like you’re not? That, indeed, your travelling companion is snapping off intimate shots? In NYC, you can’t point the camera anywhere without the backdrop being amazing (unlike the cities I frequent in Canada). However, selfies are a drag. So, while in NYC, I placed my phone on the ground, set the timer, ran away, and strolled nonchalantly toward it, trying several times. I posted the result, called it “Vain and Alone in NYC?”, describing how the shot was taken. Then I just kept trying to see how far I could push the un-selfie selfie. Each post on Facebook was accompanied by a little anecdote of shooting the thing…you had to at least be able to not be embarrassed being obviously vain. Someone suggested I hash tag the stuff. So, #vainandalone
From the venerable music publication across the pond, comes a GREAT review of The Henrys’ new recording.
And here is the full thing.
The first…maybe only?…full length vid from The Henrys’ Quiet Industry.