Monthly Archives: December 2009

Flirted With You All My Life – the passing of Vic Chesnutt

On Christmas day, when heads were counted, the world was one short… the genius of Vic Chestnutt was no longer with us. 


I discovered the intensely poetic music of Chesnutt in the last few years, courtesy of the 2005 album Ghetto Bells. It’s raw immediacy, kicked me hard and I was captured. I hadn’t heard a voice so honest in many years; Vic’s straight-up drawl, battered guitar lines and hard-won wisdom resonated from the opening note of Virginia and didn’t let up until long after album closer Gnats had played. The album came back to me in the quiet moments, snatches of lyric firing my synapses and stinging my heart:

I am trying to stitch this one to all the rest of them
But the seams will split, collide and cleave
Neopolitan ice cream is never truly integrated until it’s too late

‘from Vesuvius’

the schemer looked down upon the screamer
like buried treasure
he nursed me and cherished me
and trained me to be
what is here in front of you
a ticket to see, a ticket to see
fate has been so good to me
you may not understand
how I can be thankful to be where I am
to be where I am

‘from Ignorant People’

And earlier this year, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Vic play at The Troubador (see earlier post The World Is A Sponge). He was mesmeric, and seeing him only deepened my love and respect for his music. The last few years had been intensely creative, in fact since recording his debut, Little in 1990 (with the help of REM’s Micheal Stipe), Chesnutt had never been content to rest on past achievements releasing more than a dozen solo albums and collaborating on many others. Described as ‘prolific, profound, and ever full of potty-mouthed piss-and-vinegar – Vic Chesnutt is Prometheus in a wheelchair’. His contribution to the world will always be cherished and his all-to-early death at 45, forever mourned.

To close, here’s the haunting track from Vic’s most recent album, At The Cut, I Flirted With You All My Life, described as a break-up letter to his own suicidal thoughts.

More news is available via his record label, Constellation Records.

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Nothing like this sound I make

that only lasts a season…

                               (lyric from Lit Up – The National)

After a quick dip in those lusciously blue Tasmanian waters, this Lost Shark has found his way home. Hope you enjoyed (or are still enjoying) the season…


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The New Folk VI

 Well, this may possibly be my last post until December 29, as I am jetting off to Tasmanian waters for a few days and may not get near enough to a computer to make an update… so to sign off on what has been an amazing year, here’s a handful of songs to soundtrack these glorious summer days. To all of the people who have read this blog – whether you be a regular, a sporadic visitor, or a fly-by-nighter – thank you. I am already looking forward to an exciting 2010 as there are many projects bubbling away. Big love to you all…

Orenda Fink: That Certain-Something Spring

Orenda Fink’s sophomore solo album blends her love of traditional American folk music and Gothic literature. Recorded live in a basement and a lounge room , the album has that wistful melancholoy that has become the trademark of quality home produced folk. Orenda’s thick as honey voice sails in and out of the mandolin, accordion and saw that give this album a southern tinge. The perfect music to slow time… most definitely an album to curl up with.


Port O’Brien: My Will Is Good

Taken from their third longplayer, Threadbare, this showcases a stripped back sound for Port O’Brien. The album swells like a lung full of salt air, not surprising given Van Pierszalowski spends much of his year working on a salmon fishing boat. This album is making lots of the Best of 2009 lists, and for good reason. It is elegant in its simplicity, dramatic in its craft and brings a pop sensibilty to the folk tradition.


Vic Chestnutt – Coward

Lyrically, there are few singer/songwriters with the literary prowess of Vic Chestnutt and he doesn’t disappoint on his latest release, At The Cut. Released earlier in the year, At The Cut sees Vic team up for the second time with members of Montreal collectives, A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fugazi. Its a darkly explosive combination, blending Chestnutt’s distinctively simple vocals and guitar playing style with the often mesmeric wail of strings and guitars that Godspeed and Silver Mt. Zion have made their own.


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The Poetry Slave

Ashley Capes and Jane Williams have just posted their first collaborative poem over at the poetry slave. The poem was written in response to expressionist painter Marc Chagall’s work, Les Fiances de  la Tour Eiffel. And as with all good collaborations, it has brought out the best in both poet’s work. There is an incredible energy that resides in the poem. Love, birth and becoming a parent are prominent themes.

Ashley opens the poem with the lines:

now I have taken all the bread and gathered it
inside my whale-like belly
for another time, or for when they dissect me
or if I have children

And later Jane responds:

through a red fog
a father sees his father
in the shape of
his own raised fist
and stops

Importantly, throughout the poem both voices maintain their own unique music, but when they come together, they sing in harmony.

Ashley is currently involved in a number of exciting projects, so checking out the links on this page will also yield good things – kipple, holland1947, issa’s snail and his own personal blog are all well worth the visit. And Jane’s blog also features many poems/stories from her recent collections The Last Tourist, Other Lives, Begging the Question and Outside Temple Boundaries. In short… there’s plenty to enjoy here!


