This ole boy from Saskatchewan, Canada is a bullseye to a bow an arrow when it comes to telling a story in a few lines. Lines that flow through baritone chords that pull me back to the record player that my maw-ma gave me for Christmas back when a Ford was President and the radio was the prince to the music industry. When a penny could buy a dozen records from Columbia House with a sign up for mail order. My Dad got in on one of those deals once. So when I got that record player, I had a baker’s dozen of records to choose from. I reckon that one he had to buy at regular price was the last he bought from them. I loved those records. Two of them was Prison recordings from Johnny Cash that wore many needles out. It was not the best idea for letting a seven-year-old boy listen to Cocaine Blues over and over, but it did allow a young boy to fall in love with something that probably saved his life down the road. That something is music and Colter Wall has me missing my maw-ma and that old record player, and I’m as grateful as a Zen master for his cup of tea, for the memories and his music that’s a sparking them.
“We’re to blame because we let them steal,” she told him.
“Let them? We caused ‘em to steal?”
“Yes. We caused them to steal. Penny at a time. Nickel at a time. Dime. A quarter. A dollar. We were easy going. We were good-natured. We didn’t want money just for the sake of having money. We didn’t want other folks’ money If it meant they had to do without. We smiled across their counters a penny at a time. We smiled in through their cages a nickel at a time. We handed a quarter out our front door. We handing them money along the street. We signed our names to their old papers. We didn’t want money, so we didn’t steal money, and we spoiled them, we petted them, and we humored them. We let them steal from us. We knew that they were hooking us. We knew it. We knew when they jacked up their prices. We knew when they cut down on the price of our work. We knew that. We knew they were stealing. We taught them how to steal. We let them. We let them think they they could cheat us because we are just plain old common everyday people. They got the habit.”
“They really got the habit,” Tike said.
“Like dope. Like whiskey. Like tobacco. Like snuff. Like morphine or opium or old smoke of some kind. They got the regular habit of taking us for damned old silly fools.”
House of Earth Woody Guthrie”
― Woody Guthrie, House of Earth
There is a place between a man’s lips and his heart that bellows without any bitter interference. As a young boy on Sunday mornings in Pine Top, Kentucky at the Omaha Bible Church, I first experienced the sweet mountain bellow from the ladies that would sing solo hymns without any accompanying instruments or electrical amplification. The best part of going to church to me has always been the music. I can’t help but wonder if any ladies of the mountain imprinted that sweet bellow on a young Tyler in some southeastern Kentucky church because he sure bellows from that sweet spot that only pain can orchestrate.
I can’t tell if Tyler is from Paintsville or Louisa. Kentucky. He sings about Hindman and Virgie which is a half days walk from where most my family line runs hot. So maybe I’m naturally partial to this artist. Maybe it has to do with Sturgill Simpson co producing Tyler’s soon to be released “Purgatory” album. Maybe it has to do with his lyrics bringing home the stories of life that know my own breath so well. Maybe it has to do with a little heathen having sat in a church pew in Pine Top, Kentucky so many years ago. I’m partial to Tyler Childers music and I can’t see no good reason not to be.
“The preacher raised a finger. He plunged it into the Bible, his eyes roving the benches. When the text was spread before him on the printed page he looked to see what the Lord had chosen. He began to read. I knew then where his mouth was in the beard growth.
“‘The sea saw it and fled: Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. Tremble, thou earth…’ ”
He snapped the book to. He leaned over the pulpit.
“I was borned in a ridge-pocket,” he said. “I never seed the sun-ball withouten heisting my chin. My eyes were sot upon the hills from the beginning. Till I come on the Word in this good Book, I used to think a mountain was the standingest object in the sight o’ God. Hit says here they go skipping and hopping like sheep, a-rising and a-falling. These hills are jist dirt waves, washing through eternity. My brethren, they hain’t a valley so low but what hit’ll rise agin. They hain’t a hill standing so proud but hit’ll sink to the low ground o’sorrow. Oh, my children, where are we going on this mighty river of earth, a-borning, begetting, and a-dying – the living and the dead riding the waters? Where air it sweeping us?”- James Still (excerpt from River of Earth)