Timing is everything, even when you've been dead fifteen years. So it was when Blaze Foley spoke to me the day after the November elections. Oval Room, the posthumous recording live from the Austin Outhouse that was released earlier in the fall, was the first piece of music I listened to, and there was Blaze railing about Bush in the White House and simultaneously blowing him off by declaring, "He's the President/But I don't care," as if he never went away.
Never mind that the Bush he was singing about was Bush the Elder, not Bush the Younger. Foley's warm nasal whine gave comfort with the essential truth that a shithead is always in charge, regardless of party, and that the best one can hope for in the long run is to make your own world and hope nobody bad intrudes on it.
The music, the words, and his pin-dropping presence got me to thinking -- not about politics and America so much, but about Blaze himself. He might be hailed today as the best of all the Austin singer-songwriters if a crank hadn't shot him dead. Instead, he's largely a word-of-mouth legend, at best compared to Townes Van Zandt even though the comparison is almost always accompanied by the qualifier that Blaze was no Townes.
But while it may be true Blaze wasn't around long enough to build as large a body of work, if TVZ deserves deification in the afterlife with Margaret Brown's recent film documentary, the release of Oval Room goes a long way in explaining why David Parks is doing a film documentary on Blaze. His songs were good enough for Willie, Merle, Lucinda, Lyle, and Kimmie (writers' writers, all) to cover. Some compositions were heartbreakingly stunning -- "My Reasons Why", "Rainbows And Ridges", and "Someday" are three examples from this last recording. Then again, some songs were so goofy ("Springtime In Uganda", "Wouldn't That Be Nice", "No Goodwill Stores In Waikiki"), you had to wonder if he secretly was auditioning for the Austin Lounge Lizards.
Then there was Blaze the person, an honest street character and songster who preferred homeless to home, a quart to a pint, and duct-tape to diamonds, and really and truly sounded like it. Oval Room affirms all that. It also managed to soothe at least one savage beast the day after Election Day, just when it was in serious need of soothing. And that, my friend, is really saying a lot.