Liner writer Bobby 'Jazz Mind' Jackson has it perfectly encircled when he notes that E.J. Decker's work is a matter of "easy-going unpretentiousness…[with] the common touch…[and] an immediate likeability" 'cause that's exactly the way I felt upon hearing the very first cut, a great do-up of an obscure Tom Paxton gem, A Job of Work. That tune appears on Tom's Rambln' Boy and Ain't that News, and I could never quite discern whether he was gently satirizing the conservative ethos, expressing the paradox of the artistic mind as versus a Calvinist extreme, or admiring the hills mindset the track's narrator dwelled within. More importantly, I couldn't discern whether Paxton agreed with it or not. The same goes for Decker. Why did he choose to cover Tom's piece? I suspect for the same reason as Paxton: E.J.'s a prole and has the generosity of mind to empathize with the honest, if somewhat blind, sentiments of others just trying to get by.
I'm that way and have huge similar sympathies—I used to help build 747s and hated when I got dragooned into management tasks, which I was adept enough at but really just wanted to do my workaday part, get paid, go home, and avoid the hypocritical Upper Class bullshit I hated with a burning passion—so I immediately attach to work of this nature and get that feeling throughout this disc. Decker seems like the kinda cat who works in a steel mill, a cabinetry factory, maybe even a mine, and puts in a hard days work, then heads home to knock back a beer, throw on an LP, and sing along, figuring out the thematic and melodic variations as he goes. It might be that often lower register voice, distantly mindful of Paul Robeson, or it might be the unavoidably masculine atmosphere he can't help but occupy (again that honesty: ya gotta be what ya are), or perhaps it's the metropolitan Humanism that pervades his work.
Whatever it is, it fascinates because it melds the common with the exotic in a perfect cross of the urban mundane alongside an aesthetic that refuses to die, to blow away and occupy a ghostland. Instead, it waits patiently and then recurs whenever someone like Decker finally comes along. Born to Lose is perhaps the most perfect example. Delivered in a honky-tonk parlance that I can just see some good ol' boy regarding as "I don't quite know what he's doin' with that tune but I sure as hell like it!", and sitting down to listen. Think of it as the version that came from Texas and a jazzed-up hipster Willie Nelson instead of Georgia and Ray Charles. Then catch Everything I Have is Yours, where that good ol' boy and his beloved open range meet the metro blue collar and his concrete labyrinth, and the former is thunderstruck to realize all them Los Angeles cityslickers harbor the same pains, joys, secrets, and aspirations as Austin folk. What happens then? Well…this CD, that's what.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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