Monday, September 7, 2009


I've been thinking about sin and salvation and country music. Let's start this post off with an invocation.

Baby Jesus Prayer- from the movie Talladega Nights- Courtesy of Setting The Woods On Fire.

See, the thing is that I really like hard core honky tonk songs. I like songs about drinkin' and cheatin' and fightin' and just generally misbehavin'. I also really like gospel music. It all seemed to tie together somehow, but I wasn't quite sure how.

So let's consider one of the greatest cheatin' songs ever.

In Some Room Above the Street- Gary Stewart (buy)

Gary Stewart wasn't just talkin' either. Something got ahold of him and wouldn't let go until he was dead. He was as crazy and self destructive as any rock and roller. For a great appreciation of his work and a short biography, Click Here.

Now, if you've taken the time to read that piece. Go back and listen to the song again. Is that the sound of a man having a good time, even an illicit good time? The man sounds tortured. He's faced his demons and the demons won. Maybe you don't know that feeling. I think I do.

Some of us, at some point, look back on our lives and we feel Like Mister Kurtz. The boat has arrived too late. Things have gone on too long. The situation is beyond retrieval and we are about to die:

He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—"The horror! The horror!"
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

For a lucky few of us damned souls, the possibility of salvation presents itself.

Now, I'm not talking here about guilt and shame and trying to make it right with the wife. I'm not talking about placating a judge or quieting the ghost of Mom. I'm talking about the abyss and the hand that grasps ours as we are about to fall in.

I'm not very good at religion. My "personal relationship" with Jesus is as cheezy as the prayer from Talladega Nights. It suits me just fine though. Besides, my salvation is about other people. Real people showed up, stuck their noses in my miserable business and saved me because someone had done the same for them. They told me it was a God thing but they didn't get much more specific than that. I started the conversation with Jesus on my own. I like the IWW's fellow worker Jesus and Dorothy Day's Jesus of the streets. That's who I'm talking too when I say grace.

So, here's where gospel music comes into it. It seems like there's a cycle of country songs. We throw ourselves whole heartedly into the world. We discover the wild side of life. We are drug into places we never knew existed. The world is revealed to be a cruel sham. The bottle, or whatever, lets us down and we are alone with our pain. We see the light. We are lifted out of ourselves. Our old life has no more claim on us. We at last know peace.

Shit, I dunno. It works for me. Oh and yes, I've met people who insist on going through that cycle again and again. And I've met people who think they're better than the rest of us because they used to be worse than the rest of us. I've met people who carry on hurting people in terrible ways while claiming that the stench surrounding them is the odor of sanctity. Look, I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the people who've been through it, come out alive and are happy and grateful. Here's a couple of songs for them. You don't have to believe in God and you don't have to send any money to any preacher to enjoy them.

Where Could I Go But To The Lord- Emmylou Harris (Buy)

I'll Be Rested- Mavis Staples (Buy)

I was going to post this on a Sunday, but lately I need a three day weekend to feel rested enough to write anything.


Nazz Nomad said...

the key line from mssr kurtz:
"sell the house
sell the car
I'm not coming back"

it's like a vein throbbing in my forehead

@eloh said...

Beautiful peaceful music, thanks I needed it.

My two favorites are Wings of a Dove and Peace in the Valley.

This was my first time to hear Mavis and Gary. Really good.

Mavis mentions Mahalia Jackson...her I've listened to a good bit.

Jon said...

Nazz, I'm pretty sure that line came from the first guy that was sent up river to kill Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. You could call that the third, or Jerry Lee Lewis option. "Son, I know I'm goin' to hell but it's too damn late to stop."

Jon said...

Eloh, The Mavis Staples song is from a great, great album. Every song is beautiful. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Nazz Nomad said...

I stand corrected!
The horror. The horror.

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