Monday, June 8, 2009

Random encounters with the arbitrary: #2 The Goblins, Brady and Last night's fun. Not forgetting the iced tea.

Centuries ago, in another life time, Marty Bochenek introduced me to the phrase “road stoned”. It’s that curious dislocation that occurs during travel; long night drives, twenty four hour car shuttles, plane travel, when sense as you normally understand it starts to unravel and strange connections manifest which make no sense later: travel without the t, your own surrealist text, what it must be like to exist as the first person pronoun in a Lorca poem.

“Green, I want you, Green”.

There’s always a point where it becomes obvious: I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore when, three hours into waiting for the flight home in a terminally tedious terminal, I decide there has to be a limit on how much coffee I can drink and ask for the next random thing on the board: Iced tea…the young lady serving me said: Do you want that still or sparkling and I swear I hear the Goblins laughing. I’m looking at her, watching my dad pour the contents of the tea pot down the sink in the kitchen. I’ve just returned from America where the “River of No Return” had introduced me to multi day kayaking trips and Earl Grey Tea. I had literally searched Coventry for the stuff and had made some of my prized find for my tea addicted dad.

It went down the sink. Politely, good humouredly, but down the sink, and then he washed the tea pot out. Which reminds me that tea bags used to be a barbaric novelty for campers. Sparkling iced tea is an abomination. The girl is still waiting for my reply. Things are raveling. It’s one of the reasons for traveling.

But I’ve still got Paul Brady on the sound track. His version of Arthur McBride. I love this song. I like our Sunday afternoon version. I like Planxty’s versions. If memory serves there’s a decent enough Carthy/Swarbrick version though it’s not on the ipod. I do have a version of it in Polish. Least I think it’s Arthur McBride.

But the Brady version is special. That thin slightly nasal voice, which is having its own acrobatic affair with the tune, suits the measured way he relates the brutal events “we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks” and the sardonic “We obligingly asked if they wanted recruits”. It reminds me of People’s fiddle on the Brady/People’s “High Part of the Road”. Somewhere, I read disparaging remarks about guitar players and traditional music. Often the accompaniment is out of time, out of tune, and intrusive. Like Zoo Man’s conversation mangling Heaney’s recital on the last plane. (see previous post)

Outside the plane they are showing a film of a very beautiful north Qld coast at sunset, and soon there is only the swirling dreamscape of thick cloud cover below us and the clear sky and the sun setting over in the west. It’s a Bach landscape, the solo Partitas, or maybe Bibier and the Rosary Sonatas, but there are states of mind where Bach is too dangerous. I might fall into the spaces between the notes and never resurface. The Goblins are friendly. Some of their associates aren’t.

Somewhere I’ve read disparaging remarks about guitar players attempting to play dance music, and since I’m traveling with “Last Night’s Fun” and it sounds like something Carson might have written I’m flicking though looking for the comment. Whoever said it had to have done so pre Tony McManus, and probably, if my memory is right, allowed Brady and Dick Gaughan as exceptions.

The tenses are dissolving. Two days ago I am looking at Renbourn’s arrangement of the Blarney Pilgrim thinking “this is pretty’. Renbourn is a superb guitar player but pretty the Blarney Pilgrim should not be. So I find my favourite version of said tune: the version on the Andy Irvine Paul Brady CD, and it really is beautiful. For the life of me I can’t remember who is playing fiddle (Kevin Burke). This is what Zoo man may never understand about sex: it’s a collaborative activity. For some reason this is giving me the giggles and making the staid lady in the seat beside me nervous. She too is reading a magazine which is full of pictures of women. They are no more clothed than Zoo man’s.

Brady’s guitar on the Brady People’s ‘The High Part of the Road’, was set up so that listeners who don’t like the guitar can shift the balance and exclude it. The liner notes are defensive about the presence. The first “stereo” unit we bought was huge, but it had a balance dial and you could make the Beatles split left to right, drums and bass on one side, voice and guitars on the other. Thismade lsitenign to the Beatles interesting. Though I never owned a Beatles’ record so it must have been my sister’s tape….but the ipod won’t let me split the channels. And anyway, I don’t want to. The assumption is that the guitar should be the supporting partner in the marriage. Like a 1950s housewife knowing her place.

In Derridian terms Brady’s guitar is a scandal. It dissolves the Rhythm/Lead binary. No one seems to have explained that rhythm is provided by playing the guitar as tuned percussion and Lead is ..well..playing the tune…Brady seems to be doing both and neither. He’s not really accompanying the fiddle in the sense of supporting it. This is Kristeva’s ideal of equal but different. Celebrate the unique qualities, strengths, virtues of the part, but without establishing a hierarchy…Equal but different… ….John Doyle playing with Liz Carroll…whose guitar playing is scandalous because he does what he does and let us be thankful for this without even bothering to work out what the hell it is he is doing or how. He reminds me of some of those fiendishly difficult medieval welsh metrical forms.

I can’t find the reference but I have wandered once again through last night’s fun. I’ve read some of this so many times it has a strange sense of déjà vu(or déjà lu) but as I reread “The Smokey House” it’s not quite how I remember it. I resort to cheating and listen to Ennis tell the story himself. His delivery is perfect. And I’m right. Carson’s version is subtly different . Which is how it should be, I think. Except the print version leaves out: “This is definitely a story based on historical fact….” that knowing wink to the listener that you can leave your skepticism at the door and go along for the ride. So I do. It has to be a candidate for “The Best Intro to a Tune”.

The goblins are obviously in good form because our “flight” is twenty minutes early. The airporter is waiting to shift me on to the next set and the conversation is so weird inside I seek refuge in Rosemary Lane…

Standing on the familiar pavement, checking the goblins put the cracks the right way round, waiting to cross the road, I can hear them scurrying off to their next job gleefully singing their anthem…The World is What You Make It…

Normal service may resume later. Please do not adjust your set.

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