American Standard Time- ‘Ballad Of Jean Genet’ song premier & beautiful album review
by Sean Jewell ::
Outlaw poets are the best poets. By talent or by fate, none quite nailed the role like French poet Jean Genet. Genet was a adopted after being born to a prostitute; as a child he loved running away and became a thief. He became imprisoned, got out by joining the foreign legion, got kicked out for being gay, then became a vagabond, prostituting himself when he wasn’t stealing. He wrote his first book in prison, and after guards destroyed it for being contraband as well as homosexual erotica, he simply rewrote it from memory. Genet sought out and introduced himself to Jean Cocteau, who recognized his talent with words. When it came time for him to be imprisoned again, Cocteau, Picasso, and Jean Paul-Sartre banded together and appealed to the president of France to commute his sentence. He was a writer the rest of his life, championing the outlaw, the underdog, in dark, sexual, epic poems and novels about murder, prison, and war.
North Dakota folk songwriter Ana Egge learned about him from another great poet: Patti Smith.
“What I should’ve said when I met Patti Smith was, ‘thanks for turning me on to Jean Genet.’ In her book Just Kids she mentions many writers and artists who influenced her early on. One was Genet. I’d never heard of him and after she’d mentioned him many times in a reverential way as a sort of patron saint of the prostitute, rebel, brilliant writer, tramp variety I had to find out who he was. The more I read his work and about his life, the more I felt the same way. “Ballad Of Jean Genet” is a tribute to a beautiful, original, subversive mind and tortured soul. It made sense that the song ended up feeling a bit like a spiritual.”
We find Ana to have a gift with words as well. Egge decorates songs with phrases more than writes lyrics. Words are sparse but effective, composition and patient musicianship speak volumes on her album Bright Shadow (see what I mean?) due out July 30th. Backed by The Stray Birds, Egge wrote the songs on the album with the band in mind. Such an understanding of the sound makes her never have to reach outside her vocal range for attention. Guitars, upright bass, and fiddle come into focus and fade like brush strokes on a painting to tell dreamy folk tales. On “The Ballad of Jean Genet” a single acoustic slide guitar and some harmonies tell of Genet, putting sentences together like he might, with words that do battle, with brute force and beauty in the same breath.