A Little Blubber With My Breakfast: MORTAL CITY

You know, you think that everything’s peaceful. Crazybird has caught his bus, Ladybird has madly pedalled her way into the professional distance, and there is bread in the toaster. A small hit of sports news so as not to feel left out of the loop of entirely imaginary conversations. (Will I speak to anyone today who cares that the World Series starts tonight?) A knife from the drawer, a practised flip from Tuner to CD and wherever it was that I paused last night’s silvered, tuneful progression of disks. Some even date from this century.

Where was I? Dar Williams, American folksinger, a 1996 album called Mortal City. I smile during my artful bread-spreading at the whimsical meanderings of “Southern California Wants To Be Western New York”. Smart fun. The title song is last. She recorded it in her bedroom. It has made my throat catch and my chest heave before this, but I’m not ready for that at 8:37 in the morning with honey dripping off my whole wheat. “Mortal City” has breathy, uncertain voicings, rueful humour, soaring loneliness, and good old-fashioned gentleness. Altruism lives. People find each other, at least for one night. There is crisis and self-doubt and tiny victories, and harmonies so longing that they hurt. This is a song that never would have made the radio even in the ‘good old days’, whenever that was, and not only because it’s seven minutes and fourteen seconds long and has only the most sombre and subtle of hooks. It doesn’t make me want to even think about dancing.

Dar Williams has done this to me before. She writes some of the most clever and feeling stuff there is. Good morning.

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