September 2019

I first heard Richard Buckner's album Devotion + Doubt (MCA 1997) in the apartment, precisely the bed, of a woman pursuing an advanced degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin, ca. 1998. I was a history undergrad and had been invited to a party the night prior. Or, my roommate had been invited, and I tagged along on the promise of free drinks. There were improbably large candles, framed art, real furniture, hors d'oeuvres. The host’s boyfriend, a dentist, had that day purchased all the necessary equipment to mix and serve Martinis, both gin and vodka. Beside myself and the dentist the party was all women, most of them scientists, and they were drinking wine. The Martinis were not popular. The dentist would mix up a batch and ask,

'Who wants a Martini!!'

less a question than a plea. The women would look down, smiling small, apologetic smiles as he looked around the room until he found me, and said,

'This guy! This guy wants a Martini!',

I'd never had a Martini, and there was no beer on hand, so he and I would high-five, and then he would give me a Martini. I drank two quickly from thirst and the next two from a kind of masculin oblige. I didn't know that Martinis are doubles. The glasses are deceptive. So began a chain of events which led to the host’s bed, a substantial hangover, and the daunting, hurtful purity of Richard Buckner’s second album, which remains a source of inspiration to me, one of the small handful of records I return to without disappointment over the years.

My memory of that night includes dancing, knocking some candles over, and waiting in the hallway for what must have been forty minutes, staring at the light under the door of the occupied bathroom with increasing desperation, before being asked why I was staring at the locked rear door of the apartment. Then, waking up next morning in the host’s bed. Did I mention she was lovely? Someone had thoughtfully removed my boots but I was otherwise disappointingly clothed. Drifting in from the hallway I could hear an otherworldly warble: Dwight Yoakum with a surfer tan, or maybe Ralph Stanley putting cigarettes out on his forearm. I lay there listening and wondering what would happen next, and thinking that what had already happened was the best thing to have happened in a long time.

What in fact happened next was unfortunate for the dentist, and represents a sweet interlude in late college between the cold blue light of January and a rainy week in late March, a spring break stint of manual labor for cash under the table on a fruit farm, riding tractor and building chicken pens with a guy named Pedro, roughly my age, who spoke no English. Devotion and Doubt was the soundtrack for that late winter, alternating reverie and confession, with lines of clarity and emotional heft sharpened by the collapsed syntax around them: (“Tough is as she does / Won’t you slump on over / And stir my shuffle down? / For once devotion is enough / But the walk you whittle / another dream another drink”). Nothing felt as right when I felt wrong, and I felt wrong much of the time. I was 22.

Summer is over and the fall tours are piling up, and I’ve been showing up for work every day, writing, and thinking about writing. Thinking about songs and records, what’s worth doing, why, whether. Trying to put myself in the path of good work by going through the motions, while the Amazon burns, and corporations loot the country, and babies sleep in cages. It’s hard work in the Empire of Nostalgia to believe that any transmission - even one broadcast en clair - will be received, much less received in good faith, and that if it does it will mean anything. The thing you wish to do looms out there, fully realized, just below the visible horizon. I get lonely, and then I think about the records that changed my life, and remember how they made me feel, enthralled and comforted.

The cherry tree I’ve been watching out the window at sunrise since May has flowered, fruited, and dropped yellow leaves, and there's a hummingbird that hovers longingly every morning just outside the window looking at the red plastic jalapeño-shaped Christmas lights strung up on the screen porch. I know just how she feels.

NORTHWEST - At the end of September, I’ll celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary by touring the Pacific Northwest and Montana with Billy Conway. We’ll start with a return to the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, OR. (9/25), where we cut a live album some years ago, then head down to the Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove, OR. (9/26), back up to Ballard Homestead in Seattle, WA. (9/27), and north again to Concerts at the Barn in Kingston, WA. (9/28), the Firefly Lounge in Bellingham, WA. (9/29), Pitchfork Social on Salt Spring Island British Columbia (9/30), and the Victoria Listening Room in Victoria, BC.

MONTANA - From the Northwest we’ll drift east through Spokane, playing The Bartlett (10/3), and then head over into Montana, for just a couple shows and presumably no visiting, or fly-fishing at all. We’ll play The Attic in Livingston, Montana (10/5), and rumors are circulating that Billy Conway may open the show with Laurie Sargent, and sing some of the many great songs he's written. You always wanted Billy to have a microphone, and this is your chance.

NEW ENGLAND - In October, Billy and I will make a tour of New England and what he calls, ‘Ye Olde Fuckinge Everythinge,’ starting at the Kerouac-inspired The Town and The City Festival in Lowell, MA. (10/18) and progressing through the Listening Room in Syracuse, NY (10/23), The Cock’n’Bull Restaurant - which is quickly becoming one of our favorite joints - in Galway, NY (10/24), The Stone Church in Brattleboro, VT (10/25), the Capitol Center’s new Bank of New Hampshire Stage in Concord, NH. (10/26), finishing up at the HiLo in North Adams, MA (10/27). Our old pal Zak Trojano opens in Concord. We will not go south, you must come north. I have spoken.

COLORADO - In November we’ll start Colorado tour at Lulu’s in Manitou Springs (11/20), The Magic Rat* in Fort Collins (11/21), and return to the Soiled Dove in Denver (11/22), with shows elsewhere in the western part of the state over that period. We apparently had some trouble with the listing for the show at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs (11/20), where wrong information entered as metadata showed up on a variety of platforms. That’s all fixed now and the ticket link is sound. The internet is basically a giant rumor mill, and bad information gets locked in all the time. Also, sometimes, presidents.

MOSE - Jeremy Moses Curtis has played bass with me since 2009, when I was sharing him with Booker T. Jones. He's been the sharp-dressed man with the incomparable ease and deep gravity at stage left on every full band tour in the last decade, the one who never looks like he’s working, and he's always working. Mose wrangles a band of his own called Thank God For Science, a nimble instrumental collective who keep the wheel turning with records of beautiful songs and harmonically complex arrangements. The well is deep and various, and there's really nothing they can't, or won't, play. The new album Humans Are Special is up for pre-sale right now. My favorite song, so far, is called 'Fingerpricking.' Order a copy, and treat yourself to music that has reached escape velocity from the howling vortex of Americana.

Other things may fill in around the edges, but that’s generally how the work lines out for the fall of 2019. I expect to be in Ireland in January of 2020, California in February, Texas and the desert Southwest in March, and the Midwest in May, but I think we can wait to talk about that. Please stop yelling.

Jeffrey Foucault