Adam Arcuragi has this way of always making me think that I have so much to learn. It's not meant in a strictly brains sort of way, but more of an emotional way. The last time I saw him, he stepped out of the driver's side door of his white tour van, in shorts and thick, lumberjack socks, on the last day of South By Southwest week in Austin. He looked just like a regular old, tired guy with a long drive ahead of him. He concealed the reserves well, but when he pulls that guitar over his neck and begins to sing, something takes over him and your bottom jaw goes slack and you can't help but get yanked completely into his world, or more specifically, his America.
It's a country that seems not to have aged much from the Roaring '20s or the progressive and prosperous, opportunistic times after the Great Depression and post-war days, when people are kissing in the streets. He writes about a preserved period of time when the heart of the country was big, bad and healthy, when more people baked homemade pies and when church wasn't at all required, but more people could be found in them on Sundays.
The America that Arcuragi likes to think about is one that can infect someone to mourn for it and to wonder about its stewards in ways that go beyond most normal consideration. He's greatest when he brings his own personal chorus of voices with him, to back him. When he's rolling with his choir of soaring emotion, Arcuragi is hard to stop as he booms his refrains with delirious conviction and purpose. He sings about what's been taken and how little's been put back. He sings about holes in chests and how the seem to be filled with nothing but pine needles and scraps of newspaper, lint or string from thrown out dog food bags. He sings about needing too much and giving too little, or just giving too late.
His is a swashbuckling take on the difficulties that rap upon us in waves, consistently breaking the skin or leaving welts. His is a take on us that we have such a hard time seeing without help. It's a take on himself and so many that have come before him and not gotten it right. It's a take on the many, many more who are here or will come along and not get it right. It's all for the attempts, as frustrating as they are. After all, we're just humans, goddamn it.