“Mysterious legendary figure, an apparition almost, known to haunt festival back stages, who resurrects otherworldly songs from some half forgotten history, when music was plucked from celestial vines in gardens of plenty.” (Robert Bowlin at the 2015 John Hartford Memorial Festival.)
I wrote this as a response to the Wil Maring song, “Keeper of the Farm.” I thought some of you folks might like it: Such a wistful, lovely song. To me, it is about being a dutiful custodian to the memories of the past. To gently hold in your heart what was dear to the innumerable generations that walked this earth in unknown grace before us. You do not want to hold these remembrances so tight that they becomes calcified and deadened, however. You want to cradle them ever so gently. Just enough that they have a life inside you, and are safe from the ravages of rust and time and the myriad other things that are destroyer of dreams. Although it has a literal meaning, I prefer its metaphorical one. To me, it is talking about folk music, Americana – whatever you want to call it. We do not want to lose our musical traditions in the face of the harsh and unknowing cacophony of whatever is being played these days on ugly radio. There is simplicity and purity and a saving grace in the sound and language of American traditional music, and we let these traditions fall by the wayside at our peril. They are not dusty old songs – they are a living, breathing, vibrantly essential part of our shared history. Recently, the John Hartford Memorial Festival was held in Bean Blossom, Indiana. Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin were part of the musical fraternity to play this festival, and keep the memory of this legendary artist alive. John was a special soul, one who pushed musical boundaries and left all of us with a lasting legacy. I hope to attend this gathering next year, and to further my musical education by doing so.
Wil Maring’s song, “Bottomlands“, in my humble opinion, is among the very best lovingly crafted in the Americana genre of music. It evokes the spiritual possibilities inherent to any of us in each moment, but most easily accessible by being immersed in the world of nature. Although I am a bit unfamiliar with the term bottomlands, being a Northerner, I intuit its underlying metaphorical and spiritual significance: a place both immediate and remote in memory; a place where our beloved still exist, and where our dreams still flourish. A place where we can retreat from the oppressive mental burdens of our soul-crushing existence. Her wonderful song, which wafts down to us from some heavenly archetypal memory of a time where our oneness with the natural realm remains undiminished, is a favorite of mine, and will be decades from now. Its author is one of our great national treasures, but one who remains mostly unknown. It is to be hoped that soon, this will no longer be the case, and that Wil Maring will get the recognition that she is long overdue.