THE DESERT HIGHWAY, coyotes and cacti, shattered bones of birds and dogs. We have been driving for days. We are hungry, thirsty, out of our minds on hallucinogens. Feet stomping impatiently on empty crackling bags of Doritos.
- How much longer, Scud?
- Keep driving, Peanuts.
Finally a corrugated tin shack appears out of the dust. A worn white man is standing in the entrance, below a Coca Cola sign. He is smoking a ridiculously long pipe, the stem of which is made of two or possibly three drinking straws.
We pull up.
- Now boys, he says as we get out of the cherry red Studebaker. Now boys.
We get out of the car. He starts spinning yarns which cover the impossible trips he has taken, this snake oil salesman, from Grand Street to Memphis to Bombay.
- I walked on the water three times, he says. Women in every port of call.
All of this before we can ask him for a drink of water or a sandwich. He was talking before we got here, he will continue after we've gone.
- Now boys, Time is the enemy, he says as smoke curls out of the pipe bowl. And before we know it this man, who has introduced himself as Hieronymous, is telling us about his first and only wife:
- She was a Swede she was. Her name was Gun-Britt. Halter tops she liked to wear in the summer. Weighed 240 pounds, Gun-Britt, and what a worker! All the time scrubbing and cleaning and cooking and talking to her girlfriends on the phone, planning and organizing and eating all she could, poor thing. With Gun-Britt everything was cozy and warm. She would be scrubbing the floor on all fours and PLOP! out would flop all pink and clamorous another baby And she would sigh with satisfaction, pick the thing up, give it a rinse in the sink, and place it alongside our other nippers.
We are seated inside the little shop now, our elbows resting on the crates which Hieronymous uses as a table. His long limber fingers look like driftwood, with long filed nails. Purple velvet curtains filter the sun. The walls are bare except for a framed picture of two bearded musicians from another century. Mice play scrabble in the corners. I hear in my head bubbling sounds and clay pots popping. My friend Peanuts is rocking back and forth, his beard like weeds, round purple glasses fogged. He may as well be in Samarkand.
- Who would you like to be? he asks - coke or smack? Democrat or Republican? Eagle or hummingbird?
Scud remains silent, looking like a skeptical priest.
Hieronymous packs another pipe, his mind still on his first and only wife. He continues:
- Gun-Britt was involved in a shady Swedish scheme, land stolen from churches, she had millions in Swiss bank accounts. The week she opened her store specializing in hand carved wood objects, the handsome police came to take her away. She perished in her cell. Self strangulation.
This remarkable CD finds Jonas Hellborg, Shawn Lane, and V. Selvaganesh traversing heretofore uncharted musical landscapes and, in the process, creating one of the of the more unique and compelling collections of recorded music in recent memory.
Those familiar with Hellborg's previous work won't be surprised to hear that the album defies categorization, but even longtime fans will be surprised at the casual grace and unnerving competency with which this trio deftly pickpockets from any number of dissimilar genres, producing a cohesive and utterly convincing whole.
From the achingly beautiful opening track, "Aga of the Ladies," to "Bhakti Ras" (recorded live in Bombay with a guest appearance from renowned Indian sarangi player, Ustad Sultan Khan), GOOD PEOPLE in Times of Evil ignores conventions and sets a standard for creative improvised music which will leave others scrambling to catch up for a while to come.
GOOD PEOPLE in Times of Evil
Jonas Hellborg Bass
Shawn Lane Guitar
V. Selvaganesh Kanjeera, Udu and Vocals
1 AGA OF THE LADIES 12:06 (Hellborg)
Recorded in Spoleto Italy 2000
by Danny Kadar and Scud Noonan