Headed out to see Josh next weekend so thought I’d mark the occasion with this, the first song of his I heard, courtesy of the great Vin Scelsa back in 2000.
Josh has written better songs, and certainly more serious ones–he is even guilty of the dreaded “divorce album”–but this one was an out-of-nowhere, gotta-hear-it-again-immediately pleasure that still makes me smile every time.
It’s a hymn to the eternal present, and like so many hymns to the eternal present is about the singer’s teenage years, a portrait of small-town life spent with friends drinking beer, making music, painting names on the water tower. I grew up in a small town that had a water tower and it never would have occurred to us to paint our names on it. There are far more rules on the East Coast than in Idaho, where Josh grew up.
I was on the other hand very concerned as a teenager with the eternal present, with the sense of time slipping away, experience as a diminishing pool. Hold on tight to every moment, I continually chided myself, often ruining the moment by doing so. Thankfully that unsustainable intensity eased up a bit, though I still occasionally long for those times that Alan Watts described as “just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind.”
“Song on the jukebox/you in my arms/heaven and earth pretty much the same” Josh sings and had I heard that when I was 17 I would have nodded my head sagely, been there, done that, but I also would have empathized with the line in the chorus where he admits not being sure he can make the feeling stay. I don’t know what age Josh actually was when he wrote this, but I think it’s a neat trick, to have written a song about adolescence that sounds like it was written from the inside.
I guess it was a semi-hit in Ireland. Also very fond of the “Hello, Starling” album and the song “Where the Night Goes.” More partial to his wandering troubadour side than to the ranty visionary stuff he’s gotten into lately. Haven’t had a chance to listen to the new Jason Isbell-produced album yet. And it’s not the divorce I object to, it’s the exploitation of it in the promotional material.