Though I'm an Angeleno transplanted from Worcester, Mass., I am, I confess, a dyed-in-the-dust desert rat and have spent my most cherished moments, my vacation months, in the red rock Colorado Plateau/Four Corners region, Grand Canyon, Anza-Borrego, Joshua Tree Monument, and anywhere there's lotsa no bipeds and plenty of open space, more time indeed than I can count. It must add up to years, and so I automatically take to anyone who chronicles places like Barstow, Victorville, Kern County, Lancaster, and Sweet Bernadine (San Bernardino) because they're the human side of the arid equation, the halfway point between the madness of metropolis and the serenity of nowhere. They possess, however you care to look at it all, an undefinable something one will never find in city folk. Rick Shea's not only one of those California / SouthWest people, he's their emotional and psychological cartographer.
Sweet Bernardine is a folk / country / soft rock / troubadour CD, the bulk of which was written by Shea, with a couple of classics by Hank Williams and Roy Acuff, and if you want to access its soul right away, throw on the third cut, Gregory Ray DeFord, and prepare to have your heart torn out in frustration, anger, and sympathy. Shake It Little Sugaree is a blues, but it's internal Harlem is down home Bakersfield, and the tale is one J.J. Cale might well have told. There's also more than a little David Bromberg in Shea, not to mention elements of Skip Spence.
Here's what I'm talking about. Every shot you see in this video is far more appealing to me than any damned city I've ever lived in, maybe you too:
…and I have to say the ambiance is very reminiscent of places like Tucson too, old Tucson, not the modern metropolis bourgeois shithole it's turned into, like Phoenix and too many formerly homey locales. Hell, even Vegas used to be an interesting place, outside the Mafia gambling hell, a few decades ago, and that's precisely the kind of trip Shea's work takes you on, a John Muir-ish/Edward Abbey gig, warm, human, crusty, experienced, and more than a little sad. Damn! I'm starting to sound like my grandfather! I blame Shea. And if you're wondering, like I am, whatever happened to Dracula, listen to Mariachi Hotel.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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