Friday, July 2, 2010

Mother Country

Complete Phoenix Concerts

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.

Respectfully Yours,



Suldog said...

Blessed? Indeed. Among other things, I have many wonderful friends - and I certainly count you among them. Happy 4th, my swell pal!

lime said...

i like the twist he takes. thanks for exhorting us to a better version of ourselves.

Land of shimp said...

I hope you had a wonderful fourth, Cricket! Plenty of good friends, and good times.

We're not a perfect country, we've made mistakes in the past, at present, and no doubt in the future but we're a country formed on ideas and ideals. We struggle to accept the need for growth, and change.

Yet, in particular because I am an opinionated woman, I will never stop being grateful that I was born here, allowed to voice those opinions, and at times call for change.

Anyway, it bucketed down rain here on the fourth, but thankfully we were at a fun BBQ with interesting people. Who could ask for more?

John Stewart really isn't my cup of tea, by the way, but thank goodness we live in a diverse country where it takes all kinds ;-)

Suldog said...


Unless you've suddenly become very ungrammatical, I think somebody has hacked your e-mail account. I received a bizarre request for money, purportedly from you. Becca also received it, word for word.

This is the best way I have for contacting you at the moment, as I don't have your phone number handy. If you get this, and want the details, give me a call at work.

Ananda girl said...

This was a wonderful post... thank you for sharing John Stewart with me!
Great stuffs that bring back memories of my own life growing up and the hopes we had in those times.

Sorry I am late... but you know all that.

I am dying to know what the deal is by the way. Suldog-- thanks!

Hilary said...

I stopped by to let you know that I just got one of those emails from your Hotmail account too.

I did reply to your real email from this morning. I don't know if you got that or you were already hacked by then.

I hope you get it sorted out soon and that nobody actually believes it's from you.