A Good Song for Friday: “Charley Patton Songs”

This song possesses some quality – jangly, halting, jumping back and forth between keys and rhythms – that puts it on the verge of musical collapse in places. And yet it is a truly and beautifully polished piece, one that I keep coming back to again and again.

It means even more to me because I first heard it in a record store in Auckland, playing over the PA system. I approached a clerk to ask who it was. “Gomez, from Britain” he said. And hearing those jarringly familiar place names – New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville – listed that way made me realize how much I missed and longed for my homeland. If that seems overly patriotic or sentimental to you, all I can say is, yes, it does to me at the moment as well. But try living in Ha’apai for two years, hear this song, and then we’ll talk.

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