What might have happened had Charles Bukowski taken a different path, had he undergone, as David Corley has, a Swedenborgian series of ecstatic mystical visions at 19 and then proceeded to live his footloose existence? I think we would've had an outré gent much closer to Leonard Cohen, as Corley is, and there's plenty of reason to compare Corley to Charley and Lennie…and to Tom Waits, Robbie Robertson, Tom House, even a dram of Capt. Beefheart, Root Boy Slim, and a number of groundlevel others. Like House and Waits, Corley encants in a gravelly mumble-sing that locks onto your ears, pulling you towards his roadside rostrum. The guy's darker than House, not quite as ebon as Waits, and, like Robertson, his approach to roots music has a large swath of inexplicability to it, unorthodox in more ways than one.
As a youth, Dave exhibited highly individualistic ways, such as refusing to attend piano lessons, even running away to avoid them, but when the instrument loomed in the living room (sans tutor, of o'course), he'd jump on it, shocking and delighting his extended family with unexpected acumen. They fondly remember to this day the songs he'd bang out on the keyboard. The person who most directed his my-way-or-the-highway attitude, though, was not some stand-out educator or influential musicians but himself. He's that kinda guy, and most people, I suspect, would call his mode of existence 'wayward': living off the land, roofing, bartending, travelling near and far for a couple decades…until something rather spectacular happened: his heart exploded at age 40.
Good God almighty, but some of us have to pay dearly for our chops! Nonetheless, Corley decided not to check out and now, at 53, has released his debut CD, Available Light, a very unorthodox folk-rootsy 10-spot totally of his own work produced by Hugh Christopher Brown, multi-instrumentalist and past member of Barenaked Ladies, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Open Hearts Society, and other ensembles (as well as solo work). The collaboration has resulted in one of those discs in which a generous modicum of graceful slop is prevalent, a halo spark of rough and tumble divinity well tarnished from travelling byways but so well cohered that one marvels at it. Some people just live at different tempos from the rest of us, because you couldn't contrive to write things this way, it'd never make it to the staves and measures without a bottle of whiskey, a pot of Mulligan Stew, and various ilk of probably illegal Schedule 1 garni spilled all over the pages.
A stanza from Easy Mistake pretty much sums things up:
I hopped into my truck
That's the much folkier diametric opposite of Cohen's "There's a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in". Quite understandable 'cause, what the hell, Corley's much more Ikkyu while Cohen's a Dogen, eccentric versus academic. Available Light is one of those discs that will make you smile at all the many familiarities while scratching your head from the concurrent off-kilter outré-nesses. And to add the last dram of paradoxical incoherency: Dave, on the rear cover photo, is the spitting image of the late Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) in his, appropriately enough, period travelling with Mylon LeFevre and sitting in with Earl Scruggs. Don't ask me how these things happen, they just do.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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