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
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.