Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EpicRoadtrip '09: Preface

Those that follow my Twitter or Facebook page know that I went on an EpicRoadtrip this July. Of course the roadtrip deserves some coverage on my blog, but due to its sheer Epicness it was bound to be an enormous post, so I have decided to divide it into sections. This is the first.

My relationship with the Damnwells began in late 2006. I had been chasing the rabbit through BMG hopping from one band to another following their influences until I found something that grabbed me. I believe the exact hop was Son Volt to Old 97’s to the Damnwells, but it has been several years, so I am not confident of that. The album was Air Stereo, and I was clicking buy as soon as I heard the a cappella opening of “I’ve Got You.”

Oddly I do not consider myself to be a musician, although I can play the guitar. Some 13 years after I first picked it up I still rarely know what I am playing. I call myself a singer/songwriter/poet, so what I want in a band are good lyrics and great vocals because that is what I relate to, what I feel I bring to my projects. Alex Drezen brings bushels of both (3 points for the alliteration) to the Damnwells.

In his MySpace blog Alex said,

The Damnwells has always been about my songs with extremely talented musicians and producers collaborating. The personnel have changed, but the essence—one of this week’s vocabulary words for the 7th graders I teach—remains the same.

Maybe that was another subconscious link for me as EKe, Whiskey Daydream, and the Frontline have all been about my songs with extremely talented musicians and producers collaborating.

My obsession intensified when I was going up to play a show in Iowa City in 2008. Ya know how you get a CD, spin it into silence, and then shelve it for a while? Well that happened with Air Stereo, I was buying lots of new music at the time, and it was hard to give it all equal consideration while rotating in familiar friends; but, as I was gearing up for the roadtrip, I dusted it off, and it ended up providing the soundtrack to some of the best moments of that trip. It was my first solo roatrip without a band or buddies in tow, and in the open planes of Illinois and Iowa, lyrics like this had a profound affect on me:

Contract killers cannot find me
I’m at home when I’m with you
No matter where I am
(from Shiny Bruises)

Air Stereo is a great disc from start to finish, but the song that made the biggest impact on me was “God Bless America” powerful and poignant with thoughtful lyrics that expose the good and the bad:

Oh how I loved you, it’s true.
Your skylines and coalmines
And your strippers, too
Do you ever miss me?
‘Cause baby I miss you.

The mountains and prairies
To the prisons and malls
I’ve got a bible and a Barbie doll
God bless America and her Kodachrome flag
From purple mountains majesty
To the streets of Bagdad

Whatever the etymology of the Damnwells entering my language is, as soon as Air Stereo entered my dash it became a permanent part of my lexicon. It is the phrase that first jumps off my tongue when people ask what band they should check out or what I am listening to these days. Damien Rice gets love from college radio, Death Cab for Cutie got their shot on the O.C. and became MTV Darlings, Glen Hansard wowed the world in Once. The Damnwells are best band I can think of that you are probably not listening to and you should be because I cannot think of another band that would cause me to tackle a 4 day 6 state roadtrip.

Stay tuned for future posts: EpicRoadtrip: The Soundtrack; EpicRoadtrip: Traveling with a Foodie; and, EpicRoadtrip: All Things Considered. It may take me a couple weeks to get to them all, but be confident that they are coming.

In keeping with my assumptions, I am offering a completely unrelated poem, but I read it tonight at the Open Mic I host, so it is fresh on my mind…Enjoy!

Diversity of Human Form

I watch amazed at the diversity of human form
Slopebacks with asses tucked under like scolded dog
Archbacks with breasts making entrance before face or hair
One tired
One perceived innocence

And broken down bodies fighting stairs
eyes looking forward, upward, with so much behind them
But youth, youth looks downward, backward
shyly tucking hair behind ears when caught

And me, oppressing peglegged chair
thankful its wooden seat had died years before it held me
belly entering an embrace before arms or lips hello kiss

Funny how we hide/accentuate our flaws/features

tent like shirt draped over gut
hoping it remains unnoticed

Oxford pulled taunt across lower back
making more noticeable her gifts

tucked in shirt
trying to provide differentiation between vertebrae and coccyx

Brokendown bodies
having outlived the game
finally accepting reality

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