From the earliest roots of music in our souls, I have to think that melody and faith and God and sex and death are all intermingled in a completely inseparable way, at the basest of levels. I am drawn to hearing other people untangle these things in honest songs, through unflinching confessionals. Like the blunt-force emotional honesty in “Wake Up Dead Man” by U2, “In The Dark” by Josh Ritter, “Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens, or most of the songs by Mumford & Sons or David Bazan (just to name a few off the top of my head), the Deer Tick song “Christ Jesus” is a howl of questioning from the deepest parts of the artist.
This year’s Black Dirt Sessions is a stripped, often-beautiful collection of songs tracing a blindingly difficult year for frontman John McCauley, one that took him close to a breakdown of sorts. Over a piano dirge, you won’t hear a more guttural wail on a song this year – it brings chills to the back of my neck.
Christ Jesus – Deer Tick
Said the bottom of his belly, that’s where he would keep me
Christ Jesus, as I’m floating
you get a brick and you drop it down on me
It’s the time of the week no one sees but me
Christ Jesus, as I’m drowning
and I struggle to breathe, it’s your face I don’t see
Christ Jesus, please don’t leave us
if in peace you’ll keep us
well then you should have believed us
After first being wrongly distracted by McCauley’s plaid kilt and California Raisins tattoos when I saw Deer Tick live at Monolith in 2009, I’ve been letting their music grow into me with its smart tentacles. I’ve mentioned before that Deer Tick reminds me often of Ryan Adams in several of his incarnations (Gold, Heartbreaker, Love is Hell), or perhaps Tom Waits.
This recent video McCauley recorded for The Voice Project is simply arresting, so much so that I had to make it into an mp3 to takeaway.
L.I.E. (The Shivers) – John McCauley
SOLO TOUR DATES: JOHN MCCAULEY & IAN O’NEIL
Fri-Jan-14, Boston, MA – Middle East Upstairs
Sat-Jan-15, Providence, RI – Met Café
Sun-Jan-16, Northampton, MA – Iron Horse
Wed-Jan-19, New York, NY – City Winery
Thu-Jan-20, New Haven, CT – Daniel Street
Fri-Jan-21, Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church Sanctuary
Sat-Jan-22, York, PA – Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center
Sun-Jan-23, Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel