"There's a lot of people out there having a hard time tonight," sings Howe Gelb, offering up a song of consolation in his own distinct way. And as 2011 opened with Tucson suffering through the city's worst ever tragedy, that sort of consolation is doing all it can, filling emptiness and soothing unspeakable pain.
The song "Spiral" is itself a gorgeous piano ballad, and the understated choir from Gelb's Sno Angel sessions elevates the song out of the realm of simply music. Just as a day itself can turn in an instant into history, a song like "Spiral" moves from vinyl 7-inch single to cultural touchstone. That transcendence into unforgettable is such a rare thing for a song. On a cultural level, it's "Blowing in the Wind," or "What's Going On," or The Rising, songs and records that simply moved obstacles right out of the way, that grabbed the collar of history and tugged. And things were never the same again.
On a personal level, this version of "Spiral" is exactly that for me. Just as Amos Lee's Mission Bell and Jackson Browne's "For a Dancer" gave me strength, "Spiral" creates a space for reflection that is priceless. It's a song that right away shoved itself into the inner circle of the songs that are most important in my life.
That refrain, "Reinvent some new form of decency," can be applied to so much of what's happened since the Jan. 8 shooting that its hard to believe the song wasn't actually written and recorded in response. From the Jackson Browne / Alice Cooper benefit concert (read my preview interview) to ongoing efforts at civility and specific responses in terms of advocating for more sensible gun laws, simple DECENCY has been a guiding force.
"Spiral" originally appeared on Giant Sand's proVISIONS, which I wrote a guest post about for the excellent So Much Silence blog (coincidentally, that was the only bit of music writing I did at all during the six months I worked on the Giffords campaign).
So thanks Howe, for this performance, and thanks Fort Lowell Records for picking the right song at the right time.
Howe Gelb - Spiral (Sno' Angel)