Saturday, May 05, 2007

Unknown Artist: Last Leg (Jeff Iwanski of Honey Stump)

I've recently been getting some correspondence from friends in Nebraska about some of the bands who play the area. I went to Doane College in the early seventies and as a freshman taking an education course was promptly put into the Crete Public Schools as a teacher's aide. The practice was to immerse education students in public schools early to see if the freshman student was in fact had any real interest in pursuing a career in education.

So I was placed in a high school art class with Larry Boehmer the art teacher at the time. Larry was a University of Nebraska fine arts painter who had one of his pieces set up in the classroom. It was a painting of a woman farming and in the semester I was an aide it never received another stroke of refinement. Larry played the Layla album every day, every class period for the semester - he was hooked on blues.

Larry quit teaching that year and bought The Zoo, a bar in Lincoln where he invited Chicago Blues musicians to entertain the largely University f Nebraska art crowd. Later, when I took advanced art courses at the University I would make an occasional beer run.

All of which gave me a great perspective on the music that rocks the Midwest.

All of which is prelude to a freely downloadable masterwork by Jeff Iwanski recording as Last Leg. The last time I heard music this honest and whole is when Michelle Shocked released the Texas Campfire Tapes.

The Last Leg EP songs are gray, post-modern country-narratives. And as such they are stark, refreshing reminders that loneliness is busy with impersonal socializing. These songs are not a vampiric restyling of Woody Guthrie, Dylan, or Buffalo Springsteen. Here you will listen to the dark wonder of nothingness that Cormic McCarthy writes about in The Pretty Horses Trilogy. In the digital age, emptiness may feel warm as well as cold, pointless but exhausting for the blurring motion.

Today's prairie traveler has no horse but very well may have some fries to sing about. And breakfast may not be the same without your latest flame. These songs will remind you of Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, and Johnny Cash even though they'll offer completely different takes on similar subject matter.

There are sonic echoes of Eno's ambient sound experiments at play here as well. The spare instrumentation creates the mythic darkness at the edge of town that no longer exists in the megalopolises of American experience.

This is singles bar music like the one David Byrne described so many years ago, "Heaven - heaven is a bar - where nothing, nothing ever happens."


Gene said...

I play in a band with Jeff. I'm going to forward him your kind words-hope you don't mind.

Frank Krasicki said...


I hope I got all the details correct and certainly wish you all well.