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Bob Dylan: Jokerman

A while back I made a post: A Poet Is… What Bob Dylan Has to Say and there was some interesting debate about Dylan being a poet. Well a good friend of mine recently turned me on to Bob performing a killer version of Jokerman back in 1984 on the Letterman show, which for mine has to be one of the greatest example of song lyrics working as poetry. If you need any convincing, read this:

It’s a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet
He’ll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot

(read the full lyrics here)

And I also recently came across this poem published in The New Yorker, which is taken from a book titled Hollywood Foto Rhetoric: The Lost Manuscript, which collects previously unpublished poetry by Dylan and photographs by Barry Feinstein.


                                                after crashin the sportscar
                                                into the chandelier
                                                i ran out t the phone booth
                                                made a call t my wife. she wasnt home.
                                                i panicked. i called up my best friend
                                                but the line was busy
                                                then i went t a party but couldnt find a chair
                                                somebody wiped their feet on me
                                                so i decided t leave
                                                i felt awful. my mouth was puckered.
                                                arms were stickin thru my neck
                                                my stomach was stuffed an bloated
                                               dogs licked my face
                                               people stared at me an said
                                               “what’s wrong with you?”
                                               passin two successful friends of mine
                                               i stopped t talk.
                                               they knew i was feelin bad
                                               an gave me some pills
                                               i went home an began writin
                                              a suicide note
                                              it was then that i saw
                                              that crowd comin down
                                              the street
                                              i really have nothing
                                              marlon brando

Is Dylan a poet? Let the debate roll on, but I know what side of the fence I am sitting.


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Love Letter to Bramble Bay



ghost the shore

                                                          the hard pods
of sheoak spray their seed
across the path

                                                          and my words disappear 

                                                          like stones
skipped across a wave

                                                          sinking through
the pages of water.


                                                      Stately Queenslanders, convalesce
guard the shoreline;
ghosts of old men
cast in the shadow of jetty lights.

Eroded hardwood pillars
now remnants of your playground;
the pioneering spirit lingers
in the slow bite of rust.

Rolling tide,
churns forth your memory;
as the sea circles my ankles
I am written into your pages.





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The New Folk pt V

And the great releases keep coming as 2009 draws to a close. Here’s a taste from the new Sleeping States and Espers albums + a track from Iron and Wine’s 2009 collection, Around the Well. Hope these provide the quiet beauty you are looking for this Sunday morning… 

Sleeping States – Gardens of the South

Sleeping States main man, Markland Starkie has just released his latest long player, In the Gardens of the North, an album brimming with found sounds, layered harmonies, pensive tension and humming ambience. With Gardens of the South (like with much of the album) Starkie’s voice takes centre stage as it dips and swoons over the top of a sparsely swinging beat. And while the album rarely changes pace, each songs demands your attention, quietly rewarding those who take the ride.


Espers – Sightings

With new album III just released, Espers have continued to stretch the folk genre. There aren’t many bands who can blend the atmosphere of  early Black Sabbath with finger picked acoustic guitars, and electronic flourishes, but this is the swirling domain that Espers so fittingly occupy. On Sightings, Meg Baird’s vocals are languid and bewitching, providing an ethereal light to the swelling rhythms of the band. And there is just the right amount of blissful fuzz sitting in the background…


Iron and Wine – The Trapeze Swinger

Sam Beam knows the hypnotic power of a simple chord progression and he uses it to perfection here on The Trapeze Swinger. Add to that a stomping rhythm, blissful melody and vivid imagery and you have yourself a song that will stick with you long after the record has stopped spinning.


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Neruda’s Seashells

Along with being a political activist and Nobel Prize winner, Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda was also an avid collector of seashells. His love for the exoskeletons of molluscs is something that I share deeply, so I was fascinated to discover this, particularly after recently penning the poem, Morning Song, enamoured by the ocean’s quiet music that (for me) shells are such an integral part of.

Neruda has been quoted as saying:

“The best thing I have collected in my life are my shells,” the poet once wrote. “They gave me the pleasure of their prodigious structure, the lunar purity of their mysterious porcelain.”

And for the first time ever, more than four hundred of Neruda’s estimated 9000 seashells (amassed over a period of two decades) are on display at the Instituto de Cervantes in Madrid. It is times like this I dream of teleportation…

So while I may not get to see the display, this news has made me pull out several of my Neruda collections and rediscover my love for his words… his ability to capture passion and pin it to a page…

I will leave you with one of my very favourites:


Don’t Go Far Off, Not Even For A Day 
                                                  by Pablo Neruda

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?


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Morning Song

little by little
the sea gives up
its music:

it washes to shore
bleached notes
of destruction

footstep by
singular footstep
shell by broken shell.


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Words or Whatever this Friday Night

School’s out this Friday night, so dust off those poems and get yourself along to Words or Whatever at Blackstar Cafe (44 Thomas St. West End) for a massive night of Open Mic and feature sets, including special guest from the US, Drew Dellinger. Entry is free and all the action kicks off at 7pm. See you there…

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