Jim PAGE – Bill OSKAY – Mark ETTINGER – Scott LAW, Head Full Of Pictures.
FOLKPUNCH (Jim PAGE & ARTIS), After All This Time.
Circles always come around. All that begins, comes back to that same starting point. ,,The beginning is the end, the only place we can begin’’ the great British singer-songwriter Pete Morton stated in Love Me In Eden, one of his unforgettable tunes. We learned about Jim Page almost thirty years ago. No, not Jimmy Page, the guitar god from Led Zeppelin: that band has made a full turn in its own right. No, we mean the ,,protest singer’’ and busker from Seattle. It was the period he was living in Ireland but we didn’t know all that. It was the oustanding music specialist Fred Brouwers (that man should get a shrine in every Flemish musical center or venue, just like Marc Moulin in Walloon country and Brussels, the French speaking part!) who once more put us on his trail and that trail led us to the visionary Swedish label manager Tommy Rander.
Through Randers Nacksving label we learned to know, amongst others, Björn Afzelius, who died much too young kennen. He could be considered a Swedish counterpart of Bob Dylan. We also learned about Jim Page. The single Song For Leonard Peltier told enough: Page was a man who stood up for the injustly treated fellow man (nowadays Page treats on his site his personal experiences in the case of Peltier, but does not go into the core of the matter as this sad matter is amply documented on the net) We received two LPs that we have coveted up til now; they’re illustrative for the subjects that Page treats. In The Act (1980) and This Movie Is For Real (1982) have no mercy for the sick world weve inherited through politics and economics. The great Irish singer (and near icon!) Christy Moore still plays Page’s Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette dating from that period!
At a certain moment Tommy Rander disappeared from the radar screens and no one seems to know what happened to him. At that time Jim Page came once to Belgium. I knew about the concert, but family problems prevented me from going, and as they say, there’s always a next time. But no dice: Page went back to the States, back to Seattle, at that time a ,,provincial town’’ (except for Boeing and Bill Withers, who installed chairs into Jumbo’s, nothing much seemed to happen) There’s a great anecdote on Page’s site that illustrates the fact that in the seventies Seattle was merely a big village with the fitting mentality. Anyway, we didn’t get to hear from Page again. Seattle became big business and musically it exploded…Nirvana, but everybody knows that!
A few months ago our mail friend from Oregon, Laurie Childers, artist and singer-songwriter with one CD released (Are You Satisfied?; new work is to be expected soon), member of several bands and co-organiser of concerts, partly aiming at changing the opinions of brainwashed fellow Americans. In the past Laurie and her husband were signalled in the hot spots all over the planet, in an effort to do right for the mistreated. Their great concern is that it’s getting hard to bring their fellow citizens back to a level of normality after the amoiunt of brainwashing since the disastrous events of 9/11. Yes, there are such Americans and they are not exceptions. In fact, we only know such Americans! At the end of February they invited Noble Prize for Peace winner (1980) Adolf Perez Esquivel in tiny Corvallis, OR, to make a speech. The music is also at least in part for a better world.
Around the same time she mailed us about a concert in Corvallis by a certain Jim Page (,,Not Jimmy Page!’’) Of course she was surprised to hear that the man was by no means unknoiwn to us. So one thing led to another. During the stay of Page they had been talking about the ,,Belgian journalist’’. A few days later two signed CD’s of Jim Page (and his peers) dropped into our snail mail box! Meanwhile we’d been visiting the site and to our great pleasure we discovered that Jim had been busy all this time, continuing the work of the seventies and eighties, with the same commitment, the same will to fight injustice and abuse. Some things in life are still certain! Chances were that Page through the years had become a caricature of himself, but what I read about his stay and performance at Corvallis clearly showed that his intellectual sharpness and fiery pen were still intact. So we were very curious about the CD’s! Well, dear reader, it’s our great pleasure to tell you that his singer-songwriting, drenched in acid, is still going strong. The quote from Eugene Debs in 1917 on Head Full Of Pictures tells it all. It ends with ,,…and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation has ever been declared by the people.’’
The title of the first song of Head Full Of Pictures needs no further explanation. It was seldom was so clear: Petroleum Bonaparte! A in the old days, the song is one long bombardment of bare facts and misdemeanours, served with the assurance of one who knows he’s right to do so, dipped in a spicy salsa of word games, oneliners and double entendres. The illusion that a president can coninue lying to his people is blown to smithereens, although it seems the man will leave his office without major tribulations…which can’t be said of his country, as it will be left out with debts that every American (read: the poor) will be paying off for tens of years, for several generations in fact. Moreover it will make the States totally dependent of China and the oil producing and exporting countries, certainly the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. If at least we can have some conficence in the writings of the American Joseph E. Stiglitz (but the poor man is ,,only’’ Nobel Prize Winner Economy, and not an allmighty politician; Stiglitz is author of The Tree Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost Of The Iraq Conflict: we read pieces and surfed to Stiglitz’ homepage, but we’ll read it in full asap) At first glance the war hasn’t harmed the American tax payer, a case of classical machiavellism: people don’t move as long as you don’t touch their bank account, but the war has been financed through deficit spending. And that, dear reader, is likely to come back as a boomerang on the people who never wanted this war, Stiglitz states.
Of course tehre are more songs about ,,the war’’ on the CD. The title tune of Head Full Of Pictures tackles the trauma’s the veterans struggle with. There’s the rumbling of heavy artillery on the background. The link with Vietnam is clear. Those older veterans now are again in the cold, ,,thanks to’’ the Iraqi War. Andres Raya treats the case of one such a veteran who couldn’t cope anymore and went berserk, with all the dramatic consequences. Potentially there are a lot like him, an accident waiting to happen. Also listen to the nice mandolin playing in the song: one would tend to forget that good musicians are at work here. Something About Us points at the Abu Greib scandal. Page notes correctly that US soldiers still are ,,chasing Indians’’: in two centuries little has changed…
But the CD is much more than one long tirade against the biggest lie of this century…up ‘til now…Who knows what’s awaiting us? Page is a man of the here and now. That’s one of the ways to understand,,head full of pictures’’. On the other end of the line you’ll find one of the most beautiful, most refined ,,realistic’’ love songs we happen to know: If I Fall In Love With You Again. Or what do you think of the funny The Clone Song…What are indeed the possibilities when you copy yourself? Page sums it all up in a song he wrote to make himself laugh. ,,It worked’’ he says laconically in the liner notes. ,,You’re never alone with your clone: you can go out tonight and still stay home’’. You’re Naked Underneath Your Clothes (remember Sam the American Eagle!) and the seven minutes long Jesus And The Laughing Deity make the CD a whole lot easier to assimilate. This last song deals with what would happen if the suffering Christ would meet a Chinese deity who takes the job quite less seriously. Page still has this steel voice that shows little or no emotion but has that telling ironical twitch in it.
Head Full Of Pictures is essentially a CD by Page himself but he is assisted by Billy Oskay (fiddle, harmonium), his faithful bass player Mark Ettinger, Scott Law (mandolin, gitaar) and two guests. After All This Time is something else. That CD is made by Folkpunch, the flag under which the two buskers Jim Page and Artis (nicknamed The Spoonman) perform together. The two met in 1971, but it has taken up until this record before they also came together in the studio. The two present themselves in the liner notes and the pictures show them while amusing poeople on the street. Or vex them, like Artis recounts in To Inspire Dialogue: a lady accosts them while some fifty people are listening to their street performance. She boldly tells them they should be ashamed for they make ,,misuse’’ of freedom of speech. But no fear! She is…not afraid of them! Artis congratulates the lady, but the logical twist elicits a few downright remarks.
Page and Artis each bring their own songs, accompanied by the ,,cutlery’’ of Artis and of course the upright bass of Mark Ettinger. The war is an unavoidable subject like in the bone hard Who Pays For This War, but is a less imperative topic. Or should we say: this is more about the underdog biting away at the agressor, about the simple civilian who hasn’t got his eyes in his pocket. And that covers all aspects of daily life. They call it themselves ,,the language of Serious Fun’’. Columbus, Help!! Police!! (,,Who needs weapons of mass destruction when you got weapons of mass distraction?’’ That’s a good one?) and the hilarious Gays In The Military go right on target! For the spoon solo called 49 Years L8r, taking up some six minutes, one misses the visuals, but what the heck, amidst all this ,,craziness’’ the patter, rattle and clang isn’t unbecoming. At least it isn’t the roaring of guns!
Two CD’s we can recommend then. A veteran like Page coming out of his corner this strong made us suppose that more of the older singer-songwriters must be still going strong, without media or recor companies ever looking after them. But that’s what the internet is for, isn’t it? Danny O’Keefe, in our vision one of the greatest in the trade (a statement like Just Jones accompanies us for some thirty years now) sends us mailings regularly since a year or two. We got in touch. He’s still considering touring Europe. We also were curious about thé voice against the Vietnam war at the time of Woodstock, Country McDonald (everyone should know I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag) To our great surprise he’s not only just active as a singer, but he uses the net to bundle all forces in the struggle for the Vietnam veterans and against ,,the war’’ and the Bush administration. Surf to www.countryjoe.com and be amazed like we were! And don’t forget to take a look at the Fun With Gunz poll…Now THAT’s horror!
(Antoine Légat; original April 3rd 2008; this translation July 22nd 2008)