13 februari 2012

Rock Your English! (12b) - James Blunt vs. Ray LaMontagne

Zo eindigde Buffi Duberman (@rockyourenglish // @Facebook) haar column over James Blunts 'You're Beautiful' vanmorgen: 'Bring me Ray. My Ray of light.'Buffi: 'Ray la Montagne, that is. When one of my favorite Rockacademie students gave me a CD a zillion years ago of a guy I had never heard of, he said ‘just listen’. I respect T’s opinion immensely and so I decided to listen on the way home from the Rock that day. After about 2 minutes of hearing the opening track Trouble, I had to pull over to the side of the road. I was having an epiphany, and you know what they say - ‘Don’t have an epiphany and drive!’. So I pulled over, let the goose bumps rise and the tears fall, and decided I really needed to get to know this Ray character. I won’t tell you much about his background but it’s heartbreaking. Growing up with different siblings from different fathers, being raised by a single mother, sleeping in people’s garages, constantly two steps away from being homeless. His own father was a musician, and abusive, and he hated him and music growing up. He moved to the mountains of Maine and lived in a wooden shack he made himself. Hermitacious. Worked nights in a shoe factory and one day heard Stephen Stills’ Treetop Flyer – rumor has it he quit his job that day and bought a guitar. He had to gather up all his courage to do his first open mic show, where he played alone with his back to the audience. Long story about how he met the brilliant producer and percussionist Ethan Johns (thanks to Willie Nelson) and the rest is history, or at least a significant part of mine. Narrow Escape is not his most famous by any means, but to me it’s a lyrical gem. Off we go:
Lejos and Mary
Lay dazed in Liula
Dreaming of tropical signs
No, I don’t know who Lejos is. I know ‘lejos’ means ‘far, far away’ in Spanish. I like that, that’s good enough for me to want to know more. And which Liula? I know there’s one in Hawaii, Tanzania, and Angola. But it doesn’t really matter. I want to know more about Lejos and Mary. (Sounds a bit like Jesus and Mary.) They were dazed and dreaming. Love the visual imagery here. Tropical signs – maybe signs that things were going to get better? That they were going to a better place? That things were going to get warmer, on any level? Again, I’m semi-lost, but intrigued. My curiosity is piqued and I want to know more.
As Lejos lay sleeping
She knelt over him weeping
Feeling the weight of his crimes
Whoah. So he’s in dreamland. And she’s not crying, she’s weeping. Huge difference. Well chosen. And she’s the one bearing the weight of his crimes – they are a burden too heavy for her to carry; too much for her to bear. And he’s the one asleep – sounds like she’s doing the heavy lifting in this relationship (excuse me for getting all Dr. Phil on you there for a second.)
It seems he cut a man down in a Tennessee town
And he's just licking his wounds for a spell
Aha. So he killed a man. Or so it seems. Cut him down. Pretty violent description, but I guess there’s no nice way to put some things. And what licks its wounds? Not a person, but an animal. Not just any animal, but a wounded animal – one that’s gotten hurt. Very descriptive here – and he’s doing it for ‘a spell’ - for a while. We don’t know how long, and he probably doesn’t either. Now we have a better idea of why she’s weeping.
But it won't take long for the boys to catch on
And soon he'll be running like hell
The boys = the cops. This is how they’re talked about in the South of the US. And they’re gonna find him. And the fact that this song is about a guy named ‘Lejos’ – a Latino name – coupled with the assumption that it takes place in the South – does not give me a good feeling about what’s to come. I’d run like hell too.
Run Lejos run
This ain't no time for that ball and chain
Climb on that pony and ride like you never done
Ride like you never done
So the narrator is on Lejos’s side - pleading with him to run away. Technically, ‘run Lejos run’ is also saying ‘run far, far away.’ Did you catch that? And do you know what a ‘ball and chain’ is? Technically it’s something used to keep chain gangs together, primarily in the South, when they were working outside. It’s a lead or heavy metal ball connected by a chunky chain to your ankle (this is of course before the days of Lindsay Lohan and glamorous ankle bracelets). But did you know that ‘the old ball and chain’ is also a derogatory term referring to ‘the wife’? If you did, then you’d know the hidden significance of this line. Ditch the wife. The one who’s carrying your heavy load. And escape. And I love how Ray says he should climb on that pony. Not a horse, but a pony. Why? Because it’s younger? Faster? Untrained and wilder? Lots of questions, none of them have a clear answer, but I love the picture it paints in my mind. And of course grammatically it should be ‘run like you never have’ but I love that he broke the rules and used the participle form of ‘do’. This is really how people talk down South, and his lyrics are a true reflection of that.
Well their love it was long
It was gentle and strong
And for a while she forgot his sins
And she kissed him for love
She kissed him for luck
She kissed him one time for a kid
So he hasn’t gotten caught yet. I love the contradiction here of a love that was gentle yet strong. And it seems here as if their love was enough to cover his crime – she forgot about it for a while. Lots of kissing going around here- always a good thing, but if you read it again, it’s almost as if she’s kissing him goodbye. Wishing him luck. And the last line here to me means that she was hoping to have a child with him. She wants a future with him. But will she get one?
Well they came in without a warning in the hours before morning
They come-a blasting through the windows and walls
No. She won’t. These two lines shatter everything – literally and figuratively. No more dreaming for Lejos.
And when the smoke it did clear
Somebody cried out ‘he ain't here’
Killed ourselves a woman that's all
And when the smoke lifted they shouted out that Lejos was already gone. She got killed instead. They killed a woman. That’s all. Those last 2 words slay me. Every time. She’s insignificant. But she’s the one who stood by him the whole time – carried his cross, beared his burdens, and now she got killed by accident. And they don’t even regret it. Oy.

This song ends with the chorus again – and ‘ride like you never done’. And we don’t know where Lejos is going. We only know that we’re the ones left behind.

This song is not very long, lyrically, but Ray is the master of saying it all in very few words. I once saw him in Brussels, and some idiot in the audience screamed ‘Hey Ray, talk to us!’ And Ray looked out, awkwardly blinded by the spotlight, and said ‘I’m just here to play. Not for talking.’ If you want to know more about less is more in storytelling, and powerful descriptive language, get to know the lyrics of Ray LaMontagne. I don’t hear him on the radio a lot, but I hear him in my heart. On repeat.

Thank you T for bringing me Ray.
Thank you Ben Houdijk for the photo.
Watch Ray and Damien Rice (another brilliant lyricist) mind meld HERE.'
Een Bee Gees classic zoals ik eerder beschreef.

Dankjewel voor een prachtige analyse, Buffi!

1 opmerking:

tandvleesontsteking zei

Blunt heeft een heel mooie stem. Vind hem een van de beste