If you don't own this, you should.
I was tempted to stop there, but I won't. This will be the soundtrack for my weekend. The Phoenix Concerts is arguably the best album by one of America's most underrated songwriters, the late John Stewart. You may remember him from the second version of the Kingston Trio, or for his 1979 radio hit, Gold. Trivia buffs may recall him as the composer of Daydream Believer. There's nothing wrong with that.
But if you want to hear John at his best, get this. In fact, unless you have a thing for CD packaging, why not go here and download it now? If there's a better soundtrack for the Fourth of July weekend, I can't think of it. This is music that celebrates America: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The real, unvarnished America: "just a lot of people who were doin' the best they could."
There's a ghost in all his songs: the ghost of the America that once was. The songs invite us to reflect on where we've been and where we are going. Who will we become?
In Valley Forge long ago
A nation born in snow
To make it ours we carved their names in stone
And if that is all we own
Old memories in stone
Don't you think it's time that we made some of our own?
Roll away, roll away, roll away the stone
People of America, roll away the stone
Oh we build 'em high and we build 'em wide
'til there's no place left to hide
From the motels and the coffee shops and the flashing neon signs
Are we cursed, are we blind?
Have we all lost our minds?
The cities made of stone, is that all we'll leave behind?
There are ghosts in his songs, but they sing of more than nostalgia. They are the ghosts of the New Frontier that still hope for things to come. There's no bunting here, yet the ghosts still sing "Mother Country, I do love you." If there's a better soundtrack for the Fourth of July, I can't think of it. Just buy the album and crank it up. You'll understand.
I've been blessed this year with bright, blue skies for the Fourth. I'll spend it with number-one son eating rare cheeseburgers and hot dogs burned black, washed down with plenty of cold (root) beer. We'll eat sweet corn and watermelon, play in the sprinkler and stay up for the fireworks. And listen to John Stewart. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be. I've been blessed this year.
Hope you are too.