Black Ribbons / Shooter Jennings

 

Black Ribbons

“The Summer of Rage” 

Shooter Jennings & Hierophant (2009)

What more is the value of certain music to express our mood at a particular point in time. Music from years ago might now be consciously forgotten yet play a part in the background of an overall, current musical sensitivity. We might not follow this old, important music to us. Yet it will always be with us. Following us around like that dust followed Pig Pen.

The time was the summer of 2009 and I was living as a bachelor in a big apartment complex full of graduate students at OSU and young professionals living near the young area of Columbus known as Grandview, Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff (where George Bush’s great grandfather owned a large mansion). The apartment complex I lived in had a New England theme to it. Buildings that looked like we might be somewhere five hundred miles further east (the Atlantic) from here in Ohio. The apartment buildings were gathered around a man-made lake that even had swans floating around in it during the spring and summer.

It was difficult to express the emotions I was feeling then towards my country. Things had gone from a Libertarian perspective in politics to simply one that might be defined by fear and suspicion of people and places I had never been suspicious of before. Was I becoming paranoid? I wondered. Was I really starting to feel a fear about the government? As if their body was made up of somehow a different chemistry than my chemistry. Something that might explode if poured together in some type of alchemy brew.

I had a website at the time called Midnight Oil on a system that Apple stopped supporting. Lost a lot of short films and music I posted on it. I would pull images from my own photos or from Google Images and make short movies with the symbols putting a particular music piece I listened to in the background. One of the pieces I did was on the Tea Party protests starting in February of 2009 and going through March of 2010. Below (within the two lines) from WikiPedia under the words “Tea Party.”

_______________________________

“The Tea Party protests were a series of protests throughout the United States that began in early 2009. The protests were part of the larger political Tea Party movement. Among other events, protests were held on:

February 27, 2009, to protest the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) U.S. financial system bailouts signed by President George W. Bush in October 2008, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus legislation signed by President Barack Obama
April 15, 2009, to coincide with the annual U.S. deadline for submitting tax returns, known as Tax Day
July 4, 2009, to coincide with Independence Day
September 12, 2009, to coincide with the anniversary of the day after the September 11 attacks
November 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. to protest health insurance reform
March 14–21, 2010, in D.C. during the final week of debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Most Tea Party activities have since been focused on opposing efforts of the Obama Administration, and on recruiting, nominating, and supporting candidates for state and national elections. The name “Tea Party” is a reference to the Boston Tea Party, whose principal aim was to protest taxation without representation. Tea Party protests evoked images, slogans and themes from the American Revolution, such as tri-corner hats and yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. The letters T-E-A have been used by some protesters to form the backronym “Taxed Enough Already”.

_________________________________

It was a summer of a growing anxiety about the government. It was really the villain in all of this. Something that members of both parties, and perhaps many other organizations and groups of people, could be in support of. The election of 2016 was not one about ideologies or sexual politics but rather that single emotion of fear. Those with the most fear for the nation outvoted those with the least fear for it. This time. Americans whose main fear was their government. What it had done for eight years. Could this be stopped.

It certainly seemed hopeless to me in these months of the Tea Party movement and my feelings.

I heard Shooter Jennings on the radio and heard him talk of his new album called Black Ribbons. Some cuts from the album were played over the radio station. And, I was immediately hooked. Someone who expressed my feelings this summer of 2009 in America. Who wants to argue if they were the right emotions. Or any ideology that goes with them. I downloaded the album and had at once, a friend, who knew how I felt at a particular time in my life.

I used Skeeter Jennings and his group Hierophant and their “Summer of Rage” to make a video of it with the images I pulled from my stuff and Google’s images. The album was stunning and something I had never heard before. Or, before in a few other of the greatest rock operas. I have heard almost all of them. The album Black Ribbons is perhaps the truly great yet undiscovered rock opera in the history of rock. Including a brilliant performance by the legendary writer Stephen King, a fan of Shooter Jennings. King has helped write his script in the rock opera as a disk jockey, one of the last disc jockey’s of freedom in the oppressive government declaring all radio stations close down. We catch his radio show the last hour it is on, when he is playing cuts from  this particular album before he is shut down by the government.

The character of King in the rock opera speaks directly to t listeners of the radio station like few radio announcers talk to their audience. It is an amazing performance. Equal to the great Orsen Wells in my opinion. Attuned that collective fear in the Zeitgeist of the times. The time in 2009 and 2010 were these times for me. It matters little whether they were times like this for others. The point is that they years of fear for me.

Perhaps the thing that divided the nation now were those who had fear of the government and those who did not. Generally, those who feared the government were not in the government while those who did not fear the government were in the government or connected with it in some way. I once thought the battle was in a general way between the haves and have nots, or between the producers and consumers in the world (as Ayn Rand might say), between racists and non-racists (as some might define the divide). But now it seemed the divide was truly between the government and its non-government people, citizens.

The songs in the album are brilliant and show that Waylen Jennings son is much like his father in his fearless innovation in the music industry. He had a great country and western band yet Jennings has never wanted to be branded as a musician. And, proves it with the brilliant Black Ribbons album.

(See the Wikipedia link on Black Ribbons at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Ribbons)

If any great album in rock opera music has been overlooked, this certainly is the album.

* * *

The concept of the album is brilliant and something that words need to quickly step out so that music can step in. Highly recommend you download Black Ribbons. It expressed so well the way I felt in 2009 and 2010. And, with the election, a great fear lifted from me.

That fear. Lifted from me recently.

While it descended down on others.

Such is the nature of America today.

To me, the last election showed that those who fear the government are (right now) greater than those who don’t fear it. One might say the government versus non-government group as the Democratic Party has certainly morphed over the years into something totally different from what it used to be. The trouble is, no one has been able to best articulate it to the current generations in America. The voters. The only time when the parties might be united is when uniting emotions are pinpointed in all citizens of the nation. Not uniting ideologies. Rather, uniting emotions. People who feel the same way rather than those who think the same way. Not just captive of the current fashions that come and go like tissue paper in the wind. Something deep in people. Something they don’t discuss. Even over Starbucks in the morning.

(See the article above, with link references, from WikiPedia on the album Black Ribbons at  … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Ribbons)

The computer I had Black Ribbons on met with a tragic fate. It was run over by me. (Propped my briefcase up against the back wheel of the car, forgetting it was there, a long story). So, just downloaded it to my new MacBook Pro and listening to it now. Again. For the first time in six years.

Somehow, the desire for this music came back? This seems incredible and amazing enough to me. There wasn’t a lot of donkey-pulling on my side.

So, I sit here with my Korg Kross and Korg Minilogue and consider making some concept album like Black Ribbons. It is such a beautifully brilliant album, relating a story to the listeners like few albums have ever done before. Even the great rock albums. This album certainly needs to be considered among the great rock albums. But those who listen to (I argue) are hard put to define the genre of the music. It’s rock but it’s also blues and jazz. On songs, like “Lights in the Sky,” I’m reminded of the great Alan Parsons. A brilliant coming together of various genres of music existing inside of Shooter Jennings. Far beyond what was out in culture at the time. So, of course, un-noticed. When the entire culture has its antennae tuned to a certain frequency, its difficult to break through to them, no matter how brilliant your idea of though is, unless its on their same frequency.

Maybe we’ll try to make something for today of this brilliant piece of music from the past. Isn’t this the way it always is for musicians? Artists? Not always something new. But rather, something remembered.

More.

Stay tuned.

John

 

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