I’m writing this 30,000 feet up, somewhere over the American Southwest. I could speak with a little more confidence about the exact coordinates of my location if my entertainment system was working (for now I can just peer at the flight map on the screen belonging to the gentleman all the way down there in 13D) but all you really need to know is that I’m a little bit to the left of New York and a little bit to the right of San Diego.
Now that I’m 75% done with my science classes, it’s time to start thinking about where I’ll be when I drop that prefix in pre-med. After my finals it was a long drive South with Holly’s cat, who, weirdly, drooled the whole way home until I let her out of the box to be my co-pilot. Within a mile of my house it was me drooling, imagining the pies and cakes and curries and taco nights and hamburgers and other various Mama Burns delicacies that are slowly increasing my BMI (spoiler alert: Mama Burns did not disappoint). After reacquainting myself with the snooze button on my alarm for several weeks, it was time to scope out some medical schools in New York.
Fortunately, my brother moved there nine months ago, and even more fortunately, he ended up with a beautiful flat in Greenwich Village. He’s actually on Bleecker Street, which meant I was singing this song every time I came off the subway. Greenwich Village was basically the maternity ward of one major era of folk music, and when Papa Burns visited a few weeks ago it must have been a little like walking through his old 1966 record collection.
Though I wish I could have steeped myself in the history of my surroundings a bit more, I had done most of the touristy stuff on my last visit to New York a couple years ago (when I stayed with my brother’s best friend Rich and was introduced to some American pals who had met my brother a few weeks before; during my whole stay they solemnly and quietly referred to him as ‘The Loose Cannon’, a title whose origins I hesitate to delve into any further) and this time it was purely (well, mostly) business.
New York is just amazing, isn’t it? Okay, I know there are some of you reading this who have their own reasons for hating it, but you can’t deny the fact that New York is never disappointing. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Every street you walk down is like a postcard, every subway and taxi and skyscraper identical to the ones in the movies. Of course, as a just-what-you’d-expect caricature of itself, New York does also come with the stereotypically exorbitant prices, the occasional disgruntled New Yorker and a weird abundance of cockroaches. Still, I’d take it warts and all. After 8 years in the safe but sterile petri dish of Singapore, it’s a welcome change.
Brother Tommy and I also had a chance to see a gig while I was there. While English readers might scoff at my tardiness to the party, I’m only just now hearing about the folk wonder that is Jake Bugg. Citing references like Donovan, Cash but, strangely, not Dylan, you wouldn’t be surprised to find Bugg lean pretty heavy on the old Trad. folk stick with some of his songwriting. But it doesn’t end there, and we spectators were pretty blown away when, mid-set, the solemn little 18 year-old whipped out a Telecaster and start melting faces with some crazy solos. Somehow he manages to keep it all flowing smoothly, from slow acoustic ballads to kickdrum-thumping screamers. He really lays on the folk-hero moodiness between sets (making the occasional smile that much more heart-wrenching for the gaggle of wilting teenage girls standing beside us) but it’s tempered by the honesty and emotion of his lyrics.
“Country Song” in particular stood out for me (though apparently not to Bugg; he prefaced it with a description of nothing more than “So, this is an old one”) and I have pasted below. Let me know in the comments what you think, and if you get a chance, catch Jake Bugg (excellent free MP3 “Saffron” also available on his site) while he’s touring his new self-titled album.
In the meantime, I’ve got a bag of peanuts that needs to be opened and seat begging to be returned to its upright position. Have a fantastic 2013, and safe travels.