Sunday, September 7, 2008

Along "The River" and beyond

Well, to answer a question that I asked a few weeks ago, I think I've found at least one new artist committed to the art of R&B: Noel Gourdin.

Gourdin, to me, sounds a bit like a more-refined Eddie King, Jr. His first single, "The River," is something like the epilogue to the "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," thus it was no surprise to learn Otis Redding was one of Gourdin's inspirations as a singer.

I'm a big fan music that comes from the chest, and hearing Gourdin reminds me of the best singer in your church choir. Or maybe the subject matter of "The River" captured my fancy, being that it's all about those things - the mighty Mississippi, the complex relationship with race, family gatherings after church - that make the South special to me.

(I'll note here that while listening to snippets of his album on iTunes the other night, the First Lady of False Hustle noted it seemed as if Gourdin used up all his best material for the "The River." And, yeah, his album was definitely a little uneven. It was also weird to learn that he was from Massachusetts.)

To expand on that thought, I have to say "The River" made me think about our societal shift away from rural communities to large metropolitan areas. That's sad, if only because I think there's some value in maintaining a connection with our country cousins. Most of my family comes from places like Pine Bluff, Ark., and Kerrville, Texas, which are mostly stopover towns on the highway to larger cities. But many of my enduring memories and lessons came from visits to my relatives in these out-of-the-way locales.

This isn't some silly conservative spiel about "real people" in "real places" but more a rumination about the things that keep us all grounded: the love of family; the friendliness of neighbors; the utter lack of pretension; the sense of connection with a community.

Trust me, I'm not giving it all up to move back to the country - I like to think of myself as "cosmopolitan" trending toward "uppity." But it'd be nice if my unborn sons (Denmark and Hannibal, are the preference if you were wondering) could have the same sort of experience as the generations of Blackinks that preceded them.

So, to close, big fan of "The River." See where good music can take you?


Librachick said...

I love and hate this song. I can't quite figure out why. It's definitely got an old school feel to it and I like the nostalgic lyrics and feel, but I'm not surprised at all that the album isn't that hot.

blackink said...

Yeah, I felt like you at first. I sort of resisted it on the initial hearing.

But over time, it sort of grew on me. I think, more than anything, it just reminds me of my kinfolk.