What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dirk Powell a few months ago on various topics. He's one of those thoughtful liberals who, in spite of his politics, has a traditionalist-leaning "front porch" personality. He wrote this timely song, and here are the words:

I went out late one night,
The moon and the stars were shining bright.
Storm come up and the trees come down,
I tell you boys, I was waterbound.

Waterbound on a stranger's shore,
River rising to my door.
Carried my home to the field below,
I'm waterbound, nowhere to go.

Carved my name on an old barn wall
Or no one'd know I was there at all.
Stable's dry on a winter's night,
You turn your head, you can see the light.

Black cat crawlin on an old boxcar,
Rusty door and a falling star.
Ain't got a dime in my nation sack,
I'm waterbound and I can't get back.

It's all gone and I won't be back,
Don't believe me, count my tracks.
The river's long and the river's wide,
I'll meet you boys on the other side.

So say my name and don't forget-
The water still ain't got me yet.
Nothing but I'm bound to roam,
Waterbound and I can't get home.

Comments (14)

OK, so this guy goes outside on a brightly lit night, only to encounter an unexpected storm, which knocks over some trees, & leads to a flood.

Said flood carries him away to a neigbor's property, while washing away his own place, leaving him homeless.

In an access of despair, he carves his name on an old barn wall, lest he be entirely forgotten.

And then...and then...well...ummm...

...beyond that point in the story, this might as well be *Finnegan's Wake*, for all I can make of it.

And then he's penniless, homeless, "bound to roam", amused that he survived the waters for reasons heaven only knows. As for the rest, you're supposed to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Isn't that how art often works?

Anyway, this isn't plainchant, where the music is crafted to serve the all-important text. With folk songs in general the music and the mood are primary: words are sometimes little more than an excuse, a pretext. So one can put lots of other melancholy stories to this music.

@ JC: are you really, seriously, under the impression that the highly polished commercial product which you embed here has something or other to do with "folk song?"

Good stuff, Jeff.

I played in a Celtic folk band for almost 10 years. This tune would not have been out of place in our repertoire, despite its Americana origin. As a matter of fact, one of the musicians in the band here looks like Aly Bain, the outstanding Shetland Island fiddler.

I think you're right about both the "filling in the blanks" and the lyrics being subservient in a way to the whole of the song. In this type of song the "impression" trumps the narrative, so to speak (which is of course not to say that more straightforwardly narrative songs are less valid).

Rob, I had no idea that you played in a Celtic folk band. I knew there was something else I liked about you. What instrument(s)? Is the group still together? Got any recordings?

The band is called Carnival of Souls and they are still together, although not playing as much as they used to. I played percussion with them and did the odd harmony vocal from 1992 - 2001. We did one CD in 1998, and they did a second one, sans yours truly, in the mid 2000's. The first CD is no longer available -- we did it privately and had only 1,000 made. They're long gone. We played mostly in the Pittsburgh tri-state area -- SW Pa., Northern WV and Western OH.

@JC: "As for the rest, you're supposed to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Isn't that how art often works?"

Not good art. To say nothing of great art.

Good or great art leaves nothing to the imagination? Steve, you're just plain nuts.

Thanks, Rob. Sounds like great fun. By the way, the Sacred Music Colloquium is coming up again next month at Duquesne. I won't be there this year, but my son will. I know you're Orthodox, but you still might enjoy attending one or two of their liturgies. Masses at the Church of the Epiphany. Here's some info: http://www.musicasacra.com/colloquium

JC: were I to argue that "good or great art leaves nothing to the imagination," then you might reasonably claim that I'm "just plain nuts."

Thanks, Jeff. I'll have to see if I can make it.

By the way, speaking of Orthodoxy and liturgy, this just came out -- looks very promising:


Many people know Rach's 'Vespers,' but his Liturgy is less familiar, and there haven't been many recordings of it.

"Good or great art leaves nothing to the imagination?"

Gotta agree with you there, Jeff. We engage our imaginations constantly when experiencing art, whether aural or visual. And of course what about poetry and fiction?

Rob G: Rachmaninov's *Liturgy* is certainly pleasant to listen to, but it's far from a major or characteristic work. Recommendable only to those who are addicted to the *Vespers* and want more (or, rather, less) of the same.

Agreed, Steve. His Liturgy is not up to the level of his Vespers, in the same way that Tchaikovsky's Vespers isn't up to the level of his Liturgy. The two versions of the Rach that I've heard didn't bowl me over, but I'm somewhat hopeful that this new one will at least grab me more than those did (if Vernier's review is any indicator).

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