Strix the harbinger
guards the exit gate, quizzing all
Who will pass this night?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Harm's Swift Way

I swore to myself that it was enough about my current fixation on Townes Van Zandt. I lied. I lie even to myself.
This story by Townes Van Zandt's widow, Jeanene, is about how she and their now teenage daughter, Katie Belle, introduced the last demo tape made by TVZ as he was dying, “Harm’s Swift Way”, to Robert Plant. It was to eventually appear on the 2010 album by Robert Plant and Band Of Joy:
"Man Oh Man, the show was Great! I’ll skip to my favorite part. Right before Robert sang Nothin’, Alison sang “Come to the River” a cappella with Plant and two other band members singing harmony on the choruses. It was fabulous. Here’s what Robert Plant said before he sang Nothin’,
“When we began the “Raising Sand” project, and we met and discussed songs that T Bone introduced me, in my naivety to American music, I had never really encountered it before. And this music really has turned the whole tide for me and to illuminate great American writers who I was unaware of. This is a song by the almighty Townes Van Zandt. It’s called 'Nothin' ”.
(Actually, I couldn’t hear the title because Katie Belle was squealing so loud… to my heart’s delight.) Katie got all of this and the rockin’ version of the song on video! What a wonderful thing for her to have! Backstage we got to meet T Bone briefly right away. Townes had introduced me to him a couple of times a long time ago. I had dropped off the gift bags for the three of them earlier in the day with the booking agent’s assistant and my mission for the night was to make sure they ended up with them. I had put two Rolling Stone mags and the Euro and American versions of the ‘Raising Sand' CDs in Robert’s bag to hopefully get autographed by them. To my horror, when we picked up our tickets and passes at Will Call, there was a sheet of instructions that had in capital letters, underlined… "Please Do Not ask for autographs or take pictures backstage!"  CRAP!
We waited till about 2/3 of the folks had cleared out before we made our move to meet Mr. Plant and Alison (who I had met once before at the booking agent’s office.) I found the assistant, who introduced me to Robert’s assistant, who assured me that Robert would sign the stuff and get his gift bag. By now, I could reach out and touch them and I signaled to the booking agent that we wanted to be next for an introduction. She motioned us over and we waited our turn. Robert was standing next to Alison, but had his back to us talking to someone else. Denise introduced us to Alison, who remembered me and I was telling her about me asking Katie Belle that if I introduced her to Robert Plant, would I finally be Cool, and she said “Well Yeah.” and we all laughed. That’s when Robert turned around and said hello. We thanked him for all the nice things he said about Townes on this tour. He talked about how he wished he hadn’t blown his voice already in the show, because usually he does that song real soft but he had to do it loud tonight. We said we loved it and that we were just sooooo happy! And he said, “I bet!”, and we all laughed. Robert told us that he had a child die and about the loss of his friend and drummer and how someone had tried to murder him by giving him a massive dose of LSD and that he was in a comma for five days and woke up Saved. This being the last night of the tour, we talked about Home and where everybody lived. Alison commented on how weird it was that there was a Starbucks in Smyrna now.
Robert said that he would sign the stuff I brought, and I told them about Townes’ last song “Harm’s Swift Way” I put in there, and how Townes never got to record it except for this work tape. That perked their interest. We said our goodbyes, and Robert reached out and gave me a very warm and lingering hug. I whispered in his ear, “Robert, we appreciated you so much!”. I hugged Alison and asked her to make sure everyone left with their gift bags, and she said she would. When we got home, Katie Belle went straight to her guitar and started playing.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall when these guys sit down and listen to Townes’s last song. It’s not just the last song he happened to write, it is the epitome of a genius troubadour’s last statement."
There is a home out of harms swift way
I set myself to find
I swore to my love I would
Bring her there
Then I left my love behind
The desert was long
The mountain high
The road ran steep and winding
The promises so easily made
Unbearable, yet binding
Oh me, oh my
Who's gonna count my time

Time will go, it never stays
Memory locked in her passing
Try, oh try to cling to her
Until she becomes everlasting
The world's still blue
My word's still true
I feel I'm turning hollow
She does as she please
If ever she leaves
I'll strangle upon the sorrow
Oh me, oh my
Who's gonna mark my time

The road is past, tomorrow the sky
Between sometimes is blinding
Someday soon when I turn to cloud
I will fly on her wings somehow
Wrapped in the road and filled with above
The ground seems to fade away
Hold to the earth like a new born child
Pray she returns someday
Oh me, oh my
Who's gonna mark my time

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