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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Keith Pitzer was a beautiful dude
Listening to:Warmth of the Sun, Brian Wilson
Weather:14, up from 0!
He was a serious musician, a serious person, but warm and friendly and quick to smile. Both hard and soft.

I admit I have the tendency to quietly make fun of the serious folk songwriter types. I secretly call them folk nazis. You know the kind, they start picking the song's intro and start talking over it, explaining what it's about or why they wrote it, or tell some anecdote about it peppered with clever wordplay that seems less clever everytime you hear the same canned intro. They disdain all drums that aren't handdrums, with the single exception of the revered bodhran. They write about serious things. They don't like when you talk during the show, because every word and every riff is important.

But I admit that part of why I make fun of them is because I'm jealous of their tenacity and perseverance and dedication to something they know without doubt. I'm a cover musician with a sweet tooth for shiny sweet pop. It's the opposite of serious. Don't worry if you're talking through it, that chorus will come around again. So will that essential riff or that magic chord. I joke about folksters who demand you take them as seriously as they take themselves, but honestly, I'm damn impressed by people who have the courage to lay themselves out there like that. If you encourage your audience to assume that every note is critical you are inviting listeners to listen to your delivery of every note. And every note has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and potentially all kinds of nuance throughout.

So you better deliver. Talk about pressure. And this pressure is totally self-imposed with these cats. The happy pop cover artist can squonk a pretty high percent of notes as she provides musical wallpaper in a noisy bar. The serious folky songwriters don't give themselves that luxury.

Keith was that guy. And he delivered time and time again. His songs really capture places and people and consciousness. He wrote about questions and didn't offer simple answers. His songs aren't just poetry over chords. He actually did take every note seriously, but that's what made his performances so compelling. Not every song is all serious, I'm thinking about Home Ranger, a sweet song of childhood perceptions. But even that song has a kind of weight to it.

His guitarplaying was a delight to watch and hear. He could hold up slow, something many acoustic players can't really get away with, but he could rip out a blazing riff with every note clear and essential. He had a deep understanding of the uniquely delicious qualities of acoustic guitar, and he incorporated those into his tunes in such a way that you couldn't imagine them played on any other instrument. His voice was luscious, controlled but expressive, strong and gentle. And complemented beautifully by his partner Joan.

That's an important piece of this picture, too, this partnership of Keith and Joan. Married for, I don't know, 25 years? 30 years? Kids, grandkids. A country home that they worked together to make and keep. And musically a really beautiful duo. I love the acoustic duo, it's my very favorite ensemble, and this was one of my absolute favorite duos to watch and listen to. Their arrangements are so clean and clear, so well-executed, dynamic, solid, beautiful. Just exactly enough room for each player/singer. The sound of their voices together was so satisfying, like watching a couple dancing together in the graceful steps they've rehearsed together too many times to count. Rare quality.

Tomorrow night, the last night of the year, there's a blue moon, kinda rare and little magical. There's always the looking back. Lots has happened this year, like every year. Keith's death is sad for me and so many others, but it's not hard for me to smile thinking about all those great nights with Keith and Joan at the Digital Domain, hot sweaty days at CheatFest, shows at Monroe's. The river is cleaner and the mountains have a chance because of his serious concern for the earth. Once in a blue moon I get to enjoy the company and music of somebody like Keith, and I'm feeling lucky to have had the chance.

permalink posted by cat 10:32 AM

read 1 comments

Hi, Cat. Beautiful memorial to Keith, and I second every word of it.
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Keith Pitzer was a beautiful dude