I’m very fortunate to number among my best friends for many years two of America’s greatest poets, Karen Kovacik and Jim McKelly. I recently learned from Karen that she’ll have a new book of poems published this summer.
A few years ago, Jim and I were having our traditional annual get-together while he was in town during late December visiting his parents and his sister’s family. He told me that I should go out and buy a couple of CDs from a group called Bright Eyes that had impressed him greatly.
I must have been absently nodding “yes” or being a little noncommittal, because Jim said, “Look at me and listen to what I’m saying. You have to get the CDs and listen to them. I don’t usually say anything like this about any band.”
That got my attention. He doesn’t usually say that about any band. And he does have the fact that he introduced me to Springsteen’s music as part of his track record.
So, I went out and bought two CDs: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground and Fevers and Mirrors. I even listened to them and I became a big fan. In fact, Bright Eyes (and the driving force behind it, Conor Oberst) impressed the heck out of me.
A few weeks ago, I heard from Jim asking if I had gotten the two new CDs from Bright Eyes, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. I made some comments about adding them to my Amazon Wish List and getting ready to buy them, but I felt a moral force coming from Jim that led me to get out there and get the CDs bought.
I’ve been doing a lot of listening and, once again, the songs impress me greatly.
Jim has been raving, in a low-key way, about the poetry of Oberst’s lyrics. The lyrics are indeed compelling, even haunting, but I’ve been struck by the music, which is difficult to describe, but both quite familiar and strikingly original at the same time.
I’ve tried to think of analogies, comparisons. Today, I was reminded of both Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed – which really means the Velvet Underground. There’s some Neil Young, especially the country-tinged Neil Young. But the analogies don’t quite work. There are elements that seem as traditional as American folk can get and yet elements that are strikingly unique and modern.
I’m also struck by the impact of some of these songs. They may sneak up on you. If you listened to one of these CDs, you might initially wonder what the big deal is. With a little patience, you will be pulled into a new world. There’s a song (I’m terrible with titles) that uses the world “wild” in the refrain. My immediate reaction, before the song was even half over, was that this song was a classic “wild” song, on the order of “Wild Horses” or “Ask the Angels.”
Cool stuff. And something to try if you are feeling that music today isn’t what it used to be and want to take a path less traveled, one where a very large talent walks with long strides.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]