Listen Up: Wednesday, December 07, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
David Wilcox and Nance Pettit

Out Beyond Ideas (What Are Records?)

By Jeff Prince

During a personal meltdown in the late 1980s, I sought relief by submerging myself in books about various religions and philosophies. Instead of respite, I got mostly eyestrain and confusion. No offense to the Chinese, but how anyone reads the I Ching without cramming a chopstick in his brain is beyond me. The book that ultimately provided the most relief was a thin paperback called Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, filled with parables and abstract anecdotes; sort of like finding spiritual enlightenment via Cliffs Notes, but it worked for me. Maybe this is why I enjoyed Out Beyond Ideas so much. Folk singer-songwriter David Wilcox and his wife Nance Pettit collected ancient sacred poems from the world’s major faith traditions, set them to music, and sang them with a relaxed sincerity, a pleasing conduit for these messages of peace and love. The poems were written hundreds of years ago by mystics from various countries. Some don’t make obvious sense but are comforting nonetheless. It’s nice to know people from different generations, races, and cultures — from St. Francis of Assisi to Elvis Costello — have visualized peace, love, and understanding. The excerpts from the poems are succinct, so the album’s 17 songs flow from one to the next, easing the listener into a kind of mental hammock. Take, for example, a song called “The Shell Trick” translated from 17th-century Indian poet Takuram: “I saw God put himself in one of your pockets / It’s the old shell trick with a twist / You are bound to find him.” It’s a cool message sweetened by the realization that it was written in another age and repackaged in a modern context. Wilcox and Pettit aimed high and don’t always hit the mark. A few of the melodies are a bit vapid, and the production teeters toward pretentious at times. I wouldn’t put this on the same level as folkie Greg Brown’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (1986), a take on the poetry of William Blake. Still, Out Beyond Ideas is a refreshing listen, whether played simply as background music or when studied for its message. And, in the spirit of the album’s theme, proceeds from Ideas benefit international peace work.

Fri at Bass Performance Hall’s McNair Studio, 301 E 5th St, FW. $27.50. 817-212-4280 or 1-877-212-4280.


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