A few years back (ok, at least a decade now). I used to travel home on the holidays from my not-so-sleepy college town to the backwoods where I grew up. As you can tell from some of my brother’s posts on the area’s characters and atmosphere, it exerts a pull on you. And it exerted a pull on me: I would come home for each holiday break and return to the places I had been before. Every time I left, the pull of gravity gained upon re-entry almost tore me apart.
If you grow up in one place and one house your home town (or neighborhood) reigns mythic in your mind whether you leave or stay. For my brother, the nature of the place that nourished us has become a defining feature of his identity; for me, leaving it has been as definitive. When I was younger, every time I returned and left home was like the re-opening of a festering wound.
For a while, I always returned to the home of my best friend, the Lead Singer, where, with his help, I obliterated my sorrow chemically. This is not a sob-story or a point to trade drug-narratives, but a simple statement of fact. While we were pointedly not talking about the widening gulf between us, the anxieties of accepting our meager places in the world, or the challenges of trying to be something greater, we talked about music.
Or, rather, he talked about music and I listened. While our taste in music was often similar and while I too often only learned of music from him, there were many cases earlier in our lives when I just dismissed his suggestions. But something about the desperation of my homecomings and the chemical disintegration of barriers made me his avid audience in these years.
I don’t know how, but I had never heard of Nick Drake until the Lead Singer made me listen to Way to Blue on one of those snowy evenings. I promptly bought every album I could. We started listening to the Dandy Warhols and other similar artists. But the real gift I received during one of those visits was the Dirty Three.
The Dirty Three is a band only for the lack of a better descriptive term. An instrumental trio comprised of drums, guitar, and violin, this Australian group has the most unique and memorable sound of any vaguely popular music outfit from the past twenty years. The violin is electrified with a jumped-up guitar pick-up (famously on a lark way back in 1992/3 by the violinist Warren Ellis); the guitar plays rhythm and lead riffs. The drummer borrows from jazz, rock and all-comers.