Saturday, February 13, 2016

*****I Hear The Voice Of My Arky Angel-Once Again-With Angel Iris Dement In Mind

*****I Hear The Voice Of My Arky Angel-Once Again-With Angel Iris Dement In Mind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman  


(c) 1992 Songs of Iris/Forerunner Music, Inc. ASCAP

Sweet forgiveness, that's what you give to me

when you hold me close and you say "That's all over"

You don't go looking back,

you don't hold the cards to stack,

you mean what you say.

Sweet forgiveness, you help me see

I'm not near as bad as I sometimes appear to be

When you hold me close and say

"That's all over, and I still love you"

There's no way that I could make up for those angry words I said

Sometimes it gets to hurting and the pain goes to my head

Sweet forgiveness, dear God above

I say we all deserve a taste of this kind of love

Someone who'll hold our hand,

and whisper "I understand, and I still love you"


(c) 1992 Songs of Iris/Forerunner Music, Inc. ASCAP

There'll be laughter even after you're gone

I'll find reasons to face that empty dawn

'cause I've memorized each line in your face

and not even death can ever erase the story they tell to me

I'll miss you, oh how I'll miss you

I'll dream of you and I'll cry a million tears

but the sorrow will pass and the one thing that will last

is the love that you've given to me

There'll be laughter even after you're gone

I'll find reason and I'll face that empty dawn

'cause I've memorized each line in your face

and not even death could ever erase the story they tell to me

Every once in a while I have to tussle, go one on one with the angels, or a single angel is maybe a better way to put it. No, not the heavenly ones or the ones who burden your shoulders when you have a troubled heart but every once in a while I need a shot of my Arky angel, Iris Dement. Now while I don’t want to get into a dissertation about the thing, you know, that old medieval Thomist argument about how many angels can fit on the end of a needle. Or, Jesus,  or get into playing sides in the struggle between pliant wimpy god-like angels and defiant hellion devil-like angels in the battles in the heavens over who would rule the universe that the great revolutionary English poet from the time of the 17th century  English revolution of blessed memory, you know old Jehovah fearing Oliver Cromwell time, John Milton, when he got seriously exercised over that notion in Paradise Lost.  However  I do believe we our faced, vocally faced with someone who could go mano y mano with whoever wants to enter into the lists against her.

Yes, and I know too that that “angel,” earthly material five feet plus of flesh and bone angel thing has been played out much too much in the world music scene, the popular music scene, you know rock and roll in the old days and now mainly hip-hop. You could hardly live a 1950s childhood extending into a 1960 coming of age teenage-hood  without being bombarded by every kind of angel every time you put your quarter in the jukebox especially if the other hand attached to that quarter, as it usually was had been your everlovin’ dreamy date who just had to hear you compare her to the Earth Angel of the then currently popular song.

On a more sober note when some poor by the midnight telephone (now cellphone, okay, Smartphone) girl was beside herself when her Johnny did not call at nine like he said he would and she wanted to deny reality, a reality pointed out to her by her best friend one Monday morning before school talkfest that her Johnny Angel just couldn’t keep one girl happy but had to play the field (including an almost successful run at that best girlfriend). Going to the distaff side (nice old-fashioned word, right) some Honky-Tonk Angel who was lured into the night life, who went back to the wild side of life where the wine and liquor flowed and she was just waiting there to be anybody’s darling who would eventually be done in by her own her own hubris, Hank’s morbid angel of death that seemed to hover over his every move until the big crash out, until the lights flickered out.

There’s my favorite, no question, though showing just how recklessly secular the angel angle could spin on a platter, no question, Teen Angel. And this will put paid to the notion that the teens in those days were any smarter in going about the business of being a teenager than today’s crop. Let me give few details and if you don’t believe me then just go God Google the lyrics and be done with it. Some, I don’t know how else to say it although I will give advanced apologies to the rest of women-kind, some maybe sixteen year old bimbo of unknown intelligence but you decide for yourselves once you hear the story line  and of unknown looks whose boyfriend’s car got stuck on a railroad track one Friday date night after a full course of heavy breathing, you can figure the doing what part, down at the local beach, the boyfriend got her out safely and yet she went running back, running back to get his two-bit class ring, a ring that he had probably given to half the girls in school before her, and did not come out alive. Of course the guy was broken up about it, probably personally wrote the words to the song for the guy who sang the song for all I know but let’s leave it at this since I don’t like to speak unkindly of the dead, even the reckless dead, RIP, sister, RIP.

So that's off my chest.  No, that fleet of angle-tipped songs are strictly from nowhere, I will take my sensible Arky angel, take her with a little sinning on the side if you can believe there is any autobiographical edge to some of the songs she sings, take her with a little forlorn lilt in her voice, take her since she has seen the seedy side of life. Seen “from hunger” days and heart hurts. Yeah, that is how I like my angels. Alive as hell and well.                 

Every once in a while when I am blue, not a Billie Holiday blue, the blues down in the depths when you have to just hear her, flower in hair, maybe junked up, maybe clean, hell, it did not matter, when she hit her stride, and she “spoke” you out of your miseries, but maybe just a passing blue I needed to hear a voice that if there was an angel heaven voice Iris would be the one I would want to hear.    

I first heard Iris DeMent doing a cover of a folksinger-songwriter Greg Brown’s tribute to Jimmy Rodgers, the old time Texas yodeler discovered around same time as the original Carter Family in the late 1920s out in some Podunk town in Tennessee when the new-fangled radio and the upstart small independent record companies were desperate for roots music to feed their various clienteles whatever soap, flour, detergent, deodorant their hungry advertisers had to sell, on his tribute album, Driftless. I then looked for her solo albums and for the most part was blown away by the power of Iris’ voice, her piano accompaniment and her lyrics (which are contained in the liner notes of her various albums, read them, please). It is hard to type her style. Is it folk? Is it Country Pop? Is it semi-torch songstress? Well, whatever it maybe that Arky angel is a listening treat, especially if you are in a sentimental mood.

Naturally when I find some talent that “speaks” to me I grab everything they sing, write, paint, or act I can find. In Iris’ case there is not a lot of recorded work, with the recent addition of Sing The Delta just four albums although she had done many back-ups or harmonies with other artists most notably John Prine. Still what has been recorded blew me away (and will blow you away), especially as an old Vietnam War era veteran her There is a Wall in Washington about the guys who found themselves on the Vietnam Memorial without asking for the privilege or knowing what the hell they were fighting for in that hellish war, probably one of the best anti-war songs you will ever hear. That memorial containing names very close to me, to my heart and I shed a tear each time I even go near the memorial when I am in D.C. It is fairly easy to write a Give Peace a Chance or Where Have All the Flowers Gone? sings-song type of anti-war song. It is another to capture the pathos of what happened to too many families when we were unable to stop that war.

The streets of my old-time growing up neighborhood are filled with memories of guys I knew, guys who didn’t make it back, guys who couldn’t adjust coming back to the “real world” and wound up in flop houses, half-way houses, and along railroad “jungle” camps and also strangely enough these days given my own experiences guys who could not get over their not going into the service, in retrospect, to experience the decisive event of our generation, the generation of ‘68.

Other songs that have drawn my attention like When My Morning Comes hit home with all the baggage working class kids have about their inferiority when they screw up in this world. Walking Home Alone evokes all the humor, bathos, pathos and sheer exhilaration of saying one was able to survive, and not badly, after growing up poor, Arky poor amid the riches of America. (That may be the “connection” as I grew up through my father coal country Hazard, Kentucky poor.)  

Frankly, and I admit this publicly in this space, I love Ms. Iris Dement. Not personally, of course, but through her voice, her lyrics and her musical presence. This “confession” may seem rather startling coming from a guy who in this space is as likely to go on and on about Bolsheviks, ‘Che’, Leon Trotsky, high communist theory and the like. Especially, as well given Iris’ seemingly simple quasi- religious themes and commitment to paying homage to her rural background in song. All such discrepancies though go out the window here. Why?

Well, for one, this old radical got a lump in his throat the first time he heard her voice. Okay, that happens sometimes-once- but why did he have the same reaction on the fifth and twelfth hearings? Explain that. I can easily enough. If, on the very, very remotest chance, there is a heaven then I know one of the choir members. Enough said. By the way give a listen to Out Of The Fire and Mornin’ Glory. Then you too will be in love with Ms. Iris Dement.

Iris, here is my proposal, once again. (I have made the offer in other spaces reviewing her work more seriously.) If you get tired of fishing up in the U.P., or wherever, with Mr. Greg Brown, get bored with his endless twaddle about old Iowa farms and buxom aunts, about the trials and tribulations of Billy from the hills, or going on and on about Grandma's fruit cellar just whistle. Better yet just yodel like you did on Jimmie Rodgers Going Home on that Driftless CD. Okay.

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