Happy Ending (2016)

Billy Webster

Like some of the artists who resonate within your singular voice, most especially David Bowie, I've always thought you to be a consummate creator of the pop song, which I mean as high praise. Writing within the strictures and according to the structures of a finite and recognizable form challenges the discipline of artistic muscle, like composing a sonnet; doing so in a medium so ostensibly accessible is especially challenging; to bring such personal, philosophical, and spiritual depth to the shape is a kind of mastery. I think I have told you that if I could have been anything in life I would have been, not a poet, but precisely what you are, a troubadour, able to sling a guitar over my back, go anywhere, and tell of all the world and life and love and poetry in a single song. It was glorious to experience the robust unleashing of your gifts and hard work in the more valent tapestry of Bold Enough To Say, and the spiritual infusion into your other human concerns was compelling. That was an apotheosis; I know it's difficult to live on in the aftermath of one's personal masterpiece, however it is received, and to continue to work. And yet it's delightful to have that mature authorial voice brought back now into your familiar medium of the pop song, and it is courageous, devotional, and visionary of you to continue forging this remarkable work. I love how you hew to the work no matter the external circumstance, through periods of perhaps both reward and frustration; isn't it wonderful that an impulse once connected to external concerns only becomes affirmed, strengthened, and purified as we move through life, if we are true, and those preoccupations mostly fall away? For myself, now, I crave only enough success to allow me to continue to work, just want to do the work. Calls spawned of our original and essential natures - for I know you are like me, and were born with a song in your head - once connected to ambition and wordily vanities, become increasingly rarefied and spiritual as their adamantine and immortal truth is revealed through our human lives, an essence of divine expression limned within our sinew and souls. I relish your journey, so like my own, and cherish these tuneful revelations that you send my way. I truly feel that through all the permutations of your long picaresque you only get better. While you suffer like so many the irritation of fandom for your early work, as in my love of Castles, the essential gift and this remarkable, epic devotion of its lifelong unveiling reveals but deeper and more profound beauties. Obviously some of the magical electricity of Liquid Bliss derived from the alchemy of you and Earl and Jason and John and Ariel. Great bands need not only great talent but this luck of chemistry, and you all had it. I was thinking about this chemistry while showing a video of Led Zeppelin playing, of all things, Stairway to Heaven to my son the other night. The combustion of those four men, each so talented in his own right, just ignites. But there was never any question for me that you are a solo talent, a signer-songwriter, that troubadour, and though I know the journey has been long and at times difficult, I am certain it is the right path. While I'll never forget hearing those first angelic strains played to me by Johanna McKeon twenty-plus years ago, I equally relish the fuller and fuller range of your expression, with its deep and visceral dimensions as well, and the breadth now of emotions and insights that accompany the formal virtuosity. Another pleasure of maturity and the long road is this inevitable burnishing of youthful conceit into a clarity, discernment, and sincerity of expression; your themes, so deeply heartfelt and salient, resonate with universal profundity. I especially enjoy the spiritual dimension, in both its struggle and affirmation, and of course the elements of romantic love and fatherhood. You possess the courage to let your life and your work entwine like two strands of DNA, and as such and because of the depth of your gift and the faithfulness of your application you are a great artist, one who is forging an epic body of work reflective of all the deepest themes of what it is to be alive. When I think about the story of your life as I know it, it seems almost as though it has unfolded perfectly for you to achieve this mastery, though I'm sure it has not always felt so, and of course that is primarily because of your genius in making of it just that. Even as at the close of this double album, in Dead Plastic Bird, you make your peace about making your music for the deepest reasons and for your most intimate beloveds, through its inherent genius and also through that very sort of religious focus and unapologetic service it attains a universal power. - Ethan Dunn

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