What are the gun-rights folks afraid of?

These days, gun-rights advocates are more likely than other Americans to mistrust the federal government. Two centuries ago, however, Louisiana’s governor cited the Constitution’s Second Amendment in his push for federal involvement in the wake of America’s largest slave revolt.

Cover art of "American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt," by Daniel Rasmussen

Cover art of “American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt,” by Daniel Rasmussen

Daniel Rasmussen writes about the revolt of 1811 in “American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt.” I recommend the book for its vivid storytelling, and for its insights into how the history written by the powerful can be at odds with the reality on the ground.

William Claiborne was governor of Louisiana when a throng of slaves from the German Coast, just up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, sprang into action on Jan. 8, 1811. The revolt was put down two days later, largely by a volunteer corps of 80 West Bank planters.

Claiborne had called upon the militia, led by Gen. Wade Hampton, to defend New Orleans against the approaching rebellion. The federal troops headed upriver and launched a vigorous attack on the plantation of Jacques Fortier, where they believed the slaves to have posted themselves. But they were wrong. “They had fallen for a classic West African military ruse,” Rasmussen writes. “Warfare practiced in the Kongo especially features frequent advances and retreats intended to confuse the enemy.”

The slaves had headed back upriver, where they encountered the well-armed West Bank planters, who had unwittingly flanked the rebellion. In minutes, the uprising had reached its bloody conclusion.

Gov. Claiborne was in the midst of a campaign to secure statehood for Louisiana, a goal that was not achieved until April 30, 1812. As a result, he emphasized the federal troops’ contribution, even though its strategic value was unintentional. “In the minds of Claiborne and the planters, the proper response to African American political activity was violent suppression backed by the full force of the U.S. government,” Rasmussen writes.

Claiborne’s previous efforts to rally the planters into militia service under the American government had failed, but now, “the militia  — once a largely decorative organization — began to meet weekly to train and organize.”

Gun-rights advocates of the 21st century might be expected to affiliate themselves with the West Bank planters who took the defense of their property into their own hands. But the planters themselves supported the government militarization that followed the slave revolt.

With the memories of the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 still fresh, the planters may well have feared threats that could not be put down as efficiently as the German Coast revolt. The current mistrust of government, and focus on the individual rights afforded by the Second Amendment, may reflect the government’s success in freeing us from fear of threats so large that we cannot handle them ourselves.

Advertisements

Perique tobacco exhibit at Historic New Orleans Collection illustrates persistence of art amid market forces

The persistence of a tobacco-curing tradition passed along from Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians to early settlers in St. James Parish is on display at the Historic New Orleans Collection.

“Perique” is a collection of photographs by Charles Martin, who captured the images of the pressure-fermenting process over the course of eight years. That process is a dramatic contrast with the market-driven flue curing technique developed in my native region, Virginia and North Carolina.

This painting of English settlers harvesting tobacco in the 17th century is by Sydney King. National Park Service image.

This painting of English settlers harvesting tobacco in the 17th century is by Sydney King. National Park Service image.

In the early 1700s, French colonizers hoped to establish a tobacco industry in Louisiana that would compete with that of their British rivals in the Chesapeake area of the East Coast. But a bloody uprising by Natchez Indians in the summer of 1729 threw those plans into disarray, according to Tulane historian Lawrence N. Powell, writing in “The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans.” Downriver from Natchez, hurricanes and other flooded wreaked havoc on the crop.

Acadian farmer Pierre “Perique” Chenet began selling “le tabac de perique” in 1824 on the east bank of St. James Parish. He was said to have learned the pressure-fermenting process from Native Americans; some say the technique may have come to them on a roundabout route from Hispaniola.

While the flue-curing process was a happy accident, the process for curing perique clearly developed through generations of trial and error. Bundles of leaves that have been air-dried for a couple of weeks are tied into bundles and packed into fermenting barrels, which have replaced the hollowed-out stumps used by the native Americans.

“The natives packed tobacco leaves into a hollowed-out stump, which was covered with a heavy cypress weight,” Mary Ann Sternberg writes in the book produced to accompany the “Perique” exhibit. “The weight was placed under pressure by using a lever fashioned from a cut sapling positioned in a crotched three. Pressure from the lever squeezed juice from the tobacco leaves, creating a marinade that fermented and cured the tobacco inside the stump. Several times during curing, the natives removed the weight and extracted the leaves to air them, then returned them to the container and applied further pressure.

“Chenet is said to have modernized the process by substituting wooden boxes for hollow stumps, and adding a frame by which to enhance the delivery of pressure.”

Perique was noted for its “rich, fragrant aroma and spicy sweetness,” but about the same time that Chenet started his business, demand for a milder, lighter, more aromatic tobacco arose. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland all worked on cultivating milder varieties of the tobacco plant. Farmers across the country experimented with different curing processes. But the breakthrough did not come until around 1839.

Growers had noticed that sandy, highland soil produced thinner, weaker plants. Captain Abisha Slade, of Caswell County, North Carolina, had considerable infertile, sandy soil, and planted the new “gold-leaf” varieties on it. Slade owned a slave, Stephen, who around 1839 accidentally produced the first true bright tobacco. He used charcoal to restart a fire used to cure the crop. The surge of heat turned the leaves yellow. Using that discovery, Slade developed a system for producing bright tobacco, cultivated on poorer soils and using charcoal for heat-curing.

The infertile sandy soil of the Appalachian piedmont was suddenly profitable, and people rapidly developed flue-curing techniques, a more efficient way of smoke-free curing. Farmers discovered that brightleaf tobacco needs thin, starved soil, and those who could not grow other crops found that they could grow tobacco.

By the outbreak of the Civil War, the town of Danville, Va., where my mother was born, had developed a bright-leaf market for the surrounding area in Caswell County, N.C., and Pittsylvania County, Va.

Danville was also the main railway head for Confederate soldiers going to the front. These brought bright tobacco with them from Danville to the lines, traded it with each other and Union soldiers, and developed a taste for it. At the end of the war, the soldiers went home and a national market had developed for the local crop. Caswell and Pittsylvania counties were the only two counties in the South that increased in total wealth after the war.

In North Carolina, where I lived for 22 years, flue-cured tobacco is grown in the east and air-cured burley tobacco is grown in the west.

Air-cured tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns and allowed to dry over a period of four to eight weeks. Air-cured tobacco is low in sugar, which gives the tobacco smoke a light, sweet flavor, and a high nicotine content. Flue-cured tobacco was originally strung onto tobacco sticks, which were hung from tier-poles in curing barns. These barns have flues that run from externally fed fire boxes, heat-curing the tobacco without exposing it to smoke, slowly raising the temperature over the course of the curing. The process will generally take about a week. This method produces cigarette tobacco that is high in sugar and has medium to high levels of nicotine.

Some say that perique, which was praised in 1915 as “the champagne of tobaccos,” can be produced only in St. James Parish. I wonder, however, how hard anyone tried to expand the market for this laboriously manufactured product that was out of sync with mass-market tastes. I’m not a tobacco consumer myself, but the artist in me appreciates the dedication of those who have continued to work hard to bring the leaf to its highest expression.

The “Perique” exhibit will be on display at the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Williams Research Center at 410 Chartres Street through Feb. 2. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Read more about perique tobacco:

“The Mystique of Perique,” from Pipes Magazine, 2010.

“The Last Perique Farmer” by R. Reese Fuller, The Times of Acadiana, 2002.

The death-defying dance of life in New Orleans

On Friday, thousands of New Orleanians will gather to mark the much-discussed Mayan apocalypse with song and dance.

Ninety-three years ago, the city’s residents also fought fear by flipping their tail feathers, but the threat that inspired them had its basis in blood rather than astrological speculation.

A letter claiming to be from the Axeman was published in New Orleans newspapers on March 13, 1919.

A letter claiming to be from the Axeman was published in New Orleans newspapers on March 13, 1919. Image from Wikipedia.

A serial killer appeared to be on the loose in the city, linked to the deaths of at least eight people slain in their homes, with a axe or straight razor, by an assailant who gained entry by chiseling a panel out of the back door. The criminal never robbed the victims. On each occasion, the murder weapon was left behind for the police to find.

