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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beau, Booze, and Bluebonnets (warning , comments may be offensive to immature audiences.)

Beau Hinze lit up the Corner Café Friday night. It was a special treat just for his devoted fans; a private concert with a good meal in a nice place. It was all very cozy, with his faithful followers from Washington County and beyond, turning out and leaving few chairs to spare. A few non- Brenhamites got seats, and I was one of those privileged few. Hinze is from just across the river… and speaks of the remote crossroads known as Independence and William Penn like I do… he sings unpretentiously about the people and places that I have grown so fond of over the past thirty years, as I have painted the bluebonnets “Plein air” along the Hidalgo Bluffs in Washington County. And that’s just the problem.

Beau is a very talented singer-songwriter, a truly gifted entertainer, and his band is primo. He is going places. I hear his song all the time on the radio. The one called “Dumbass Rusty” about the guy who goes on a stealin’ binge and ends up dead. He sang a new one about a guy who got murdered, but was found headless. I liked it better than the ones about the girls with dirty hair, the Bud Lite girls with their britches painted on, or the one that names every flavor of Boone’s Farm wine. Then he sang a promising song about his grandfathers… that was, damn it, also about drinkin’. So if you’re a Beau fan, don’t get mad at me if I say I HATE drinkin’ songs. Even my all-time favorite, Rusty Wier lost me when he began to waste his song, crooning about Cuervo’s Gold. So that means I really didn’t care, to be kind, for much of Beau’s show. Yet.

Watching and listening to Beau, a young, likable, budding star, singing on and on about what is apparently the importance of alcoholic drinks in his life, made me think some deep thoughts, as I fondled my Shiner… And it was probably because so many of his songs are so obsessed with drinking, beer, wine, whiskey, and other relatively mindless preoccupations. Those Washington County Germans sure love their beer. Still, it seemed infantile for song after song to be so centered in the culture of alcohol. I wondered if Beau could possibly be that shallow. Or that far gone, when the whole world is struggling with issues of addiction and drunk driving and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Now my closest friends know I love beer, even though I gave it up for twenty years after my ordination as a Baptist deacon. I abstained as the SBC had requested until I left the Baptist denomination. Twenty years, even though most of my non-deacon Baptist friends snuck a little drinking in whenever they could. Everybody winked like it was a private joke. They were getting away with something. Still, I grew to understand that a lot of folks need a non-alcohol environment, because they have a problem with abuse or addiction. So I lived with the foolishness and the hypocrisy too long.

I never thought it was wrong to drink… my Lord left drinking an alcoholic beverage as one of His expressed ordinances. Anybody that denies that just can’t handle the truth. Show me fresh grape juice at Passover time and I’ll show you the refrigerator it came out of. It was called the fruit of the vine back in those days, euphemistically, nothing negative or forbidding. But it was alcoholic for sure.

And His last supper, or better termed, His last drink, as the so-called supper was something akin to an unleavened cracker-like tortilla, his last observance of the Passover feast made wine the central symbol of his blood and suffering. And yet it was done in such a way as to represent his joyful fellowship with his followers; The hope and joy all Christians share knowing some day we will have a feast with HIM up there. And it is going to be a BLAST! We’ll be drunk … on heavenly stardust. Every heart hungers for that promised banquet. Some of us imbibe in all kinds of earthly substitutes in search of the real thing.

I told you, deep thoughts…

So I’m not a prude or anything about alcohol. I am an artist… and a writer… maybe a little bit of a philosopher, and I expect more out of such talent as this… this bohemian Brazos bottom beer bard. "To whom much is given, much is expected."

And then I put the dipstick in my own pocket.

I thought about my bluebonnet paintings. They are my bread and butter. Many folks, art connoisseurs, look down on them as too commercial, unoriginal, trite, appealing to unsophisticated tastes, ineligible for true art. An artist has to really be good to take on old, seemingly worn out standards and do them in such a way as to establish himself as the new king of the hill. Until he does, he is just another hack. No matter how good he is. I wondered if art collectors looked upon my bluebonnet paintings the same way I looked upon Beau’s boozin’ tunes. They probably do.

Fondling my shiner, (You can use that for a song if you want to, Beau) I wondered if Beau was as sincere as an artist about his boozin’ tunes as I was about my lupinus texanus. He may be. Just like a twelve year old would be if he wrote songs about his penis. There is nothing like the age of discovery. Everything is new and wonderful, even Bud Lite girls with their pants painted on. I gotta admit, Beau made me smile. He and his band are damn good and a lot of fun, and that is more than I can say for all of the paintings I have ever made.

Beau snatched me as a loyal fan with his last song of the evening. A real promising piece called Flathead Yellow Named Undertow. It reminded me of all the hearty river rats and “noodlers” I have ever known that answered the call of the behemoth river catfish, catfish so big they might drown a man. It is a great song. It ranks right up there with David Lutes’ Rise Up Elijah and Kevin Higgins’ tornado song called Out in the Fields… We have seen and heard the very best Americana we will ever hear, … right here in Navasota Texas.

I was sitting there, tired after an exhausting week, thinking about how glad I was that I came, to hear this kid, knowing he would soon be too big to appear in such a small venue here in Navasota. The drinking will fade away… I hope… “when I was a child, I thought as child, spoke as a child, and then one day I put away childish things.” I look forward to what kind of an artist Beau will be, when he grows up, and until then, I’m going to enjoy being a kid whenever I listen to his CD. It’s called UNDERTOW.

And Beau, someday I’ll see you on the bluffs. And maybe we’ll have a beer…


Anonymous said...

What do you expect from a guy, who to me, favors a young Adam Sandler? I kept thinking he was going to break out with a beer version of "The Hanukkah Song".

I agree, his band was great.

Good review.

Josh said...

I'm one of the Shufflers playing behind Beau. And, yes, I can see someone that hates drinking songs having some difficulty liking what we do. I appreciate your ability to look past your personal viewpoint and offer constructive criticism about our group. We are who we say we are - a group of guys just having fun playing tunes on the back porch. We certainly aren't going to take ourselves too seriously.

While there are certainly some shallow songs about drinking - Bud Light Girl and Boone's Farm Wine (Beau would agree), many of the other drinking references have deeper context within the tune. The song about his Grandfathers, for example, Beau is referencing memories of his Grandfather drinking whiskey (and him drinking "a jigger of soda" with him). It's a direct memory that gives context and meaning to the song. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss a song as "infantile" or "childish" just because it mentions beer or whiskey.

Thanks for coming out. We really enjoyed playing there, and we think we gave the Corner Cafe something different.

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