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11 February 2012 @ 09:27 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #142: Josh Joplin Group "I Am Not the Only Cowboy"  
Usually there is an angle that comes to me when a song emanates from a listening device, reaches out to smack me in the face and demands its time in the sun as a Song of the Week. This week though there hasn't been one, there have been a couple that have almost reluctantly raised their hand politely and, while slowly pushing the dirt around with the tip of their toe, mentioned quietly that maybe they could be worthy of the honor.

They've all been from the Josh Joplin Group, but the couple albums I've been spinning regularly this week from JJG, 2000's Useful Music and 2001's The Future That Was, are steeped in brilliant songwriter and clever lyrics that almost anything could be chosen. Certainly there are favorites, but everything from these records have sounded so good that it's been a tough choice.

There's the aforementioned angle that is strangely missing. Usually when a song hits me there's an instant couple of things I want to discuss or point out whether it's lyrical or melodic, a tie to the past, etc. There are so many wonderful lyrical twists and turns of phrase that I love, magical little musical moments, and even a few cuts that never fully revealed themselves to me as they have until now, but how to attack it?

I pulled JJG off the rack because I wanted to listen to something different and asked my wife for a letter between A-M the other night and she picked "J" and while looking at the J's on the rack the JJG disc caught my eye and I remembered a lyrical connection to one of the songs while driving around my old hometown a few weeks ago while visiting my parents. So I popped Useful Music on and was reminded why I dug it so much when I first pulled it out to listen to in preparation of Josh's visit to Trans World back in 2000 when he chatted for a few minutes and performed a few songs in our lunch room (only slightly worse than the conference room performances on the list of artists least favorite places to perform) which was wonderful. I remember being struck by what he put into it, despite the conditions, and how it music flowed out of him. About 18-months later he'd perform again for Trans World in an intimate session which included a stunning performance of "I Am Not the Only Cowboy" that I will always remember.

"I Am Not the Only Cowboy"

And it starts like this we crave to be kissed
by a moment complete in its happiness
Far away from the things we wish to escape
that lead us to think we are not awake
We are ourselves despite ourselves
this place gets smaller as the universe swells
We come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually...

Literary references, twists of phrase, and thought provoking lyrics are a mainstay with Joplin's lyrics. His voice sounds like another famous vocalist, which he addresses in "Happy At Last," "I sound like Michael Stipe and I dream like Carl Jung, I look just like a show girl who sleeps with her makeup on."

But the lyrical melody of this track is wonderful and while his affection for convoluted lyrics almost trips him up, he gets it all down and it ends up rolling off the tongue:

And words are like weight with density and shape
modifying forms as they evaporate
You can choose the truth you can listen to light
you can lead the charge and still lose the fight
Far be it for me to claim anything
for I am just one in a state of being...
And so it ends as it begins as everything
that is infinite ascends
Into it's time all things pass all things fade all things last
You are yourself despite yourself
this world gets smaller as the universe swells...

And another favorite stanza from "Siddhartha's of Suburbia":

The future is a stereo that eats your favorite tapes
The soundtrack to your youth that cannot be replaced
So hold on to every song before they disappear
Your future's almost here...

More Josh Joplin:
Dutch Wonderland
I've Changed
Among the Oak and Ash new collaboration with Garrison Starr