I've mentioned that I once caught David Wilcox at a Hermosa Beach community theater with Toulouse Engelhardt (and, hoo-boy, doesn't that double bill make the mouth water?) having heard his How Did You Find Me Here? only a couple weeks earlier. I was struck by the highly personal tone of his work, his amiable voice, and the continuation of the folk/troubadour tradition. What I hadn't known, because you can't detect it on recordings, is what an incredible technician he is on his instrument (guitar). I've never in my life seen any musician re-tune his axe so swiftly and adroitly. Practically every song, he was re-pitching his six-string axe within a minute's time. I play a little guitar and can't even attain standard tuning without the aid of a pitch pipe, and here this guy was performing complicated switchovers with no more sweat than tying his shoes. After the gig, I of course went home and turned my axe into toothpicks. That way, it served a much better function than my own bland attempts at sonic artistry. Sometimes, it's the seeming 'little' things that make us really pay attention.
The central theme to Blaze is We Came to Ride the Road, a cut about bicycling and living in the moment, the be-here-now zen of just living without all the Madison Avenue nonsense we've become so immersed in, something, myself a hiker, I can easily identify with. I know exactly what he's writing about. However, where I tend to favor soloing, Wilcox is more the shared-experience kinda cat in the aesthetic beneath it all. Both cases, however, are the same: beauty, the exhilaration of just being alive, and the connection between mind, spirit, and body, a difficult thing for Las Vegas/cruise-line/Club-Med type careering watch-the-clock people to understand (uh, the point of a vacation, y'all, is to NOT pamper yourself on vacation, but to get a little closer to the earth, to rough it a bit; you pamper all too much the rest of the year anyway).
But there's a profounder philosophy in Single Candle, a cut about MLK Jr. but even more basically about, to put it in Dave's words, "making peace with how little each one of us can do", and, lord lord lord, isn't THAT a lot on my and your mind of late, too much so perhaps. Though no one would accuse Wilcox of being a Michael Franks, this is perhaps his somberest release. There are upbeat bouncy tunes, Bail My Boat and etc., but the overriding underlying sentiment is, again in Dave's words, "this unstoppable current of each human heart yearning for a better day". Makes ya wonder, after what we're told have been 400,000 years since homo sapiens made his appearance on the scene, why we're still so savage, so easily duped, so duplicitous, and so damnably far short of the utopias we reach for but burn down before they're even begun…doesn't it?
Yet, in music such as Blaze contains, we see and hear the enigmas wrestled with and can't help but note the lament behind even the cheeriest, and Andrea Summer well underscores that with her frail vocals in Drift. Wilcox has evidently reached that point in life where soul searching and memory have become more acute but haven't extinguished the restless spirit that prompts our actions in the first place. The purely musical side of that is as important as ever, but now the emphasis has sharpened on lyrical content and sentimentation. Fortunately, it treads nowhere near the bright-siding of, say, Kenny Loggins, but that doesn't mean it's harsh either, just honest and willing to be unflinching, to take a life's experience and deepen reverie…in preparation for what comes next perhaps? You'll have to listen to obtain the answer.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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