“They say no man’s left behind, but that ain’t true….” (March 14th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

You can’t listen to everything. That’s one of the great struggles of my life. When people say, “There’s no really good music these days,” you know they don’t get out much–there’s actually never been more great music available than there is now, nor have there been so many ways to get at it. The difficulty is not just finding it all in a torrent, but making time to listen to it. It’s. Just. Not. Possible.

All of this is just to express my sheepishness in having just gotten to Mary Gauthier and The Songwriting with Soldiers Project‘s Rifles and Rosary Beads, easily one of the most emotionally powerful new albums that lie at your fingertips. If trying to reckon with the cost of our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq is one of your regular intellectual and spiritual practices, you need to advance directly to this record, which will contribute meaningfully to that reckoning. The Songwriting with Soldiers Project joins established songwriters like Gauthier with combat veterans and their families, and gives them the space and opportunity to collaborate on songs that communicate the latter’s experiences. I have nothing to say to further commend this resultant album that comes within thousands of miles of these lyrics from “Stronger Together”:

They say no man’s left behind but that ain’t true
They hate it that they need us but they do
They lose their fingers lose their limbs
We try to love them together again
They say no man’s left behind but that ain’t true

They’re hurt in paces that the eye can’t see
I miss the man my husband used to be
The military breaks their hearts
We’re there when they fall apart
They’re hurt in paces that the eye can’t see

Stronger together, Sisters forever

EOD* wives don’t sit by the phone
No news is good news back at home
Their mission ready at their best
We take care of all the rest
EOD wives don’t sit by the phone

*Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist

If that and the above-embedded video don’t work, try this:

Note that line “They genuflect on Sundays / And yet, they’d send us back.”

I am not the biggest fan of folk music (that is not really what this is), but I am also not a big fan of these wars, and the devil’s bargain our soldiers have been thrust into. If I hadn’t been actively firming myself up, I’d have wept at some point in each song instead of during three.

Essential listening. This is not to be swept into the cyberbin of time with the other music we couldn’t reach.

Short-shrift Division:

The long shadow of Rifles and Rosary Beads nearly wiped out my other listening during the day, but I cannot get enough of Johannesburg’s Yugen Blakrok. Her album Return of the Astro-Goth, from 2013, has got me in its grip, and apparently she’s got another in the chute. Dig this video from that album:

Also, I take it you knew she’s on Mr. Lamar’s Black Panther companion, batting third on this track and hitting a triple?

“You’re dead to me”: quite the opposite, young lady!