Saturday mid-afternoon, I had a choice to make. But let’s not bury the lede with a boring bottom pile.
Shortly after making the right choice, I was listening to two verses from “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley.
The performance was by buskers under the glass roof of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington. Janan Alexandra (violin) and Logan Carithers (guitar) are The Sweet May Dews.
The couple made a solemn promise to me to learn the rest of the song. (This could be described enough as an exaggeration, an exaggeration, an editorial license, or an outright lie. It mostly reflects my hope, instead of anything Alexandra and Carithers might have said.)
As a boring background, the choice fell on the photos.
I could head over to Kirkwood Avenue to get a new photo of the street closing. Parts of the street have been closed for months to allow for additional restaurant seating, as part of the City of Bloomington’s pandemic response.
Or I could use a file photo.
Why do I really need a photo? I am working on an article on the planned action of the municipal council next Wednesday, to extend until October 31 the authorization to sit in a restaurant in the middle of Kirkwood.
Using an archive photo is a more efficient use of time. A new photo lets readers know that you care enough about their visual needs to give them new art.
So I walked down Walnut to the Kirkwood intersection. I pulled east from Walnut towards Kirkwood to get a frame full of seats for Farm and Uptown.
From there, I could barely make out any faint music, coming from the overhang of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. It was the first roots of a piece played on violin and guitar. I will, in my inexperienced way, transcribe it like this: strum doo doo dee dum… doong doong.
Those last two notes landed in my ear like the iconic ‘Mm-hmm’ from Guy Clark’s’ Dublin Blues’ frontline, which says, ‘Well, I wish I was in Austin. Mm-hmm. “
I had little hope that the song would turn out to be “Dublin Blues” – because I often get it wrong on that stuff.
But I could make out “Chili Parlor bar” on the buzz of Walnut Street traffic. It was “Dublin Blues”. So I gave up on my self-assigned photoshoot and went down to the Buskirk-Chumley for more attentive listening.
Finding buskers who perform “Dublin Blues” is a stroke of luck, not just because “Dublin Blues” is a good song. It is, of course, a poetic work of art, with classic lyrics like: I went to Fort Worth / I went to Spain / I was too proud / To get in the rain.
Finding street musicians singing “Dublin Blues” is lucky, as that means there is a good chance they will also know “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley. And “Clay Pigeons” is the song that I always try to hear. It’s a whole different story.
Whatever genre that includes Blaze Foley and Guy Clark, that’s a fair description of the other music The Sweet May Dews played on Saturday.
During a break between songs, I asked The Sweet May Dews if they knew any Blaze Foley stuff. Alexandra said they had just talked about how they should learn some Blaze Foley songs.
I dared to say that “Clay Pigeons” is worth learning. Carithers said he didn’t know it, but then looked skyward, squinted very hard, found a faded memory of some lyrics, and started scratching and chanting tentatively, “I’m going to the station. Greyhound / I’m going to get a ticket to go up / I’m going to find this lady with two or three children / And sit next to her… “
Alexandra followed him with backup voices. Their effort enabled them to go through two complete verses before giving up. For the moment. They seemed receptive to the idea that “Clay Pigeons” is a song worth learning in all its glory.
On Saturday, the Sweet May Dews performed on behalf of the Buskirk-Chumleys as part of the Buskirk buskers series. They told me the show would end in June but start again in July. In the meantime, they will be around the downtown square, alone.
If you see Alexandra and Carithers on the street this summer, take a break, put some money in their hats, and listen until they stop.
If they’re not playing “Clay Pigeons,” ask them to learn it for next time. I don’t want to be the only one.
Photos: The sweet dews of May (May 29, 2021)