Richard Shelton is the most accomplished poet and writer that I know and call friend. He is an 86 year old cracker jack, a fire cracker of a desert dweller, and he has taught me a great deal about my craft. The man is a legend of this wonderful state for many reasons: whether it be his long tenure at the University of Arizona, his (and his wife’s) help in the development of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, his lifelong work in the prison system developing creative writing programs, his beautiful poetry, or his witty prose. But for me, and our purposes here, it is sufficient to say that the man loves the Sonoran Desert.
Richard used to take his poetry classes out into the desert on excursions, hikes of creative discovery, journeys meant to remove students from their normal surroundings and allow them to immerse themselves in the surreal of the Sonoran Muse. His stories of this time very much inspired my story “The Old Gods & the New” in Ghost Songs. When I was writing that story, I spent a lot of time contemplating Richard’s poem New Road, which is about a road being carved through the saguaros. (Richard lives near the Sonoran Desert Museum and Saguaro National Monument in Tucson.) I bring this story up, and my friend, the poet, to ask you this: when you wonder in that Desert Solitude, in those Vast Expanses, over those rough stones, through those sandy arroyos and out into the Lonesome Wilderness of Arizona…. what songs does she sing?”
Joe Golfen sent me the new The Lonesome Wilderness record, Awake in the Night, and I have been listening to it for days. Have you heard of The Lonesome Wilderness? I consider myself pretty in-the-know of music in this town, and, well, friends, I am discovering new bands every single day. The talent in Arizona is DEEP! Several months ago, I was watching The Breakup Society play at Last Exit Live, and it turned out to be Joe’s last show playing with the band. It was that night that I first heard of The Lonesome Wilderness. Now, I am devouring their music.
Awake in the Night feels like the soundtrack to The Man With No Name spaghetti westerns if The Beatles hung out with a few Arizona Highwaymen in the desert and wrote it.
Story time. Years ago, I gave a friend a mix CD of Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers and The Refreshments. He liked it, saying, “They are the perfect get in the car and drive around Arizona band!” And it makes sense. Roger wrote Sonoran Hope and Madness after hiking into the Lonesome Wilderness. Into the desert sun, contemplating the Monkey Wrenches and scorpion stings. And he wrote, what in my opinion, is the definitive masterpiece of Arizona Rock. I have often thought, as Roger has been my role model for a very long time, that I wanted to do for fiction in my home state what Roger did for music. Roger, like Richard Shelton, is a Sonoran poet, and we share that hope and madness.
What is The Lonesome Wilderness? Is it the voice of those wilds? Is it the things they say to us, when we are silent, and listen? Are these the songs of that loneliness? Is the loneliness sad? Or, satisfactorily alone? Or, are these the songs that that Lonesome Wilderness gifts to us, that take root in our hearts, and lungs, and sinews as we breathe in those high mountain airs or those hot bursts of desert severity – and burst forth as songs and poems upon reflection. If Richard Shelton’s New Road, was put to music, would it be a Lonesome Wilderness song?
These are my thoughts on just the band name. And all of these questions, could be affirmations upon listening to the record, Awake in the Night.
So, what does my first impression mean? If you were to make a mix CD, with Burnin’ Grass and The Garden (decker.) Sonoran Hope and Madness and Ashes of San Miguel (Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers) Nada and Don’t Wanna Know (The Refreshments) Norwegian Wood and Nowhere Man (The Beatles) Witchdoctor and Bad Desert Sun (Sidewinders/ Sand Rubies) and Awake in the Night, Rolling Rock, Black Smoke Clouds, and Desert Sun (The Lonesome Wilderness) you would have a very cool soundtrack to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. And it would be amazing. (BTW, after Awake in the Night releases, I will include this Playlist Here.)
And you wanna know what….. FRIDAY NIGHT you can see decker. play with THE LONESOME WILDERNESS when they debut Awake in the Night at Valley Bar, Phoenix! Get your tickets HERE !!!!
The Ghost Writer Review
Webs: Many of the songs on this record gave me this fun little mental image of my friend Richard Shelton walking like Tom Bombadill trough the cholla and mesquite and saguaros strumming a guitar and putting melodies to his poetry. The Lonesome Wilderness very much make me think about their band name, and what it means. “Even though the days go by it’s not the ticking clocks that make you die, so come on back, come on back to me again.” Lonely love song? Maybe. A poet singing to a fallen God of the Desert? Maybe. I think more than any other band name, at least recently, The Lonesome Wilderness makes me THINK… and I love that.
(So) Easy: The first released single of this album; what do you think? For me… you will always get me with the poetry. I am a Wordsmith my friends, and I love the music, do not get me wrong, but the way to my heart is through my mind with your words. “It’s so easy just to stay inside your head, it will get ugly if you let it in instead.” Word.
Awake in the Night: Beautiful. I love the voice of the guitar in this one, introducing me into the poem….. “Yesterday I waited too long, I held onto that feeling until the feeling was gone, and I have to say I was wrong, so wrong to let the light fade before changing the song…” A lot of the songs on this record could be sad, if you really listened to them, but they do not sound sad. It is like the Desert. It is harsh. It is deadly. It is unforgiving. And it is absolutely breathtaking. There is nothing sad about the lonesome time I spend in that wilderness.
Rolling Rock: Joe Golfen and I got talking about inspirations when The Lonesome Wilderness released a playlist of songs that inspired and fueled and mused into their writing of this record. I love that. I wrote an entire book inspired by the songs that my friends wrote. It is not a matter of who I write like, who they sound like, or where our creative impulses come from. It is about each of us as human beings being a rolling rock that has no idea where we are going, or how it is going to be, or who we are going to see….. we just pick up little bits and they make us. We devour those little bits, and dissect them, and retain the pieces that mattered….. and that becomes our voice.
Black Smoke Clouds: This is the song that screams Rubber Soul and Revolver to me. This is the song that makes me say The Beatles hung out in the Desert with my friends. What a cool, 60s, contained-psychotic piece of coolness!
Thought on the Stairs: This song is amazingly beautiful. The music is understated, and the lyric is Lonesome in the empty city streets and the sound of the winter is setting in and we are alone again…. and its not the sirens or the horns that keep us awake at night…. and this song makes us realize that Lonesome Wilderness….. could be anywhere. Even our own hearts.
Desert Sun: Sonoran Hope & Madness. Nuff Said.
Get to this show my friends. Buy this record.
Find your Wilderness….. and listen to her voice…. in the Lonesome Calm