PrisonShip Imaginary Seven-Inch Series vol 11

Old Mose, Molly Man b/w Shrimp Man (dedicated to my brother Will Martin)

I’m singularly obsessed with these two tracks from the altogether spectacular American Primitive 2* compilation, curated by John Fahey for the Revenant label.  I can only assume that this particular ‘race’ recording was put commissioned to give some sort of quasi-ethnographic, genre-scene-ish glimpse into ‘the street life of the negro’ or some shit. Old Mose is thus captured hawking hot tamales (or “Mollys,” as it were) and shrimp, to the tune of some weird, directionless strum.  It’s amazing, amazing shit, terrifying and banal as Adorno would want it. It reminds me of nothing so much as a process initiated by Will Martin on a particularly wild Helena pilgrimage. On that occasion, Will began belting out weird call and response cycles, loosely based around a child and his ‘Daddy’ (and his Mommy’s shoes), but soon expanding into pretty free-form but ominous terrain. I haven’t really experienced anything like it, before or since.

* Of course I object to the term ‘primitive’ in this context, and most others. I think “American Modern” would much better describe these weird, stream-of-consciousness and droney tunes. The music would certainly be identified as ‘modern’ if performed by white Europeans, anywho. I doubt John Fahey would’ve given a shit about my qualification, though. He might’ve knifed me, even. For more on the other-worldly qualities of country blues and gospel, see Greil Marcus’ Old, Weird America. It very well may be Marcus’ most consistent work.

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