“Angel from Montgomery"
SUNNYSIDE UP MOMENT - APRIL 8, 2020
DAY TWENTY-THREE OF THE CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN FOR US AT STACK 'EM HIGH PANCAKES AND SO FORTH
“Angel from Montgomery” is the story of a middle-aged woman, living, lamenting and losing what is left of herself. The lyrics take us from her humble youth to her dispirited present. Behind the melancholy, the embers of her worn down frustration still smolder. I love when the singer’s voice breaks out of the rhythm and pushes hard against the line, “How the hell can a person. Go to work in the morning. Come home in the evening and have nothing to say?”
I first heard this song at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina when Nick and I were dating, one of my fondest memories to this day. I was charmed by the melody, the way its sweet, rueful refrain shepherds you forward. The words are so sincere, so desperate, so sad. It is easy to picture a woman hollowed out by time, exhausted by expectations never met. You can’t help but hurt a little, your heart strings are taut with every chord. You hope she discovers something to fill her soul before she disappears into the earth. She isn’t asking for much. “Just give me one thing that I can hold on to. To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”
This narrative has so much to say right now, but we can save that for another day. We lost the songwriter, John Prine, last night to Covid-19. He had battled cancer since the late 90’s and came back fighting after each bout. And now we can only pray he is “standing by peaceful waters.” His lyrics were often off-beat and quirky. His scores were uncomplicated. But his music celebrated the simplicity of everyday life. He elevated the meek and gave them a voice. He used his craft to make statements when the questions compelled him to do so. His legacy will live on when we take care to do the same. Or we could “blow up our tvs, throw away our papers, go to the country, build us a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches and try to find Jesus on our own.” He’d like that, too.