Sleeper

Box of teeth from Leo's house
Box of teeth from Leo’s house

The most efficient way to to store stuff is digitally. After that there is flat filing cabinets. I put my father’s old cabinet in my studio and that set off a chain reaction of purging to make space for the new. Out with a pile of paintings and older work, sifting through piles of junk and then into the closets where we found boxes of 4D Advertising samples. All to the trash. Now, what about this box of teeth molds that our former neighbor, Leo, an orthodontist who often worked out of his house, left in his basement when he passed? I took a photo and thought about Leo.

Phil Marshall has a rubber soul. We are friends and have played together but I was not aware of his Beatle affinity. We recently donated to his Indiegogo CD project. Our level entitles us to have Phil as a guest on a podcast. Our promo copy of the cd arrived in two versions, “Scatterbed,” fleshed out tracks with guest musicians, and “Scatterbed Sleeper,” basic tracks of guitar and voice performed simultaneously, described as “the album in its rawest and most immediate form.” Both are produced by Chris Zajkowski and they sound fantastic.

While in hospice my dad occupied a scatterbed at St. John’s. He filled an open bed on the fifth floor next door to long-time nursing home residents, wanderers and people who talk non-stop in non-sequiturs. This is David Greenberger Duplex Planet territory. We intended to engage Phil to play music for my father while he was there, a few Johnny Mercer songs between the madness, but it never happened. Phil is a professional music therapist, what must be a heroic profession. “Scatterbed” arrived two weeks after my dad’s passing and Phil’s self described “reflection on loss, grief, faith and the lack thereof” resonated big time.

Our listening session began with “Sleeper,” the basic tracks. The first song, “Heaven is Waiting,” made me cry. As rich as Gershwin or Nilsson. The rhythm guitar in the next song, “Black Ice,” immediately called to mind Beefheart’s, “Harry Irene.” “In the final instant, Beyond all love and fear, Is there a perfect moment, When everything is clear?” “Faith,” which is inevitably called into play in the final hours meets a worthy opponent. “Faith, I doubt, is true, Faith, in love I do believe.” “Ebb And Flow’s” innocence echoes the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” as it looks death in the eye. “Surrender it all to ebb and flow.” I’m quoting the lyrics here but, more importantly, Phil’s gorgeous melodies get under your skin and stay there.

Our session was interrupted so we started over the next day. “Sleeper” to “Scatterbed” full blown. I found myself thinking not only of my father but our departed painting teacher who also left a huge hole a few months back. We let a week go by and played the two in reverse order. “Sleeper” speaks more clearly, more directly and I am thankful to have a copy. For me the ideal transition from “Sleeper” to “Scatterbed” would have gone more raw, more fragile and more vulnerable. But then, Stella, our eighteen year old cat is in hospice as I write this.

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