Take the Long Way - Po' Girl
One of the thriving offshoots of the Be Good Tanyas is Po' Girl, formed by Trish Klein of the Tanyas and clarinetist Allison Russell most recently of Birds of Chicago and Our Native Daughters. By the time of their second album, the excellent "Vagabond Lullabies", they had been augmented by Diona Davies on fiddle. This is a gem of an album, layering its folk foundation with blues, soul, jazz and country rhythms and harmonies, with even a smattering of rap and beatbox, supplied by Vancouver oddball and polymath C.R. Avery.
After a gentle start, "Take the Long Way" is one of those songs that sneaks up on you, coming from nowhere to hit you in the blind spot of your emotional rear view mirror, so that at the end you have grab the needle and put it back to the beginning to play it again.
Klein's vocal is tender and yearning as she suggests driving home through the night the long way, and the song becomes an ache for something more, something unsaid:
"Lets take the long way
'cause I like the view, go by the shoreline look at the moon
take the long way, watch the sunrise, listen to the radio all through the night.
The rain can't dampen us-
drive on through 'til the sun shines on us, dries up the dew......"
While the words celebrate a contentment with life, the view in the moonlight and being close to one another, the music is saying something different, is suffused with sadness as it looks back over their lives, articulating the coming to terms with what they were and what they've become, the acceptance of failed dreams and ambitions, the mistakes too.
"Savour the silence and stroke my back
sing to me softly of secrets and the stories lost between the cracks
this moment is stardust - it has already passed but you are so bright, so bright in my mind and our moonlit mass..."
As Russell harmonises and the Hammond organ combines with Davies' violin to raise the hairs on your forearm, a moment of respite and contemplation arrives with Russell's calming clarinet break and then........!
Sticking a rap break in the middle of a gentle folk song comes as a surprise to say the least.
The rap intensifies this feeling of sadness as though Klein's companion in the car has been ambushed by his former teenage self, a gangly, earnest, acned youth agonising over the meanings of love and who thinks he might be, just might be, the next Shakespeare:
"...lookin' for love in all the wrong places I guess I got one of those faces,
down and out of the window pane leaving the Carnegie down on Hastings and Main
I step out into another bc blizzard, into a yellow cab lizard,
the driver's an old wise Somalian wizard, I'm just a young mc potty-mouth
I tell him to take the back roads headed south,
from the meadow to the ghetto come equipped to the red-light district
after performance I did for nickels and cents, he says CR you're crazy, I said it doesn't phase me,
my love's not lazy , I'm here to amaze thee, heck you amazed at this? bitch, I got a brew like Miles Davis,
I walked away with that floatin' around his head, two girls smiling at what I just said,
at them lows after shows you want a hit of this joint? he says okay alright brother just leave it in the ashtray,
commercial success, sex drive, I lick the honey in the hive, and I can tribal feel this love vibe as I look into another country's tribe, I brush my teeth like cool Keith I paint in water colours like Georgia O'Keefe,
my graffiti flex kill and that's keepin' it brief, those who got will get even more
if you don't waste your gifts you'll get another four, be a spirit not a ghost on the west coast,
listen to Patti Smith and as the clouds shift, sundown, Big Sur, the view is killer by the old homestead of Henry Miller, don't worry 'bout your final destination you'll get there soon,
stare at the stars, they're the children of the sun and the moon."
It shouldn't work but it does.