“Folk music is enjoying another of its periodic revivals, but this time the latest recordings are appearing on cutting-edge indie labels...”
Back with a head still overflowing with the beaches and buses, streets and markets of Nicaragua. They say you have to go back to a place to know it for the first time. This trip almost exactly ten years since the first, to many of the same places and some new ones, and despite the bittersweetness of return to a region no longer waiting to be discovered (now full of real estate offices, ex-pats walking their gringo dogs, shouting and chiding their gringo dogs away from the disgusting things dogs eat and back to the mansion on the hill, white kids looking for a new Spring Break), despite all this nothing registers even approaching disappointment. It helps of course to be with the one you love, and to find her the excellent traveling companion you desired. Still the beginnings of a complex nostalgia, compounded greatly listening to this.
1) Sugar Baby
3) O Death
Only temporarily. Download them all here, or purchase a CD. I used to know Sam, and I hope he doesn't mind.
What to say about these songs?
There was this guy staying in the hostel where Hans and I once stayed, hanging our hammocks ten years ago (it took a while to find it, now). He was like a ghost from my own past. Long-haired, pleasant features, maybe as old as 22 or more likely less. Lonely. Smoking. Shy. His presence in town both calmed and upset me. It wasn't as simple as that he reminded me so much of us, then, because he was different too. A bit more tragic, maybe. He was lonely, most obviously, but quick with a conspiratorial smile. A potentially open smile, out of practice (it seemed to get stuck on his face), fiercely-willing-to-go-with-you-as-an-equal, but equally shy, bemused inner-looking smile. Maybe this was not his smile.
I couldn't talk to him. Something proudly defiant lingering behind his eyes. The deliberately living sort–will there always be those? Yes, they can make far too pretty films of any book, but it won't change the desire for independence and travel in certain complicated people. Desire for these combined with an older-fashioned cultivation of interiority, that inward-churning and burrowing that almost always appears as some out-of-place asceticism now. From the look of his tan at least two months in the region, probably anticipating more. Unless, that is, the loneliness became too much.
Why fixate on the loneliness? We saw him only one other time. Walking holding each other in the dark street. Trying to pretend we didn't even notice all the other gringo couples. What were they doing there? Don't look at them. Don't listen to them, so loudly in German giving a bad name to something that was once original there, in a town once legitimately its own–a fishing town–and not a town with a gringo zone along the water, interrupted at night by the terrible musicals orchestrated just for them. They couldn't ruin the experience for us, the other gringo couples, no matter how unsubtle and mediocre they were, no matter what soundtrack was being played just for them.
I didn't notice him until we'd almost past, he was such a part of the shadows of the street, just strolling by himself and smoking. A very brief and strange moment of regret, of suspected or projected mutual curiosity, of having told him how I'd been there earlier (while snapping pictures of the room) and then not having asked about his life at all. Mostly what I sensed as we passed each other in the street was a change in his gaze–although again maybe it was entirely projected–a change from inner-gazing and contented, or at least familiar loneliness to something else, more like shameless and fierce envy. But lasting only for a Nicaragua second.
These songs evoke a melancholy so sober and mature and open-hearted; I like them even more than Bonnie "Prince" Billie. Quality work, Sam. Three cheers (and numerous back-slaps) for the new Folk Revival.
To be updated...