Today being the 115th birthday of Amelia Earhart had me thinking of a song my father used to play (written by Red River Dave McEnery), titled “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”. I have always been in love with this song and for some reason during my mid twenties I was on a quest to find a recorded version of this song.
At the time I was living in DC and stepped into a small record store in Silver Spring, Maryland, just to browse. I picked up a copy of Freakwater’s 1993 Thrill Jockey release Feels Like the Third Time. My youngest sister, Jess was with me, saw what I had in my hand and said, “oh, I think you’d like them, I saw them at Iota.” I flipped over the CD to see the track names and right there on track #10 there it was… my song! My heart flipped and I’m pretty sure I squealed. I could not wait to get home and listen to it.
What happened next is that I also fell in love with the band. I was so pleased that my quest for a peculiar, seldom recorded song led me to find a band whose weird voices definitely struck a chord. Synchronicity.
Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean have voices that are pretty in a Mary McCaslin, Alice Gerard and Hazel Dickens, Lucinda Williams, Victoria Williams kinda way. To me they are as crystalline and lovely as Allison Krauss and Patty Griffin, just a lot more honest, whiskey smoked and hard working. They are the voice of a woman who’s tired like she’s been waiting tables all day, has had it up to here with your shit, and has better things to do with her time.
I remember going to see Catherine Irwin at a SXSW daytime show and recounting that very story of stumbling across her music while looking for the Amelia Earhart song that my father used to sing… she smiled.
This reminded me of a night years before when I waited on Lucinda Williams at the Ausitn Grill in DC and told her that I’d just seen Darden Smith the week before at The Birchmere and he was raving about her just released Sweet Old World, she stared at me with her heavily-lined eyes without blinking and said, “Can I have a Dos Equis?”