LONG NIGHTS AND BANJO MUSIC
borrowed from a song title by Wes McGhee
by Norman Warwick
it was father and son and cats in the cradle and independence day and the daughters of the revolution and a warning to hard times to come again no more the merest tip of the hat a nod of recognition and acknowledgment to the moon-shiners up on cripple creek and their sour whiskey but a hope too for temperance or at least a dulling of the need for drink with peace of mind more than simply a heartless mindless phrase
Bela Fleck holding his instrument upright like a rifle – like a spear – with that feather in his hair – and The Flecktones looking on to listen in a picture later to be smashed in a rage born of love suppressed for propriety how like the son the father be son and father student and mentor Johnny Stew and Liddy Buck tearing down the sky for a star Seger picking for McCarthy his Litany Of Martyrs this the reconciliation then reunion and departure the rite of passage to earn a right of passage and a go in peace my son this what the father might have been and might yet be but could never now become again this searching this sure this unknowing and this certain this the recollection of nights of strange fruit at the gallows when the child was but a baby
this the sight of Byrds in flight never going back but moving on always one hundred years from this day and this day is redemption day all sins forgiven even the cowboy hat pulled low over the eyes as he sits playing that old time religion
but it’s not god and this ain’t heaven and there ain’t yet no one knock knock knocking and it ain’t even Alabama nor even the cotton fields where his momma done rocked him in that cradle.
This is love neither of the instrument nor of its music not of the songs nor of their words not of the ghosts in the machines nor of the books not of the tapes nor of the posters on the walls not even the love of music, but is instead a love of myth made truth
it is a shared love of the sound of a train in the distance it is a shared belief in the book of revelations with its images of a broken piano in the Arizona desert and of howling rain at the midnight hour and hell hounds on our trail and of the tortured mind of Uncle Ives and his colours bright and his visions clear this the Indiana Jones and Lord Of the Rings this the card-sharp who knows when to hold them and knows when to fold them this the Jesus on the cross this Jesus when Jesus was a cross-maker
it is the myth of fingerprints stolen from the wolves and the story of how we begin to remember
idle conversation between Bull Frog and The Crow.
this the banjo on his knee a note from past to present sending back to the future time in a bottle these the strings tightly re-tuned between father and son providers of rhythm and harmony child and man know this to be a fragile peace a silent night in a no-man’s land of an earlier war and do not speak of barbed-wire fences or borders or North and South and …
the music stops
the instrument is packed away the coffin lid lowered once more.
all is quiet save ghosts in the rhyme whispering,
“it’s alright, it’s only music”