Caught by the River

Jeb's Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 2nd November 2015

The Mills On Fire
Ken Matthews

I know where I was when I bought this record. I know how much it cost and how much money I had in my pocket. I know, vaguely, the colour and shape of the room I was standing in. I remember the woman who took my money saying: I sure hope it brings you blessings. I remember that she was wearing a t-shirt that said: I’m Saved – Are You?

It was in Missouri, in a roadside junk store. I had two dollars in my pocket. There was a box of records on the floor and I hoped that I didn’t want any of them. I wanted to save my two dollars for something cool to drink. It was hot and I was thirsty. The Mills On Fire cost me half the money I had.

I didn’t listen to it for a month. It stayed in my suitcase along with the other records and books I’d bought. I played it my first night back. I was living, then, in south London, amongst the noise that never quit. On a quiet street in a not so quiet district. I was occasionally happy there. I knew I wanted out, it just took me a while to figure out where Out was.

It was a year before I left. I often think that listening to The Mills On Fire was the first push. I remember sitting and listening to its unhurried southernness, that casual mix of soul and country. That leisurely, unrushed storytelling. The red dirt, the crickets, the empty nights. And I remember thinking: I don’t want to live here anymore.

So maybe, in some slanted way, The Mills On Fire brought me blessings. Who knows? Is it a blessing to be up here, in the hills, tucked away and quiet, lonely sometimes, often tired, surrounded by ash trees and brambles, far from the rush and tumble of South London? Blessing or not, I’m thankful for The Mills On Fire; thankful for Missouri junk shops, thankful for Ken Matthews, thankful for the two dollars I had in my pocket.

Jeb Loy Nichols
Jeb’s Jukebox archive