June 25, 2012

Tired Ghostly Town

I stole Al Scorch's hamburger down in Alabama. We were drunk, or I was, and that damned thing was just sitting for there for hours and hours in a styrofoam box. I kept looking at it, wanting it. I figured somebody ordered it when they were stoned and then they forgot. I grabbed the bag of chips when nobody was looking. All night there were these two women sitting right by the hamburger, talking. Finally they took off. I left the bun and ate the meat on the back patio of the Bottletree, greatest backstage on earth. Later, Scorch complained that someone stole it, and I confessed. He said that's the kind of thing that leads to fistfights on tour. But he would've done the same thing, he said.  

Al Scorch is from Chicago. He's been making music and touring ever since he was 18, about eight years. He spilled gravy all over himself in my car and said, "This isn't the first time I've been covered with gravy in Alabama." The left earpiece on his glasses was broken off, so his glasses sat crooked on his face. He wore a beard. In Memphis, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and in Birmingham, he stepped out on stage and stood alone and played banjo and sang with a lot of passion. Sometimes he played fast, sometimes slow and quiet. The beer was free all weekend. I thought I understood the words Scorch was singing, but then, at the end of the tour, I gave him one of my books, and he gave me a record, and I took it home and listened to it and realized I had the lyrics all wrong. The song I thought was about cancer was about a whole lot more than that. It's got a killer melody and it goes, "If there ever comes comes a great reckoning, the world will burn a dollar at a time."

Tired Ghostly Town went right into heavy rotation, an early contender for best album of the year. It's not solo like the shows I saw down in Alabama. Eleven musicians on washboard, shakers, bass, mandolin, spoons, violin, acoustic guitar, clarinet, accordion, trumpet, Hammond organ and lots of pretty singing. Scorch used to play in punk bands and you can hear that some big-city anger and muscle in this record, too. He spends a few months a year in the Deep South, writing songs. All weekend he wore a wife beater with a light blue shirt over it, sleeves rolled up. Says he's been making a living off nothing but music for the better part of the last year, though that includes a little church work. He's funny as fuck.

I spun this biscuit for my wife last night and she made me play it again. Snag it from Al Scorch his self. 

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