Blesok no. 97, July-August, 2014
In the Name of Cohen
Wandering through the wastelands of internet I came across an excellent tribute album, young Canadian scene pays homage to the Bard. It opens up with Mark Berube addressing Cohen to wish another farewell, as if there could ever be enough of them, to Lhasa de Sela.
Enough for me to take a journey down the road of snow and tears. It’s not the end of December, I haven’t seen snow in over three years, yet I still feel like a line out of that winter song.
It was on the first of January that Lhasa left. She struggled for a long time with cancer, recorded an album while fighting the disease. Her tour went on, there was nothing pointing to how things will end. There was a widely circulated rumor that her upcoming album would be made up of songs written by Victor Jara. I was overjoyed, a heroine singing words of a hero. If it only came true. It was the first of January, 2010 when she died. She was 37 years old, just as I am now, as I write this. I’m trying to recall the first time I heard her, or if she sang in French, English or Spanish. The words fail me, I cannot remember. But I do know what I remember her by, what heart longs to hear first… That perfect farewell number, that polished crossing of the rope, from one coast to the other, from life to death, from everything to nothing, from what cannot be endured to the brand new beginning, that farewell duet preformed with Stuart from Tindersticks, that leaving feeling… That Leaving Feeling – that is the song, that is my Lhasa. What climax is realized when she sings: so go and pet your kids and kiss your dog goodbye…” Or maybe it’s the damned trumpets that do it. So go ahead, and try not to cry.
If he were ever to hear Shylingo, I’m sure our Bard would, true to his style, use his own poetry to conclude: “…this must be my double…”.
Shylingo, a Tim Gibbons‘ album which good old friend Feđa brought to Mostar from Paris, delighted all of us, heroes of tightly rolled joints, children of morning to come, Cohen’s children. Marko and I were convinced for the longest time that Gibbons indeed is Cohen himself. That it is his secret name, a made up name a madman has, from whatever reason, adopted for Shylingo. But the truth is even more romantic.
The story of Gibbons’ first solo album begins to unravel somewhere around 1996. In abandoned ruins of an old mexican porn theatre, in Los Angeles, Mark Howard and Daniel Lanois put together a recording studio. Gibbons joined them. They were working on a Bob Dylan album Time Out of Mind. At night, when exhausted Lanois leaves the studio, Howard would talk Gibbons into playing for him whatever material he had. By using the top quality music equipment set for Bob Dylan and his band, Gibbons with Howard’s help recorded Shylingo. Later they produced the score for a fantastic Billy Bob Thornton film, Sling Blade, for which they also used Tim’s songLonely One from just recorded Shylingo. Thornton fell in love with the song.
Gibbons, bluesman and old drifter, soon left that scene. He is a man more complex than I first took him for, thinking he will go on to re- create more albums like the one I fell in love with. Like I didn’t know Shylingohappens once in a lifetime, or the road has no end.
On the album When the Wolves Go Blind, Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury use up the road as if they, themselves, need to get to Phoenix as soon as possible. Together, as Twilight Hotel, they made two albums, last one, When the Wolves Go Blind, being an absolute masterpiece. Dave plays guitar and is a vocal, while Brandy plays the rest of the instruments and sings. From beginning to end of the album you will feel like a character from Cohen’s song I Can’t Forget, the one who woke up and realized his only salvation is to get into a car and drive, drive until Panamericana runs out, until summer gives up and cheating on autumn calls on winter, the one who all the time asks himself what it is he cannot remember and what he cannot afford to forget…
From the very first to the last song Twilight Hotel will grip you tightly, through the desert and frozen towns, you will enjoy the ride and think of nothing but films and endless roads. That is just how it goes when the wolves go blind.
It snowed for two days straight when Lhasa left, January first, and January second. She was thirty seven, and she never shared the stage with the Bard of Montreal. And he still watches over us, who are confused and betrayed, us who hoped that cards delt will be better, (and) rules of the game more clear.
Never united, yet as if created by one and the same almighty God of poetry… and who by fire, who by water, and who by his hunger…