Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Heard about Heard? (hyuck-hyuck)

Finally getting around to listening to Sufjan Stevens' Illinois (Also known as Come on Feel the Illinoise - yep, a pun, and being a native Illinoisian, a bad one. Please, people, don't pronounce the 's.') Lovin' it. My man Adam has a... I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe you could call it a post. Anyway's he wrote a post on Monday where he reveals that he's been listening to too much folk-rock.

Gross...I fell headlong into folk rock...been listening to a lot of keaton simmons and denison witmer and Over The Rhine and Nick Drake and Sufjan Stevens <---his voice grates my nerves in large doses...

I kid you not. The night previous to this, I put in the order for some old Over the Rhine and new Stevens and Witmer. I also got Mark Heard and Bill Mallonee (not the Godfather of Bluegrass, but the man behind the Vigilantes of Love). I'm somewhat responsible for getting him on this trip. It's a good break from his sola rapa christiana dogma. I plan on getting some Bowie next (why I don't have anything from him yet boggles my mind). But then maybe Nick Drake won't be such a bad idea. Simmons, though? Too many weird Simmonses out there for my taste.

I'm spinning Sufjan's stuff for the first time. I'm liking it a lot. Even the voice. Maybe I'll give some short reviews later, after they've soaked in. (I don't have quite the demand others do for Cross Movement reviews, so I have to create the demand first, right?)

But I do want to speak of Heard's poetic lines, since I am familiar with those. They certainly put me to shame. Mark Heard died thirteen years ago. He was an engineer, producer, musician, thinker, artist, writer-extraordinaire and pretty darn funny. On Satellite Sky he had the privilege of working alongside David Raven (of the Swirling Eddies), Michael Been (the leader of The Call), Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris' guitarist, and with wife Julie, right hand), and Sam Phillips (Singer-songwriter, T-Bone Burnett's ex-wife). Bruce Cockburn speaks indelibly high of him. But this is what I know. These dang, haunted lyrics.

There's an oasis in the heat of the day
There's a fire in the chill of night
A turnabout in circumstance makes each a hell in its own right
I been boxed in the lowlands, in the canyons that think
I been pushed to the precipice and dared not to blink...
Knock the scales from my eyes
Knock the words from my lungs
I want to cry out
It's on the tip of my tongue
(Tip of My Tongue)

I will rise from my bed with a question again
As I work to inherit the restless wind
The view from my window is cold and obscene
I want to touch what my eyes haven't seen
But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams
And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean
'Til our hopes fall 'round our feet like the dust of dead leaves and we end up looking like what we believe
We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones and blow a hymn to the orphans of God
(Orphans of God)

And, in case you think it's all sad-sack, Heard does recognize beauty-lost ("Long Way Down," which argues that the naked beauty of the world is "lies hidden on the teeming shores beneath the burned-out Chevrolets") and beauty-lived :

Scarlet is the color of her heart against the night
Prism of her innocence fracturing the light
She will take her stairwell down to dark and heartless streets
And spend her season singing songs to infidels and thieves
("Love Is So Blind")
Buy yourself a copy. Let's not bury this treasure. Send it sky-high.

Sorry this post wasn't funny either.
What's wrong with me??

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