The Winter wind falls down here from Alberta
and across the striving whiteness of the land
where it leans into the car that I am driving
and carries me along the highway's edge.
I have a lot of musician friends and acquaintances. It has a great deal to do with my love of music and general affection for for those that make it. Although I've farted around in the form - songwriting, occasional strumming - I've never considered myself one of them. I dabble at the periphery while enjoying and envying those who dive in.
I love listening to the fruits of my artist friends' labors. Bully Pulpit still gets shots (I love spinning Jockeys & Beyond Elysium, Banks and Curry). AG and the Moms rack up a lot of playtime. My old friend, Mr. B, can still make me smile. I was thrilled with the success of National Trust. Even Curry's Morning Face maintains its charms. The man that cuts the deepest however, the one that staggers me every time, is the Padre.
I've written about the Padre before. He's da man; the breathing definition of the the word "cock". Of all my harmonically inclined buds, he is the one that can most move me with a song. Simple, minimal, poetry that can achieve majesty.
This morning, as we cleaned the kid's room I let the ipod run on its own. While I bounced from trash to storage tub the music motored me along. But when it hit a song of his I suddenly stopped, sat down, turned it up and listened. I have heard the song hundreds of times - it isn't so fresh anymore. Still, it moves me, partly because I enjoy it, partly because I know its origins. It's like having my old pal tell me a great story that I never tire of hearing.
The song is from a group of demos he recorded more than a decade ago. It was solely intended to showcase the Padre, but sadly there was little interest. The Padre, in a fit of funk, refered to it as the Pointless Sessions. He was wrong. Though uneven and imperfect, there are songs on it that stand as testaments, at least for me, of fine songwriting that transcends music and slips into literary, Raymond Carver territory. The song that got me today can still bring tears to my eyes with its beauty and deep quiet nuance.
His music takes cues from Merle Haggard and Buck Owens; is reminiscent of Freedy Johnston and Iris Dement, whom he taught to play guitar two decades ago. It is sometimes so sparse you can hear the wind whistle through its great plains and wide spaces. It seeps up from the Flint Hills and the Great American Desert, and flows like the highways and rivers of the middle west. It is quiet and does not readily bestow its gifts upon the inattentive. With it Padre sets scenes - describes moments - where little or no action takes place and yet you feel as if the world, or at least someone's world, trembles in the balance.
And outside the window small waves crease a reservoir,
shallow water pushed against the dam;
and on shore, a small boat, stranded, resting upside down.
I know they're going to...
to have to drain that lake someday.
Steve Phillips of The Rainmakers, who engineered Padre's demo, described the Padre to KC's The Pitch as one of the finest songwriters he'd ever met, but added that few people would ever understand the work: it required too much thought. That might be hyperbolic, but I have never been so envious of another's ability to turn a phrase or drop in a single perfect note as I am of the Padre's.
If you're bold and have the time, try them.
Just click the song links to download 'em.
(forgive me, but I can't remember the exact title)
Alone she sits now at the kitchen table,
lost in a shadow from her shoulders up.
Late afternoon, the western light is failing,
and inside the house it's turning dark now... too.