On March 13, 1919, a letter purporting to be from the killer appeared in New Orleans newspapers, vowing to kill again on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, at 15 minutes past midnight. Those who wished to be spared, the letter said, should find their way to a place where “a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned.”

Although the letter contained no details to suggest that its author was actually the killer, New Orleans leapt to the promise of saving themselves while passing a good time doing so. The city’s dance halls were filled to capacity on St. Joseph’s Night, and professional and amateur bands played jazz at parties at hundreds of houses around town. There were no murders that night.

One of the tunes that likely was performed that night was “The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa),” by local musician Joseph John Davilla. The sheet music for the song, published by New Orleans based World’s Music Publishing Company, is on display through Feb. 8 as part of the “Something Old, Something New: Collecting in the 21st Century” exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St.

Killings attributed to the Axeman ended seven months later, on Oct. 27, 1919, with the slaying of Mike Pepitone, a grocer who operated a store at the corner of South Scott and Ulloa streets. Speculation on the identity of the killer centered on Joseph Momfre, an idea that gained credence a few years ago, with the publication of “The first Mafia boss of Los Angeles? The Mystery of Vito Di Giorgio, 1880-1922,” by Richard Warner, in a privately published journal.

Di Giorgio lived most of his life as a grocer in New Orleans. Mafiosi at the time often used grocery stores as fronts for rackets and extortion. The Axeman’s victims were predominantly grocers and bakers of Italian descent. Warner’s research on Di Giorgio links the identities of Joseph Momfre and Leone J. Manfre, who was killed by Mike Pepitone’s widow in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 1921.

From its earliest days, New Orleans has grappled with disaster. If its people breathe their last on Friday, they will pass a good time doing so.

The Axeman’s letter

Hell, March 13, 1919

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

The Mysterious Axman's Jazz, courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection, acc. no. 2008.0052

The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz, courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection, acc. no. 2008.0052

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don‘t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

The Axeman

Much has been written about the New Orleans Axeman. Here are a few links:

Travel Channel report on “The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz.”

A humorous take by Bruce Raeburn.

An article on the Richard Warner paper on Vito Di Giorgio.

A pay site offering access to the Richard Warner paper.

An article on St. Joseph’s Day altars. I find it relevant that St. Joseph’s Day was a highlight of the year for Sicilian immigrants to New Orleans.

Fertile ground in “Liquid Land”

Rene Broussard of the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center has had it  up to here with Hurricane Katrina films.

For “Liquid Land,” he’ll make an exception.

"Liquid Land" has its roots in an improvisational music project using instruments built from trash.

“Liquid Land” has its roots in an improvisational music project using instruments built from trash. Photo from lqdlnd.com

“Liquid Land” is a whine-free zone, where the vicissitudes resulting from the 2005 storm are acknowledged, but the focus is on the creative possibilities that also resulted.

“Liquid Land” got its start in the fall of 2010, when filmmaker Michelle Ettlin joined Swiss musician Simon Berz and Dutch artist Kaspar Koenig in New Orleans for an art project: building instruments from trash and inviting local musicians to improvise with them.

I went to one of those concerts. The sounds were consistently interesting, but I appreciated the music only in fits and starts, which probably says more about me than about the improvisations.

Along with performance clips, “Liquid Land” incorporates interviews with the New Orleans musicians who participated: Helen Gillet, James Singleton, Bhob Rainey, Jeff Albert, Rob Cambre, Justin Peake, Dave Easley, Aurora Nealand and Moose Jackson. Their insights are relevant to anyone still settling into acceptance, even appreciation, of how life in New Orleans has changed since Hurricane Katrina.

For one thing, Hurricane Katrina changed the cast of characters. With the oddball circumstances of evacuation, a punk musician might find a classical musician to be the best available collaborator for a project.

Also, the threat to New Orleans’ culture provided a galvanizing sense of purpose for some musicians, and a clearer focus for their energies.

For centuries, disaster has made the transitory nature of life a central theme of life in New Orleans. Katrina struck that chord yet again, with special resonance for the improvisational artists of “Liquid Land” who highlight the value of music in the moment, more than as an extension of what happened in the past or an artifact to be appreciated in the future.

“If you have something to say, say it now,” Gillet says in the film.

Another “Liquid Land” screening and concert is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 10 p.m. as part of the Open Ears series upstairs at the Blue Nile. Later in November, screenings are planned in Austin, Houston, Los Angeles and Kansas City, with accompanying concerts in Austin and Houston. DVD release is scheduled for February.

Liquid Land Trailer from Michelle Ettlin on Vimeo.

New sounds at the University of New Orleans

The first Jazz at the Sandbar performance of the fall 2012 series was a tribute to the style of guest artist Ellis Marsalis, who was chairman of the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans when the performance series was established in 1990.

Jamison Ross performs "Vestige" by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Jamison Ross performs “Vestige” by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

The second show of the series, on Oct. 10, shifted its vision to the future, featuring compositions by student musicians in the combo directed by assistant professor Brian Seeger, who has been teaching since 2007 at UNO, from which he holds a master’s degree in jazz performance.

“They put in a lot of work to get a lot of original material together in a short amount of time,” Seeger said. The combo’s next performance at Jazz at the Sandbar will be Oct. 31, when pianist Joanne Brackeen will be the guest artist.

First up was “Comrade Trampas” by pianist Kris Tokarski, who named the composition after a former classmate. Tokarski also wrote “Bud’s Lament,” a ballad inspired by Bud Powell, and “Vestige.”

An untitled piece by guitarist Stephen Powers was second in the program, followed by “Bud’s Lament” and the combo’s arrangement of “Have You Met Miss Jones?’ by Richard Rodgers.

The first set finished out with a tune by saxophonist James Partridge, and “Third Line” by bassist Sam Albright.

The second set began with a demonstration of the skills of the evening’s celebrity, Jamison Ross, who took first place Sept. 23 in the 25th annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., winning over a panel of judges who represent excellence in his field: Jimmy Cobb, Ben Riley, Peter Erskine, Carl Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Brian Blade. His award came with $25,000 in music-scholarship funds and a recording contract with the Concord Music Group.

James Partridge, Gregory Agid and Derek Douget perform "Vestige" by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

James Partridge, Gregory Agid and Derek Douget perform “Vestige” by Kris Tokarski at Jazz at the Sandbar at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Ross’ arrangement of Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” showcased the musicality of his playing delightfully. Afterward, guest artist Derek Douget, who plays saxophone with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and has two UNO music degrees, joined the student band for “Vestige” and for two of his own compositions, “Scrambler” and “Finally,” which he said got its name because he had trouble finishing it.

The second set ended with “Heading In” by Partridge and the band’s arrangement of “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter.

All Jazz at the Sandbar performances this fall are on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The schedule of guest artists is:

In addition, here are some performances coming up by musicians who played Oct. 10.

  • Derek Douget performs Wednesdays, Oct. 17, 24, and 31, with the NOJO Jazz Jam at the Royal Sonesta
  • Derek Douget performs Thursday, Oct. 18, with Mas Mamones at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, and with Jonathan Lefcoski at Snug Harbor.
  • Derek Douget performs Friday, Oct. 19, with Herlin Riley at Snug Harbor.
  • James Partridge will perform Thursday, Oct. 25, with The Session, featuring Darrian Douglas, Jasen Weaver, Steve Lands and Andrew McGowan, at The Maison from 7 to 10 p.m. This month, The Session recorded its first album, “This is Who We Are.”

“Jazz at the Sandbar” is presented by the UNO Jazz Studies Program with support from the UNO Student Government Association, WWNO Public Radio, Nate & Priscilla Gordon, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the UNO International Alumni Association and the New Orleans Jazz Celebration.

All proceeds go to the George Brumat Memorial Scholarship Fund. For more information, call the UNO Music Department at 504.280.6039.

The jewel-like lyrics of Alex McMurray get a complementary setting

It must have been a year ago when Alex McMurray mentioned that he was thinking of starting work on a totally stripped-down CD project, just a songwriter and his guitar, although longtime collaborator Carlo Nuccio was pulling him in another direction. I left the conversation thinking that Alex would choose the super-solo project this time, and looking forward to experiencing the poetry of his lyrics unsauced.

