Caught by the River

Jeb's Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 31st March 2015

15. who

The Montgomery Express
Folkways, 1974

When the water stops appearing from the taps I trace the problem back to a faulty ball valve. The valve, after twenty years, is gunged up. The mud and muck upon which we stand having slowly, relentlessly, found its way here, inside, above my head, into the coppered workings. I shoulder up, spanner in hand, into the attic rank with mouse shit. This is how I spend the morning, pulling and tightening, adjusting, cursing amongst the damp droppings.

In the afternoon I listen to The Montgomery Express. It’s something I often do. The Montgomery Express is a tonic. It makes a mockery of time. It places me firmly in the here and now; it transports me back to when I first heard it; it points the way to the future.

I once lived, thirty years ago, in New York amongst idlers and fantasists, artists and lunatics, hustlers and dummies. People on the run from what they were. Some of whom I was very fond of. Good people who were very young. Working in a shop called Record City with the best of them. It was there that I listened to Ornette Coleman and Betty Carter and Conway Twitty and The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. It was there I tried to be different.

It was there I first heard The Montgomery Express. We bought a few boxes of Folkways cut outs and there it was, among the spoken word records and the folk and blues records, among the field recordings and ethnic records. A perfect slice of Southern soul. I played it constantly until, under threat of being sacked, I was made to quit.

While I listen I look out my window. I can see what? Ten, twenty feet, no more. The birch, the wheel barrow, the pathway through the bracken, all gone. The fog flows and settles while I watch. The stream has swollen, the brown water carries large sticks and branches. I watch a hat swish by. Leaves too and clumps of hay. The hat, of the kind given away to farmers, is red and white with a dark peak. A logo of some description on the front.

While I listen and remember, listen and remember.

Jeb’s Jukebox archive