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by AjD

Buy Old Paint

You can love the country and you can love the land but they ain't necessarily the same thing. After all, the nuts who stake out their turf here and there, mostly in the backwoods far-reaches of Montana and Texas and Idaho do seem to have stronger feelings about one than the other. Truth be told, I can't really see any of those guys wanting to deal with civilization, even if it met whatever their definition of civilization might be.

Their visions of hardscrabble Utopia don't include the arts. After all, the artists are all dangerous and, i dunno, queer or something. They wanna change things. But not the right things. They wanna be able to say dirty words and show violent things and stuff like that. They think dangerous thoughts, and i don't mean alternative methods of cleaning surplus Russian armaments. Artists are not necessarily unpredictable, but they wanna do things that make them, um, artists. They ain't out tilling the fields. They ain't doing anything you could consider productive, especially. Just makin' noise or marks on paper or somethin'.

In short, the attitude is more or less a throwback to caveman times, only on this go-round they don't see the point in those arcane symbols and scratchings. Not until they get to make flyers that get slid over your doorknob while you're off at work. Or practice their soundbites for the TV cameras. C'mon, man: David Koresh might have an album, but look how many people had to die to get it out.

What got me thinking these thoughts was Freakwater's latest album, "Old Paint". It's a small, charming treasure, it is. Lots of old-timey sounds and steel guitars doing their steel-guitar things. The two main singers are Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Irwin, harmonizing like they were in the Carter Family.

They're songs about existence. Not the glory of the simple life, or the hard times of the trucker/farmer/factory worker/urban hero/rural hero/outlaw or whatever. No proclaimations about the subtle glories of the simple life and home-baked pie.

I've heard Janet sing before, since she's the drummer in Eleventh Dream Day, a fine fine rawk'n'roll band that's been heard by far too few people. She sounds different here; she's got a down-homey sounding voice. No shouting, no screaming, no hoarse raggedness to offset the noise going on. Here, things are stripped back and pure. If the voices are not angelic and smooth, well, it's just that bittersweet touch.

Now, if you've got an aversion to country music in any form, even if it's just Clint Black (who's doing rock music with a twang, when you get down to it), you're gonna hate this. But if you like the usual old-timey music benchmarks like the Carter Family, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, you can get into this with a fork and knife.

The music's straightforward and the arrangements are simple. They don't try at trying to convince you that they're from the farm or that they've paid their dues on the road. They're doing folk music in a different way than the coffeehouse set; they're playing music like they were just plain folk and weren't into dropping a lot of cash on hardware or spending a few years in literature class to get a grasp on the voice of the common man. Or something like that.

It's really clear that this band is playing for the love of country. That music style, at least. There is nothing that would indicate that they're trying to slavishly copy performances of yore, or trying to strike out for something new to get attention. There's nothing stylish about this stuff. It'd grate if you didn't like backwoods-sounding stuff like Freakwater to begin with. But if you heard this band in your living room, you wouldn't be afraid of scaring the neighbors, you'd settle down and enjoy the show.

And that kinda' gets back to what i was saying, about how those rock-stupid gonna-save-the-world-for-me-only surivalists and seperatists are entirely missing the point. Hell, squeezing out a minimal existence away from government attention is easy. Fact is, the Feds are never going to notice you, no matter how much you register signs of your existence with 'em. You're probably doing it right now, even if you did mail in your taxes promptly, update the registration on your car, and so forth.

Because, frankly, the Government doesn't care about you. It might be said that God doesn't either, but I'm not going to be the one who says it. But if you try too hard to avoid notice by either, you're going to get slapped down. But although Freakwater probably doesn't care whether you exist, they'll sing sweet songs to you of love and parting and waiting tables at roadside diners. Dunno if they'll pick up the tab.

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