January 20, 2017. Some of my friends and family are exulting in their political triumph. Some of my friends and family are in mourning. Some of my friends and family are tending to their own and awaiting developments.
Me, I plan to heed the words of my musical hero Dave Alvin and just keep rockin’.
I knew last summer, as soon as the major party nominees were set, that I was going to hate the outcome of the 2016 election. I deeply despise Donald Trump. I also deeply despise Hillary Clinton. I wrote in another hero — Jim Webb — on my ballot, because I truly believe in the values and policy stances he holds. I still think he’d make a great president. Doesn’t matter. He ain’t.
So what can a poor boy do?
It ain’t in me to check out completely, to make like John Lee Pettimore’s granddaddy and only come to town about twice a year. Nor can I abide obsessing about the latest outrage or immersing myself in non-stop bloviating over what has become a form of politico-entertainment.
I’m walking a narrow path — paying attention, but disciplining myself to keep my engagement limited to things that I can actually affect, to productive work in the field I have chosen. That means continuing to tell stories that need to be told and building a good life among a strong and resilient community of whole-souled comrades. I believe that doing these things is a political — and cultural and even spiritual — act.
Dave Alvin posted something on the Book of Face that went down— and went to my head — like smooth, 101-proof whiskey. X-ring, Dave. I’m right there with you.
American Folk Music has always been about struggle, hope and survival. Whether acoustic or electric, traditional or modern, from the Blues to murder ballads, from Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy to Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard, from the godless back alley Staggerlee to the sanctified Sunday morning choir to the picket line shouters to the cowboy crooners to the punk kid bashing too loud on his first guitar, our music is what unites us, gets us through tough times, gets our feet moving, our hearts pounding and our spirits soaring.
It may not have the cultural-social impact it used to have for everyone but it still does for me. I try my best to be part of this long tradition and I will continue to proudly play American Music, and it’s songs of hard realities, tragic injustices, and big dreams, no matter what. I’ll be playing it tonight and tomorrow night at McCabe’s and will be playing it wherever I go until they spread my ashes somewhere in the California mountains. As an old rockabilly singer once told me, “Keep rockin’.” I say the same to all of you.