Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
David Wax of the David Wax Museum has already done well to convince us that he's a tremendous fellow. We've heard from old friends from Missouri that he literally has a day named after him, though we've not been able to verify this information at press time. Proof of his goodness was witnessed firsthand when he and Suz Slezak visited the Horseshack just as the autumn was turning chilly and moving right into wintertime. He pulled out of his bag, at the conclusion of the taping, a knitted stocking cap that was still connected to a roll of yarn. He had a gift for us and he wanted to make sure that it fit before he snipped the string hanging on to its edge. It fit, snugly, just the way you'd like your winter hat to fit, and he handed it over with a grin after clipping the yarn off and stuffing the leftover yarn back into his bag. Now, that's a gesture, even if a gesture wasn't needed. A week later, in the mail, came a nice, custom-made thank you note with Suz's signature at the bottom. These are the kinds of people we're dealing with here: generous and caring folks. They sound as such on their records as well, albums that blend the difference between a smaller staffed Calexico and the Bowerbirds, cutting into souls (made up and very real) and extracting heartache that sounds like rejoicing and vice versa. Wax sings something like, "Dry your heart out like venison and hang it on a clothesline," and it sounds much less gruesome than it reads. It kind of sounds like a lovely thing to have done, some form of cleansing, a ringing out of the problems and the stains, a new beginning, or a death to it. That's always what it could mean as well, a drying and a salting and seasoning, though all of the effort would be for an inedible or unwanted piece of jerky. There is a concern for the heart in the songs of the David Wax Museum, a great concern. It seems as if there's nothing more important to protect than that beating rock inside. If Wax could knit a bulletproof stocking hat to guard every heart from evil, he might take that challenge and make his fingers bleed with those needles. There are jalopy hearts that are spoken of, and others, many of which - no matter how they're referred to - carry all kinds of baggage and tend to have weary, weary rings under their eyes. They droop and they sag. They feel the weight of much, being as dinged up as they are. We're given a chance to hear them as the slightly sunken tombs, though their tales are sung with fondness. It's not sad that they've come to be what they've become. Most of it was inevitable and justified, we get the feeling. It's what hearts are meant to be exposed to and some take it better than others. As Wax sings on "Born With A Broken Heart, "Some of us come with new hearts/Most of us come with used hearts/Baby, why do you look so sad?"