Parchman Farm Revisited

By  |  January 30, 2015
Could Alan Lomax’s mid-century field recordings of inmates’ work songs at a Mississippi penitentiary have directly influenced the shoegaze indie rock of Nineties Texas? It’s unlikely. But lately we’ve been digging into two gorgeous box sets from last year, and the lines are blurring. Dust-to-Digital’s Parchman Farm production includes two CDs of Lomax’s recordings at the prison from 1947 – 1959, along with his photography and an essay by Bruce Jackson. Numero Group’s Bedhead 1992–1998 retrospective provides the Dallas band’s full discography and an eighty-page book of liner notes: “Life After Bedhead” by Matthew Galloway. Whether stripped of human rights and subjected to a modernized, state-sponsored slavery or simply drowning in end of the millennium ennui, the struggle is real, and the music is good.

For the past few days, we’ve been spending most of our free time not reading books but packing them—cramming them into boxes we’ve filched from the office and fitting those boxes in the back seat of our City Car (a delicate Honda hybrid; it’s starting to wear on the navy upholstery). But it’s almost the first and our landlord’s meter is ticking: it’s moving time again. Weeks like this we know we have the perfect opportunity to get rid of almost everything we own: our worried-looking Norton Anthology of English Literature; review copies of books we meant to read but let sit in stacks by the bed; all the mismatched coffee cups and strange pans and maybe that wok, too (when has anyone last used a wok?). But we’re keeping everything, dammit, and moving it all, load-by-load, one old box at a time.

Those of us who aren’t moving this weekend are hitting the slab to Nashville, five hours to the east, or traveling the short 60 miles to Oaklawn. (Is anything better on a bright winter day in Arkansas than corned beef, dollar bets, and a hopeful crowd at the racetrack?) The Nashville car is listening to Bonnie Montgomery’s new self-titled album, which is our favorite kind of country: female vocals strong and clear, steel guitar, lyrics that alternately make us want to dance at a honky tonk, give the finger to an ex-boyfriend, or brood over the choice we made to never leave our Southern home. Seems like we make a trip to Nashville every few months these days, if only so we can drink a beer and listen to the house band at Robert’s on Lower Broad. We love the music on the strip, but it’s not so hard coming home when Montgomery—from White County, Arkansas—plays a semi-regular gig at our neighborhood bar.
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