The power of memory, the sweetness of harmony, Brewer & Shipley are true
originals among the swarm of imitators that populate rock. Originals
to be sure, but still within a rich American tradition that goes back to the
original Carter Family and forward through Richard and Mimi Farina, The
Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. For unlike many who
have foundered trying to catch the
Brewer & Shipley have caught the wave within themselves, a deep artistic
current that has something to do with the country farm in Missouri where
they have settled their families.
Brewer & Shipley
take the listener back within himself to the springs of memory and
experience which are buried beneath the details of daily life. Their
music is gently provocative and evocative that much of what you "hear" is
fruit of you own life and you own strength of imagination. But the
music is there, and the lyrics - their lyrics always seem to tell a story -
are there too.
"Yankee Lady" is
a surprise, in that Brewer & Shipley did not write it. This lovely
song by Jesse Winchester, which earned him a core of dedicated
brilliantly consistent with the finest of Brewer &
Shipley. Like their work, Winchester's is a song of recollection... a
young man who has grown up in sweet Vermont remembering the first serious
woman of his life.
making love all night
And playing guitar all day."
As writers and
performers Brewer & Shipley succeed in portraying no only what happened, but
what it felt-like as it was happening. The images, set in the
reverberation of time, work like a vision or an hallucination:
autumn walk on a country road
And a million flaming trees
I was feeling uneasy
'Cause there was winter in the breeze.
unself-conscious poetic quality disarms the listener, making him
vulnerable to the play of subtle emotions. The anguish of knowing
that this love affair had to come to and end, and that like the birds,
the young musician would himself soon be "southward bound", is softened
through recollection. The bitterness melts into the experience of
life's journey, and in a few simple stanzas you come to understand two
people whose lives crossed in deep emotion, but only for a certain time.
....The song now has a meaning on a another level, which Winchester
could never have imagined when he wrote it. In voluntary exile for
the United States following his conscience to avoid the draft,
Winchester thinks about "Yankee Lady", America herself, with
Shipley's music is perfect for this kind of word painting. "Yankee
Lady" is alive with structured guitar texture, multitracked voices
and flowing bass line you can dream on, driving syncopated into the
chorus. The melodies flow with the ease of memory. At this
point, one can only wonder about all the resistance Brewer &
Shipley encountered with their famous song "One Toke Over The Line".
understandable, in the highly politicized atmosphere of those days, that
references to drugs would have been taken negatively in certain quarters.
But as we all have seen, Brewer & Shipley were well ahead of the
counter-culture recognition of the damage that was being done from a life
style that was always "One Toke Over The Line". Their song was not an
endorsement of the experience, rather a sweet, sad vision of the effects.
A year later Neil Young returned to this theme with his song "The Needle And
The Damage Done", while newspaper ad and subway wall posters now calmly but
firmly broadcast a non-hysterical warning about the real dangers.
It is not
surprising that Brewer & Shipley were among the first of their
contemporaries to meet this problem. Unlike the back-to-the-land
settlers who are simply taking their urban problems to the woods, Brewer &
Shipley have experienced the whirl of New York, San Francisco, and L.A., and
have chosen their idyll in the outlaw country of Missouri but because it
suits them, and strengthens their music.
Wordsworth, is passion recollected in tranquility. Brewer & Shipley
are among rock's most poetic figures, recalling the passion of life in the
tranquility of their songs.
Yankee Lady so good to me,
Your memory is enough for me.