Alex McMurray and Matt Perrine perform

Alex McMurray and Matt Perrine perform “The Woman I Love” during the CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 2012

It turned out the time was right for Nuccio’s approach, but my anticipation was satisfied just the same. I am pleased to report that “I Will Never be Alone in This Land,” produced by Nuccio with horn and string arrangements by Matt Perrine, keeps the focus squarely on the songs, with the lyrics and instrumentation forming a unified whole, like the saucy roast beef on a po-boy.

The whole gang turned out for the CD release party at dba on Thursday. The core band consisted of McMurray on guitar and vocals, Nuccio on drums, Perrine on sousaphone and Bill Malchow on keys. During the first part of the show there was also a horn section, with Joe Cabral and Martin Krusche on saxophone, Charlie Halloran on trombone and Eric Lucero on trumpet.

dba, however, was not a great venue for this show. The crowd there seems inclined to participate, either by dancing or talking, and since this wasn’t really a dance party, well, that leaves talking. I can’t imagine why so many people focused on their own conversations paid even a $5 cover for a show presenting unfamiliar compositions by a singer-songwriter noted for clever turns of the phrase, but there you have it. I may have to go see McMurray again on Thursday at the Saturn Bar, to do it up right.

McMurray will be going to Europe for a week at the beginning of November. Local gigs before then include:

  • Sundays, Oct. 14 and 28, with Bill Malchow on the House of Blues patio, 225 Decatur St., 3-6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 14, with Bill Malchow, before and after “Treme” at Buffa’s, 1001 Esplanade Ave., 8-11 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, Oct. 17 and 24, with The Tin Men at dba, 618 Frenchmen St. 7-9 p.m.
  • Thursdays, Oct. 18 and 25, at the Saturn Bar, 3067 St. Claude Ave., 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 21, with Debbie Davis at Three Muses, 536 Frenchmen St., 8-11 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 26, with Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show at the Voodoo Music Experience Preservation Hall Stage, 5:15 p.m.

I said it was all about the lyrics, right? It seems only right for me to attempt to present them to you.

“I Will Never be Alone in This Land”

I will never be alone in this land

I will never be alone in this land

I will never be alone while I’m trying to go back home

I will never be alone in this land.

I’ve been trading time for change in this land

I’ve been trading time for change in this land

I’ve been trading time for chump change

There’s some things I’ve got to rearrange

But I will never be alone in this land

(band kicks in)

I’ve been running to beat the band these days

I’ve been running to beat the band these days

I’ve been running to beat the band, over rocks and trees and sand

But I will never be alone in this land.

And all the world is sad and dreary

Everywhere I roam

Carlo Nuccio performing with Alex McMurray during the CD release party for "I Will Never be Alone in This Land" at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

Carlo Nuccio performing with Alex McMurray during the CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

We all wanna be ready in this land

We all wanna be ready in this land

Yeah, we all wanna be ready

But we got to try to keep things steady

And we will never be alone in this land.

(John Mooney)

All the world is sad and lonely

Everywhere I roam

We all want to be ready in this land

We all want to be ready in this land

Yeah, we all want to be ready

Now if I can just keep things steady

Then I will never be alone

I just might find my way home

I will never be alone in this land.

“As Long as You Let Me”

Going to do my dance up on the roof, sing my song

Frighten my neighbors who haven’t met me yet

I’ve got a feeling today, a feeling so strong

I’ll love you as long as you let me

I love you for the secret smile we share

You’re there for me when no one seems to get me

I’ve got a feeling today, a feeling so strong

I’ll love you as long as you let me (guitar solo)

I’ve got a feeling that can’t be wrong

The on-stage set list for Alex McMurray's CD release party for "I Will Never be Alone in This Land" at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

The on-stage set list for Alex McMurray’s CD release party for “I Will Never be Alone in This Land” at dba on Oct. 11, 2012

I’ll love you as long as you let me

I love you for the way you feel real deep inside

When you stare into the future

This train’s got a long way to go

So take my hand

I’ll love you as long as you let me

This train’s got a long way to go

So climb on board

I’m going to love you as long as you let me.

“All My Rivers”

I found my dollars from Mardi Gras day

Guess I had it all squirreled away

Gonna take it on the town

I’m gonna throw the dog around

Because all my rivers is running right

I’ve been dancing in double time

Something’s making everything rhyme

Tie a rag upon your head

Do it ’til you’re almost dead

Because all my rivers is running right.

C’mon boys, strike the band

Been this way since the world began

C’mon baby, dance with me

Like it was meant to be

Something’s grinnin’ up in my head

I got the trees in my boutonniere

Fill your pockets up with dreams

Til they’re bursting at the seams

Cause all my rivers is running right.

(Jon Cleary)

C’mon boys, strike up the band

It’s been this way since the world began

C’mon baby, dance with me

Like we was meant to be

Something’s grinnin’ in my ear

I got the trees in my boutonniere

Fill your pockets up with dreams

Til they are bursting at the seams

‘Cause all my rivers is running right.

“One Step Away from the Hole”

And now we see you handing out your mischief

And folks will pin a dollar on your shirt

Tomorrow when I smell you in my jacket

I’ll gather up those dollars from the dirt

Before you realize the dice are loaded

Before you know it’s someone else’s game

The trap for you is set

When you get free from that net

You’ll spend a lifetime clearing up your name

‘Cause you’re one step away from the hole

Yeah, you’re one step away from the hole.

You like the cards you’re given

But you had better fold

‘Cause you’re one step away from the hole.

Behind the bleachers everybody’s falling

And everybody blames the referee

The ones ain’t busy falling, is busy climbing

Why don’t they want to come down from their trees?

‘Cause they’re one step away from the hole

Yeah, they’re one step away from the hole.

There ain’t a one among them

who’s ready for this role

And they’re one step away from the hole.

I work the chain farther down my ankle

I move the collar up around my neck

My wrists are red and raw

I can’t forget the things I saw

Perhaps someone will pull me from the wreck

‘Cause I’m one step away from the hole

Yeah I’m one step away from the hole.

The drinks are pretty cheap here

But you pay with your soul

When you’re one step away from the hole.

“Me and My Bad Luck”

Me and my bad luck just hit town today

Down  the road so many times, ain’t nothing left to say

Kick me out the doorway, leave me in the rain

Always in my business but I never know his name

Tells me I’m his only boy, but it ain’t the same

As a hook to hang my hat or a place to lay the blame

Me and my bad luck come around

Someone’s doing dishes in a dirty dining car

Someone’s making wishes on a 30-cent cigar

Someone’s standing in the rain, wishing on a star

Someone, somewhere, wants to know where all the people are

Bad luck reassuring me he never will be far

I can’t find him in the morning when he’s hidden my guitar.

Me and my bad luck come around.

(horn party)

Me and my bad luck, we been on a roll

Lost all our muscle and we wash up on the shoals

It’s getting so I wonder just who is in control

Who will pay the ticket, and who will pay the toll

Bad luck disappears on me, falls into a hole

And every time I get the bill he goes and takes it on a stroll

Yeah, me and my bad luck come around

I take him by the collar, put his hat upon his head

Hold him in the river ’til I’m sure that he is dead

Put a bullet in his eye and fill him full of lead

Put him in his dying bed.

Will I say a prayer for him, or do a dance instead?

The things that bad luck said.

Me and my bad luck come around.

“The Get Go”

He was a flunky from St. John’s pit

He told himself that he was through with it

So tired of drifting and bumming around

He thought he’d take it to another town.

She was a chippie from Chicago

The only place she’d ever seen before

She does her drinking from a jar

She keeps beneath the seat of the car

She like to hit it from the get-go.

Old Cassandra and Pollyanna

Lived together on their father’s land

All of the neighbors, one by one,

shoot out the stars and sleep in the sun

You know, in life there ain’t no accidents

Flunky creeping up along the fence

Flunky, he crossed Cassandra,

So he never thought of it no more

He got to hit it from the get-go.

It ain’t your business to reason why

You got to go before you die

You got to hit it from the get-go.

(Brian Coogan, organ, and Ben Ellman, harmonica)

Roll the credits and fade to black

Flunky never gets his dollar back

Settle down and take his key

Every evening watching busted TV

There’s a message coming from the screen

You got to listen to the in-between

He’s got to finish all his chores

To get to what’s beneath the floor

He got to hit it from the get-go.

“The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”

I rode out west with a double-O crew

I rode in the style of the double-O too

I was tall in the saddle, sick in the soul

I’m the man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance

I cake-walked clear across Wisconsin

Backwards with my high heels on, son

They saw me shaking by the saloon

And I couldn’t xxxx

I used all of my skills, all of my talents

The man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance.

So tie me upon my horse

‘Cause if I lose my balance

I’ll never get out of this town alive

String me up or cut me down

It’s all the same to me

Ten pounds of pain in a size nine boot

Bury me now in a mohair suit

There’s just one thing all dead men know

Don’t double-cross dressed as double-O

I was the fastest gun west of Tarzana

The man who shot the man who shot Liberty Valance

“Beneath the Rain”

What would you do to hear the fat man sing?

Would you walk through fire?

Would you do anything?

And what would you give to see the emperor dance?

To begin, you got to live in a certain trance.

And what would you give to hear the golden chef,

Hear her laugh on the line, up in the treble clef?

That laugh could cut you down, kill you where you stood

But I swear it’s always there when I am feeling good

All that’s good, all that’s sweet beneath the rain

I see it every time you look my way

I see it every time you call me friend

On down the road until the end of the day.

I went to the Aardvark

I went looking for you

And they sent me to Charlie’s, and I went there too.

They said you went to Molly’s and I turned away

I thought that I would see you on some other day.

So tell me, what is the scene on the golden shore?

Do you stay up all night? Baby, do you walk the floor

And let your thoughts drift over gentler days,

The breeze up in the trees running off the summer haze

All that’s good, all that’s sweet beneath the rain

I see it every time you look my way

I see it every time you call me friend

On down the road until the end of the day.

I couldn’t believe you saw me with those eyes.

“I Can’t Wait ‘Til They Turn my Baby Loose”

I can’t wait ’til they turn my baby loose

‘Til she’s walking out the door

All is forgiven, and I know

She will soon be giving me everything I’m hoping for.

I’m lurked outside this barroom every night

I can hear laughter out of any crowd.

And when it’s closing time, I’ll feel her hand in mine

And off we’ll go together in a cloud.

Ain’t it a pity, on an evening so pretty

A man must learn to dance alone

Underneath the old oak tree, I can dream she’s here with me

And we’re dancing close and slow.

And now the band is saying nighty-night

Try to get them out the door, but it ain’t no use

They’re gonna sing another song

I’m gonna have to wait a minute longer

Until they turn my baby loose

Ain’t it a pity, on an evening so pretty

A man must learn to dance alone

Underneath the old oak tree, I can dream she’s here with me

And we’re dancing close and slow.

And now the band is saying nighty-night

Try to get them out the door, but it ain’t no use

They’re gonna play another song

I’m gonna have to wait a minute longer

Something about the evening has got the power to seduce

So, don’t you get my meaning, I ain’t trying to confuse

I just can’t wait until they turn my baby loose.

“Texas Again”

Nine years wasted with the cold running through me

Throw my pants on the fire

The shadows stretching away to forever

The boys are about to retire

The smell of the diesel, the feel of the damp

Come to be my only friends

I’m holding steady, but I ain’t near ready

To go back to Texas again

Sometimes it seems like a lifetime or two

Since we wrote our names in the sky

Drove all night with the moonlight upon us

Made love while the mockingbirds cried

And how would I know that one day you’d go

Just as easy as counting to ten.

I’ll love you forever, but I thought I’d never

Go back to Texas again.

Texas again, where the wind doesn’t see me

Texas again, running through the same fire

Texas again, where I knew I was the same old liar

Keep your coat, boys

Let me be.

I thought my rambling soon would run through me

Somehow, it never let go

One day I woke on the dry side of life

And I knew I’d be always alone.

Well the next train I know is heading to San Antone

And I stopped for a moment, and then,

Well she’s pulling away

I can wait one more day

To go back to Texas again.

Texas again, where the wind doesn’t see me

Texas again, running through the same fire

Texas again, where I knew I was the same old liar

Keep your coat, boys

Let me be.

Keep your coat, boys

Set me free.

“Otis at the Wheel”

Now hear this!

The ringmaster’s gone.

He has been relieved.

Give me a round

To put you in the book

But do not be deceived.

Gather up your trumpets, gather up your wits

You’re leading the parade

But the Lord is coming down the telephone line

Saying, “Do not be afraid.

Bring all my children up to heaven.”

Now Tiny and me, get things straight, apples in the fall

I’ve cleaned all the cages, I’ve gathered up the gate,

I’m a cannonball.

There’s a gal in the midway who shouted to the wind,

You said “Take me where you go.”

Well there’s always a place for a Winchester girl

In a Wild West Show.

Just take your bullets to the straw man.

Well someone lit a fire on the stock car floor

Starting up a stampede, open up the door

Circus train’s a-rolling to the Sarasota shore

With Otis at the wheel.

Faster, faster, faster, faster!

Yeah, we’re grinding up the gears, there’s a fire in the box

And the bells are ringing

Well, Tiny is a goner, the boy is no good

That just leaves me and you

We’re locomotives screaming through the Ocaloosa woods

Tell me, what you gonna do?

This train is lifted up to heaven

Someone lit a match on the stock car floor

Started up a stampede and opened up the door

A hundred miles an hour on the Sarasota shore

With Otis at the wheel

“Diamonds in Your Hand”

The ones that nearly drive you up a wall

Will be the ones to catch you when you fall

And when you run away, they can find you any day

You can never hide forever from a friend

The ones who have some chore for you to do

Will be the ones to tell you what is true

And even when it hurts

When they drag you through the dirt

They’ll be the ones who make you whole again.

The ones you love are diamonds in your hand

So hold them just as tightly as you can

The bitter will be sweet

You only got to treat the ones you love

Like they’re diamonds in your hand.

You don’t come by a diamond every day.

They’re sometimes very far away

But whenever you’re alone and your boats are full of stones

Just remember there’s a diamond shining somewhere.

You can take these diamonds everywhere you go

You can hide them in the lining of your coat

And when your coat grows thin, you can cash your diamonds in

As long as there’s a  little left to share.

The ones you love are diamonds in your hand

So hold them just as tightly as you can

The bitter will be sweet

You only got to treat the ones you love

Like they’re diamonds in your hand.

The ones you love,

They’re diamonds in your hand.

The exceptional Helen Gillet at Bacchanal

Like love, or Republican foreign policy, great music can create a sense of exceptionalism: a feeling that nowhere else in the world is anyone else so attuned to the glories of the present moment.

Helen Gillet puts her cello to use as a percussion instrument during a solo performance at Bacchanal in New Orleans, Oct. 8, 2012

Helen Gillet puts her cello to use as a percussion instrument during a solo performance at Bacchanal in New Orleans, Oct. 8, 2012. Photo by Eliot Kamenitz

Globe-trotting cellist Helen Gillet makes this feeling of blissful grandiosity accessible by pulling together bits of traditional French songs, New Orleans rhythms and electronic loops to create a musical environment that heightens the best aspects of the here and now.

Gillet performed solo in the Bacchanal courtyard on Monday and will hold down the Monday slot into early November, sometimes solo, sometimes with a band.

The two-set show on Oct. 8 started off with the quiet, delicate instrumental “Waking Milo,” from her second CD, “Running of the Bells,” which segued into “Le Petit Royaume” from her first, “Newton Circus.”

“Running of the Bells” is a trio recording, with Doug Garrison and Tim Green, and “Newton Circus” was created with the Wazozo band, including violin, guitar, harp, French horn and accordion.

Other songs from “Newton Circus” included “Mon Amant De Saint Jean“; “Sympatique”, which featured harmonies created by singing along with looped vocals; and “J’ai Rendez-Vous avec Vous” by George Brassens, also the author of “La Non-Demande en Mariage.”

Gillet also performed some of her own compositions, including “Atchafalaya” and “Julien” from her most recent CD, “Helen Gillet.”Also in English was her version of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You.”

Gillet performances in the next few weeks include: