Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How I got there

Listening to Lucero, thanks to Dave R. long ago and Tom Gabel from Against Me! (Thanks again, Dave) covered this little song called "Wagon Wheel." And my future-roommate had this album called OCMS that he played once or twice in the background on car trips.

And then there was early 2008 and feeling horrible and lonely in a dorm. Matt Dellinger's article in Oxford American contained this passage,

The plan was to drive across the continent and earn their keep busking on the streets, playing for gas money and food. It's the type of ten-thousand-mile joyride every desperate or idealistic band tells itself it will do. Most lack the requisite live-free-or-die instinct or zeal for North American nowheres, but these boys are touched with both. Ketch fondly remembers waking up one early November morning in a hay field near the border of Manitoba and Ontario with frost on his bedroll. They drove in to Winnipeg that day and bought then usual groceries: lunch meat, cheese, white bread, mustard, peanuts, and a jug of water. They played all day and drank free coffee and made a hundred dollars, and a television crew stumbled upon them and put them on the six o'clock news. They spent the night at some college party, where a kid with a beard sang Phil Ochs songs and Ketch kissed a girl who'd seen him on TV. Three months of this, Ketch says, and they never went to bed hungry.

Old Crow Medicine Show started off breaking my heart a little more than comforting me. But maybe that was the dorm talking. Maybe that was the people who were so suffocatingly my age. The ones I was supposed to enjoy the company of were choking and depressing me. The girls who steered me into their group and did nothing but talk shit about everything non-stop. No humor, no angle, just rubbish and vomit and complaining.

I walked to Border's and bought OCMS and Big Iron World at once. Then the message boards. Like every new obsession, I had to seek out those who shared it. I started off as the pip-squeak new fan. I remain it, relatively speaking.

But it started with S.T. messaging me before the Morgantown, WV show. Urging me to get a brew with him before the show. Little then-22-year-old-me being invited with the grown-ups.

And suddenly there were better poems. There was first tastes of moonshine. There was learning about John Prine, Tommy Jarrell, Charlie Poole, Justin Townes Earle. There were always more songs.

J.K. and S.T. played their old time music in 103 degree Richmond weather. They played it on the cold porch in Nashville, Tennessee.

I could say so much more about it, say it better. But somehow one band and one piece of the internet led me to being barefoot in Tennessee for a whole day. A few sips of moonshine, chicken, collard greens, all the perfect cliches you could hope for.

No haystacks yet. But I got this far.

The despair of that dorm, the first time Old Crow clicked...Between then and now is Greyhound and Megabuses, strangers on the buses, sleeping with T. in the Montana meadow, adventures climbing Frisco hills, front row at the Ryman with S.T. in Nashville, riding in the Crow Wagon listening to some good tunes and feeling like yeah, not the best friend, always the kid, but it was okay I was there. I was enough in myself that I could be there. And at the little house we rented in Nashville, S.S. gave me a knowing look and at the end of the night said "It was more than 90 seconds this time." I got my Nashville. I got my New Years.

I may never get to fully thank Willie or Ketch. But I suspect they started something very good here.

I can tell the Not Friends, though. And I believe they'll understand. Which means plenty.

I shoulda told this better but I got a burst of optimism in the middle of trying to avoid my school work. I'll tell more tales later, perhaps.

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