Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.


October 6, 2010

6-10-10 Two Waltzes

Bayou Seco played the Midlands Arts Centre some time in the early noughties when I was doing a run of reviews for The Birmingham Post. I’d drive back after performances in the suspension-tank of the car, letting the impressions circulate and settle and once home, fire up the second-hand Mac IIci while I made coffee and settled to produce 250 words of summary.
The end of that period probably began with a query about comparing Suzanne Vega’s lyrics to Carlo Morandi’s still life painting. Sigh. I could and maybe ought to have written the 250 words that might’ve sketched that tenuous, er, resonance, in a piece long enough to accommodate a 250-word digression and it was a mistake to assume goodwill and just drop it in. My defence in the matter of pretentiousness was that I wasn’t pretending anything but could I plea-bargain for the lesser charge of eccentricity? Quirkiness is of course no excuse.
Somewhere I have a wallet of yellowed cuttings of the published reviews – the original review files were lost in a hard-disk freeze and may be revived when science provides us with inexpensive obsolete-OS retrieval – so I may face the slog of slow-typing some of them back to life when that pocket-file comes to light.
I do remember an evening that was joyful, wholesome and devil-may-care daft – Kenny taking off in a little dance while he played, looking like a model for Yosemite Sam’s soft-shufflin’ Cajun cuzzin. This was how hippies were supposed to age gracefully, dammit!
I bought a cd afterwards and swapped copies with my companion/ second opinion on that night, who’d bought another. We asked Jeannie if that would be OK and she was very gracious about it.
I was working on my installation-room in a show – Intervention –  briefly occupying three terrace-houses in Handsworth, due for demolition after the event. Bayou Seco’s ‘Little Pleasures Of Life’ and ‘Home On The Great Divide’ became my default soundtrack. Eschew all cd’s aimed at relaxing your Mind, Body and Spirit and try to feel glum with this as soundtrack.
These years later, doing a stint with an acoustic c&w band, I ‘heard’ the chorus of The Thing That Makes You Beautiful as a great Dobro opportunity for Ernie Hudson, a laconic boddhisatva of country guitar. G’wan, Ernie, give it some laconic. Any excuse, really, to be in a room where he’s playing. Playing pretty reliable rhythmic chord-changes is a great way to encourage better players to play.
I’ve got TTTMYB down to D, E and A (including a chord I’ve had to put in my crib-sheet as A?: 0-0-2-2-0-0) but you have to hear the original to get a feel of the rock-a-bye waltz-time, which is a lot of the charm.
This is one where the syllables of the lyric play against the three-time, so it’s not just remembering the words but how they fall. Then the endlessly refinable aim is to keep the stately waltz light on its feet.
It turns out that all I’d remembered was the chorus and the ‘feel’ of that song. I’ve kept but not played the cd’s through two changes of address, so on rehearing it the theme of love in later years had passed me by.
On the other hand, in the way of some songs about love, it’s equally a sentiment you could apply singing it as a Dad-song, or, as now I’m closer to the possibility of Grandadhood, the kind of song you’d like your grandnippers to remember you playing. Suffice to say it’s another of those songs that I had to practice often enough to stop going chokey in the chorus.
And… I’ve been learning my birthday mandolin left-handed, in standard G-D-A-E but with the highest string at the top, to increase my chances of picking up orthodox instruments where I find them, plus it gives me a break from harmonica duties in Mary Lou K and Her Howlin’ Hounds.
Ernie joined a few rehearsals ago and introduced The Bird That I Held In My Hand, apparently by T-Bone Burnette but covered by Sally van Meter. The lyric – a kind of bleak redemption-tale – could’ve been by Cormac McCarthy.
The added eeriness of respecting the …and 2/3… only started to make sense in rehearsal.
I’m still getting to terms with the tones of the mandolin as strident rhythm and harp-like chime (strumming high on the neck). The opening Dm-Bb-F-C reminds me of one of John Barry’s harpsichord-driven 70’s TV themes.
In contrast I’m thrashing through Carter USM’s The Only Living Boy In New Cross (the mandolin and ukulele version) and trying to find a suitably Kurt Weillig guitar-line to Prince In A Pauper’s Grave.

…Lately I’ve developed an appetite for curry pickles; going for the gurn with bitter Lime Pickle and using Patak’s Brinjal (aubergine) Pickle on breakfast toast instead of Vegemite, as a kind of fierce marmalade. I have to be careful with repeated hits of such a high-calorie sugar-shot but this is a sufficient pretext to scour the supermarkets of Ladypool Rd. for – mneh!mneh! – extreme chutneys, exotic condiments and coarse-mannered relishes.

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