Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
The day after The Traditionist's Joey Barro recorded this evening session with us in San Francisco, at Studio Paradiso, he had to make time north, up the coast of California to officiate the wedding of one of his siblings. It was to be a day of great spiritual importance, of two lives becoming like one life, as these ceremonious events and their homilies will usually ask us to believe. The marriage of two people, when it's supposed to take, when it's supposed to work, is meant to come when those two people have flushed out their most concerning self-queries, sussed out all of the shaky thoughts and ironed out all of the imperfections so that they are at a point to launch into a meaningful union with someone else, who has similar needs and desires, for what is supposed to be something like eternity. It's supposed to be a partner who takes the other through decades and decades of bumps, thumps and triumphs, through a hopefully long life that ends long after the wrinkles have set in and the steps have slowed down to creeps and crawls. It might just be a misconception that there's ever adequate time for anyone to really figure anything out to a point where there's satisfaction and a sigh of relief, as if to think, "One less thing. Now, what's next on the list of puzzlements?" With such a finite handful of time to mess around with, that anyone could ever know him or herself enough to then begin anew learning about and deciphering someone who is not him or herself is a preposterous avalanche of an idea. Still at the end of our individual time here - when the plays our quarters credited for us have been wiped out to nothing, we've just barely scratched the surface. For Barro, this is both very bothersome and very therapeutic, as he uses The Traditionist to delve into these multi-layered dimensions of knowledge and personal philosophy and severed enlightenment. He's gentle with his time and his assessments, never allowing the enormity of the subjects to get him heated, as if he were just going around and around in circles like everyone else, finding conclusions continuing to recede into the distance almost as if they were hallucinations. He sings about hell and something that must be heaven, on occasion, but he mostly sings about that's happening before that - perhaps the determining factors if those two places do happen to exist for the masses after those final breaths. On "Pet Elephant," there's a pachyderm on his shoulders and a monkey on his back and there is enough imagery of fleeting moments and the idea of passing through them, good and gone, to make you feel as if you're caught in some epic epiphany. There's a thought that the ocean and her winds will blow, as if in response to our questions and the fluttering hisses and thrushing will spill the hidden codes and tell us once and for all why we're here. Barro sings, "Oooo, what are you looking for and who are you looking for and why are you looking?" as if it's somewhat futile, as if the signs will rustle your hair and make themselves known when they're damn well supposed to. It's useless to force the words, to force the reasoning when it's so blithe and so obstinate. It will be what it will be and it will show when it's perfectly ready so don't prepare for it, just do as Barro does and swing through the concoctions with the thought that it's all fuzz.