Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Andy Baylor

February, 2011: I had too much fun in the first four days of this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival; when I said that to Adam, he wondered what I meant - exactly how does a near-teetotaller have too much fun? What are the consequences of having too much non-alcohol-or-drugs-fuelled fun? The other day, I read a little interview in the Sun Herald with Julian Assange's mother, who denied he had Asberger's; she said that sometimes very intelligent people find intellectual and creative pursuits more stimulating than social interaction. Well, I find social interaction very stimulating - my too-much-fun was meeting too many new people, having too many interesting conversations with my new friends, not getting enough sleep, and finding the world altogether too wonderful. I needed to go off by myself somewhere and mull over it.
The day I started to come down from my high-on-life-high, on Mara's recommendation, I took my shredded nerves and growing misanthropy to Andy Baylor at Southgate. He and his Cajun Combo played impeccable covers of songs written for another time and place. Couples waltzed. I thought of Errol's phrase "museum piece", and wondered whether this band was another example of how people are eschewing the values of the '60s-to-now (self-expression, originality, re-invention) for earlier times, when music was more about craft and tradition. For the first few songs, I found Andy Baylor very pleasant and soothing. A man beside me said, "I wish he'd put himself out there a bit more!" - he is a reserved and reticent performer. Sometimes reserved performers are the best: they don't grab you by your shirt collar and yell, "Listen to me!", but they stand there and wait for you to come to them. It requires confidence (in your intrinsic worth) to be a reserved performer. Andy Baylor doesn't try hard because he knows he has a gift. Suddenly, as I watched the Combo, I was drawn in. I'd almost forgotten how mesmerising it is to see someone who can really play. Thoughts - words - are silenced, as there is no adequate way to describe music when it gets going.
I tried to see Andy Baylor and his Cajun Combo one more time before I left Tamworth, but misguidedly went to the Bill Chambers's session instead; though I walked as fast as I could from the Pub to Southgate, as I walked in, I heard the Combo finishing their last song. When I eventually came home, I found Andy Baylor's website and took my pick of his CDs - I went with The Bush Is Full Of Ghosts because it had a nice title and a rustic photograph on the cover. The title comes from a co-write with Nicholas Langton, the lyricist for five of the twelve songs. I like the album as a whole; I'm resistant to singling out a single song and scrutinising it. Maybe the songs are vehicles for the playing, rather than little discrete works of art. I used to listen to J. J. Cale a lot, and ended up with about six of his records; now, and possibly even at the time, I could hardly tell you a single J. J. Cale song. It is music.

Here's a little sample of Andy and his Cajun Combo: