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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, January 19, 2004
    Speed, Country, Soul
    As dawn broke today I was motoring through the Midlands with Mike Riddell on the car cassette; great talks about not being a Christian-circuit speaker any more, great texts about being a writer, and a good quote from Hemingway: "A writer has to face eternity - or its absence - every day".

    I made a 4am start for my annual lunch date with Oliver from Greenbelt, where we make plans for the coming August Bank Holiday festival Soul Space programme. It gets easier every year; at Pizza Express we finished the business before finishing the food. I left Oliver to return to an office floor strewn with flipchart pages from the various inspired groups among the eighty-plus who attended last week's Greenbelt 2004 Brainstorm Evening: lots of enthusiastic ideas about what the festival might do this year in the areas of Music, Visual Arts, Site Vibing, Worship, Talks, Performing Arts, Youth and Kids, Light Entertainment and Media. Oli's got to sort it all out now. What a task... typically, he's up for it.

    I zipped down the M6/M1 in the daybreak hours to get some shopping in first: music shopping, that is. And given my current mood it had to be country. So I took a list of recommendations from Rough Trade, down the spiral staircase to their cellar shop in Neal's Yard (a dream of a shop, gimme a hammock and the controls to the cd player, I could live there), and then over to the big Picadilly stores. And as a result I came home with these as my companions:

    The Gourds - Shinebox
    The Broken Family Band - Cold Water Songs
    The Handsome Family - Singing Bones
    V/A: Country Got Soul Volume 1

    Mesmerised by windscreen wipers, fazed by miles of taillights, I was at the M6 toll when The Handsome Family sang, "That beneath the gauzy haze / Of life's listless dream / There's a place where time is dead / And all things stand still and always will". No truer than there, at the heart of that tarmac-and-steel wilderness. But I kept speeding on through the country with a heart full of art and soul - a good ol' Greenbelt day.