Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We had a young fellow in the studio yesterday who had just had a scary run-in with some black ice on a Colorado highway. He'd flipped his big, Sprinter-sized, white van, rolled it and somehow not broken a bone, a cello or a window. It all seems so at odds with general logic and physics, but it all happened, just as we described it to have happened. He cleaned the dirt out of his merch box, got his axel fixed and he was back on the road, with just a touch of a sore spine. He's thinking that it's nothing to worry about because it doesn't hurt too badly. He's probably right. He told us that he came away from the accident with a newfound appreciation of the power of the road. He now behaves differently when he's behind the wheel. He was shaken out of his previous mindset and insists upon being safer now, though there's nothing in his visible demeanor that would suggest that he would ever act recklessly while operating a motor vehicle. Something about this coulda-been-much-worse topple made him start to value -- we're led to believe - himself more. It's not at all selfish and what it's likely tied to is that in valuing himself more, he's really just looking out for the people who love him, those who would have had to grieve for him. He might now want to remind more people that he loves them simply because they should hear it, if it's true. If he's got someone special waiting back home for him, he might think of them in a different way. Mostly, he still thinks about how much he loves them, but even more now, he might think about how much he doesn't want to not be able to tell them that, to not see them, to be pulled from them.
Indiana native Andy Zipf, a songwriter who now lives in Northern Virginia, seems like a writer who could have had one of these unfortunate episodes, a wreck that rattled his clarity clearer and he's now fixed on those things that give him the greatest warmth. He sings about the fortunes of finding a good and gracious woman. It seems like an easy thing to do - find that one person out there who is unconditionally yours and you theirs, to find such purity in another - but it's harder than anyone cares to believe. Most everything tends to find this out, just at different paces. His songs are pinnacles to what amounts to easy goodness, to that which we can have if we just let ourselves. He sings of towns that have rusted, that have been whipped, but a proud chin remains on them. They remain hearty and the people who live there stay resolute in spite of it all. All of his songs are about people and the ways in which they've come to appreciate what they have. There are the sad wilting thoughts of what's not had, but it's more about being happy to have that gracious and good woman there with you to share dinner and a family with. It's hard to ever find much more to be thankful for than that. He writes about dying on the vine of old promises and impatience on "What More Can I Say," one of the best songs we've heard all year, with a Paul Simon heart and soul in it, and despite the sentiment of wonder and of resigned effort, it comes off feeling as if this too will work out if treated like a marathon. The slow and steady finishes the race and in the completion, there's an awful lot of winning.