A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tunesday 3: The Works, by Johnatha Brooke

Jonatha Brooke, The Works

This week's Tunesday allows me the chance to sing the praises of this amazing CD. Jonatha Brooke is a fabulous singer/songwriter in her own right who doesn't combine more songwriter than singer in that label. But in this CD, she travels new ground.

Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie, allowed Jonatha into the archives of his songs, and from these Jonatha created thirteen songs by adding music. This entire album creates a fascinating arc of the lyrics of this seminal artist and poet, whom I would love even if he wasn't an Okie. The fact that he was and is an Okie makes this CD resonate even more forcefully with me, perhaps.

Favorite songs from this CD include "New Star," a deceptively simple meditation on eternity and love; "There's More True Lovers Than One," a fascinating uptempo extended metaphor of the sea and shore for which we all long; "King of My Love," a 5/4 update of the idea of the gambling we do in life; and "Madonna On the Curb," a song that breaks my heart in its truth:

On the curb of a city pavement, by the ash and garbage cans.
In the stench of rolling thunder of motor trucks and vans,
There sits a little lady with brave but troubled eyes,
And in her arms a baby that cries and cries and cries.
She cannot be more than three, but the years go fast in the slums,
And hard on the pangs of winter's cold, the pitiless summer comes.

The wails of sickly children she knows, she understands,
The pangs of puny bodies, the clutch of small hot hands.
The deadly blaze of August that turns men faint and mad,
She quiets the peevish urchins by telling of dreams she had.
Of heaven with its marble stairs, and ice and singing fans.
And God in white, so friendly there, just like the drug store man.

On the curb of a city pavement by the ash and garbage cans.
In the stench of rolling thunder of motor trucks and vans,
There sits a little lady with brave but troubled eyes,
And in her arms a baby that cries and cries and cries.
So when you're giving millions to Belgian, Pole, and Serb,
Remember my beautiful lady, MADONNA ON THE CURB.


Here is a video about the making of the album:


This CD is truly a work of art, and I have already bought several copies for my friends. If you are already familiar with the work of Woody Guthrie, this will lead you in a new and evocative direction. If you know Jonatha Brooke, this is a must-have for your collection.

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3 Comments:

At 1/27/09, 8:16 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I have loved Jonatha Brooke since I discovered her as part of her first gig, The Story. She is a staple in my music collection.

 
At 1/27/09, 2:02 PM, Blogger pamsterish said...

I am coming out from lurking to be the third to rave about this album. I'm a music teacher (elementary) and this has been stuck in my head so often I have been thinking about how to incorporate it in my classes.

 
At 1/28/09, 3:28 AM, Blogger MISA said...

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