Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The other day, there I was buying the same coffee beverage I buy every time I sit down to write at the same coffeehouse that I sit down to write at every time I do such a thing and two of the baristas were chatting amongst themselves behind the machines and register. The heat wave around these parts had subsided a bit from the past week and the quote hanging in the air between them, as they calculated the taxation on my drink was, "I cannot wait for fall. It's almost football season." These two girls were beside themselves thinking about the splendor of football, of all things, and what that sensation would mean for their spirits, but mostly it must have been a conversation about the associative properties of a time of year that ensconces football season, cause hell, it's just football and who gives a crap? We should really be talking about the attraction to bonfires and the smell of smoke circulating from a pile of fallen leaves or chopped logs, filling the neighborhood with the aroma of autumn, not football. We should be talking about feeling the days getting shorter and shorter and the skin needing to be covered up again, after all these many months of not needing such a thing, of feeling the next best thing to being naked and fearless.
We should be talking about the Denver, Colorado, band Paper Bird and how great it goes along with autumn and the new spectrum of colors that suddenly takes over. If we were to poll them on a favorite season, we're betting on the one that's upcoming - the one that happens to include football, but not exactly because it does. Paper Bird goes along with combines and other farm implements chasing freaked out deer, foxes and pheasants from cornfields. It goes along with homemade ice cream, cider, corn wine and roasting pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet in the oven. It goes along with the satisfied relaxation and conversation that comes well after sundown when the little ones have been tucked off to bed and the work is finally done. It feels as if it's coming to us from way back when, when there were party lines joining the farm houses in an entire rural community and there was hell to pay if you got grass stains on your "good" blue jeans.
The band takes us into the heart of merriment that can come from gorgeous voices blended so sweetly and from music so timeless that you lose all track of time listening to it, over and over again, lost in thought and feeling as if you're underdressed. This is music that comes from a place in time when the bank came and took the farm when the fields didn't yield well enough, thanks to a drought or a merciless hailstorm. This is music that comes from a place when no one you or anyone else you knew had any money. Those people with money were the people you'd never meet and you certainly never trusted. Ingrained in the music of Paper Bird are the emotions of unbearable feeling, of feeling like you can burst because you have cares and worries, but they're not at all more consuming than your joys. Your joys win and Paper Bird are all about these joys - the kinds that come from a different age.
*Essay originally published August, 2010