Monday, February 27, 2006

Based On A True Story

The nicest thing about the Winter Olympics 2006 for me was that my series of house concerts, which I'm calling Perfect Third House Concerts ('cause I'm predictable like that) got to be in the anchor spot on Nathan Caswell's Winter Olympics 2006 Tour. I'm not sure that Nathan specifically designed a tour to compete with or highlight the Olympics, but on the other hand, his way there were far fewer problems with massive changes to infrastructure and crippling civic debt. Also, Nathan's closing ceremonies didn't deploy eleventy-four thousand Italian brides carrying calla lily nightlight-torches. I'm just saying.

Nathan's songs very often carry the footnote 'Based on a true story' - sometimes this is quite a feat: one of Nathan's songs is a loopy sort of ballad recounting the post-mortem road trip adventures of Einstein's brain in a Mason jar. But Nathan is a teller of truths. Whether it's of growing up in Northern Ontario and thus being able to identify, blindfolded and a hundred paces off, the sulfur-and-wet-dog smell of a pulp mill, or of the sights and sounds of a lonely midnight drive along a nearly deserted highway, Nathan sings of truths he knows deep down. You'll laugh till it hurts; or maybe laugh so it doesn't hurt quite so much. There are few songwriters funnier than Nathan, but while you're laughing, you realize there's something wistful threading along under his sharply turned wit: He can write a song at the point where modern life and technology meet old fears and longings, as in "Baboon Heart" or "Pierre Trudeau (I Have The Technology)"; he can write about the moment when you realize your hometown's never going to be the same without your oldest friend in it. He can write that

Einstein's brain says that love is like gravity
No one knows exactly how it works, or what's it for

with perfect, if not literal, truth.

The song called "Caleb" is a highly personal, unusual statement about how we Canadians think of ourselves and our neighbours, and is both thought-provoking and shiver-inducing.

He sang
No more talk of separation
No more Western tax revolt
I don’t want to hear no more
Arguments against or for
Gun control or the Young Offender’s Act
I want love and compassion, sunshine on my face

Go to Nathan's webpage, or better yet, see him in concert, the first chance you get.

All lyrics copyright Nathan Caswell.