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Happy Birthday, Everybody!

In the studio w/Shemekia Copeland & her manager John Hahn

From last night: I’m off in a corner of the house, what’s now called the front office (formerly our son’s room), foregoing the usual evening noise of television “entertainments.” I am having a little wine . . . good for the blood, my great-grandmother Oxford used to say—I remember the meager bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill stored in her fridge door. She and my great grandfather attended the Methodist Church. Therefore, strictly: one glass per day. A small juice glass. I remember her funeral—actually only one part: when a group of ladies from their church, whose median age must’ve been about 85, tore into Rock of Ages, a cappella. I was pretty young and I tell ya, I’d never heard anything like that before. When I think about it now, what it lacked in harmonic precision (plenty), it made up for in the sheer power of their being there, for a while longer by-the-grace-of-God go I, standing up and singing their sister home with what was left of the thinning yellowed paper timbre of their voices.

It’s odd—that feeling of crossing an invisible threshold on a certain day—it happens to everybody, long as you’re living, but it’s always such an individual inside thing, that low bell tolling in the bones that only you can hear, when it’s your birthday. And time passed comes back around often, throwing all kinds of memory shards to your mind’s five senses. Time’s a trickster, though, for sure—most of what comes back is either factually incorrect and/or sensuously incomplete. I had one the other day—I saw something on a screen and it triggered an olfactory memory—but not enough to “get” the whole thing back. Irritating, but sweet like sadness is sweet. The deep ache down there in your joy. Like inevitably incomplete dreams in which you feel so close to someone, some thing, so far away . . . then you wake up. To the blesséd familiar: you’re overdrawn, the dryer is doing that thing again, is it garbage and recycling pickup today, or just garbage?

And awake I am, grateful for every day just to be here, but wanting ever more than merely being. How did Ezra Pound say it . . . “we have one sap and one root/let there be commerce between us”? And he wasn’t talking business. I feel like I’ve been in this damn/lovable house for 4 years. Which isn’t true, exactly, but: I’ve been home a lot. I think about it, and start imagining a strange spatial arithmetic—square footage divided by hours spent, etc. etc. Ha. Two years of pandemic fun-time, a year of the Big C diagnosis and treatment, and I spent last year catching up on things I’d let drop previously, and psychologically just trying to get back to the surface. And I’ll be catching up for a while. So, greetings, 2024; who knows what’s coming, but please: bring it. My goal for this year is to continue to grow younger, despite the count of the years belying it. I have a new record almost ready. Still a lot of steps ahead, but we’re getting there. (The pre-sale for the new album starts very soon!) I’m not done, dammit. I’m not done. That was my mantra on the radiation table. I hope you’ll hang on, friends, to find out what’s coming. I hope we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

I have learned to play age in my favor—to use experience to my advantage. It’s a subtle thing, but the older I get, the more acute my bullshit detector becomes. The blade grows sharper with usage. But with that experience comes cynicism—“oh, this crap again”—which helps my anxiety when facing familiar challenges or toxic human behavioral patterns but does nothing positive for my outlook towards the world. Its own brand of blindness. So: I run, every other day, to keep the devils at bay, weather permitting—a couple of miles, nothing too heroic. I’m definitely not an example of what Alabama artist Mose Tolliver used to call “exercise mens.” But I am trying to do better, and to do what I can to keep the physical animal a-going, and all else. 

So, thanks for being here, in real life or otherwise. I appreciate you being witness to the good stuff, and the not so. Hope to see you out there this year–



One Response to Happy Birthday, Everybody!

  1. Marie Farrell April 17, 2024 at 8:07 am #

    Ahhhh, Kevin…I just read your “birthday greetings” and year begining thoughts. .only a week after seeing you again in Fort Dodge. So glad you are doing well and back out performing. You have a great heart and mind, that comes through in your songs ….the intelligence that shines through the poetry lives in the strumming of your guitar… your song about the pandemic will be a piece of my heart forever, an anthem to my beloved husband..the thoughts and fears he and I shared before he was taken by the virus…and reminds me of that great, awful time when he and I were confined in quarantine…we talked, and loved, much…we stood, holding each other tight, without speaking almost every time we passed one another in the kitchen…fear and love knitting themselves into our bones. Your song has made a safe place for me to return to those days, and see them for the treasure they were…we feared time was short, but we stood tall, together and made minutes, years. Thank you for your life’s energy coming out of my speakers into my heart ??

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