08 July 2016

[W69] Westercon 69 Memories: Alexander James Adams, The Changeling Bard

This is the third time I've tried to craft an opening for some sort of meaningful narrative about Alexander James Adams. And I'm abashed to say that I can't come up with anything that doesn't sound a little lame. Anyone reading this can maybe relate: here you have someone who has been kind of a grace background note in a life full of ups and downs, and as a musician one enjoys, has occasionally provided the soundtrack; you feel they are a friend though they have friends beyond a simple count; the trajectory of their life has features of the seeker, the traveler, the shaman … especially that of the burden assumed by someone who has no choice than to travel a road upon which the toll is beyond any simple calculation.

Alec, to be banal and glib and essential about it, contains multitudes. And to explore this properly, I've not yet the narrative chops to do as of yet; they require a much more mature writer. It's as though I can't mention one thing without wanting to mention something else simultaneously. So my words tend to fail.

Suffice it to say, then, that if you see him as just a damned good and talented and passionate musician, that's just a starting point, but a good one.  For more than twenty years that I've known of him, he's been making folk music that's not only fun, but listenable, accessable and memorable. I've been a fan of the famous Martin Mull bon mot "I remember the great folk music scare of the 60's … that shit almost caught on" for  a while, but eventually someone comes along who puts a crack in ones' cynicism, and for me, Alec was that person. During the 90's, as Heather Alexander, he put out music that drew from a common folk experience but still had a unique signature to it. There is, and was, nothing quite like a Heather Alexander performance. She ruled the roost monthly for a number of years during that decade at a pub called R.P. McMurphy's, which used to be at The Academy in Vancouver, and we attended every performance we could most enthusiastically. And from that reputation and appeal sprang such things as the musical group Uffington Horse and the inspiration for the character Juniper MacKenzie in S.M. Sterling's Emberverse and the collaboration with author Steven Barnes which graced the world with Insh'allah, the musical companion to Barnes's alternate-history novel Lion's Blood. The power of Alec to inspire, wherever and however he goes, must not be taken lightly.

It was, if I recall correctly (and I may not) a performance at an OryCon a very long time ago that got us on board the Alec bandwagon to begin with. Ever since, a SFF Con in Portland that we can actually get to go to isn't really complete without seeing him there, and, since he was Westercon 69 Flik GOH, why, this was a thing of perfection. He was to play more than once; on Friday night, there was a request time, and he did quite a few favorites, including his signature "March of Cambreadth", which, it has been demonstrated and was performed with a significant degree of puckish humor that night, maps hilariously to "Turkey in the Straw".

You should have been there. Seriously.

This is Alec in the W69 dealer's room, the next day:

He didn't have any physical stock to sell, but he did have several download codes for his recordings on Bandcamp and The Wife™ bought two of them to help round out her collection. It was then, as we chatted with him, I once again noticed something; that warm outflow of emotion that is almost empathic and very compelling, the kind of humanity that leaves a lasting impression that he's glad he got to talk to you. 

There is no such thing as a wasted moment with Alec. I don't think it's possible. He has a warm, easy, Zen-like way about him that is positively affirming to everyone who gets touched by it, and, along the way, he got a picture with my favorite hippie chick. You can't go wrong.

The Sunday performance was an hour's worth of song and wit, and I'll always remember it because of the first song, a song which showed Alec able to sing in both his and Heather's voices, flawlessly. Once again, words fail … but it made me feel at once older and younger, and brought the years of listening to great music from a genuinely great personality into a sort of full-circle, remembering the past fondly while reveling in the moment of the present.

Alec is one of those people you think about and you say to yourself You know, they should be much more famous than they are. But, in arriving in the present, Alec seems to be as comfortable in his skin and his art as he ever has been. It's like he's in full blossom now. He goes where the wind blows, and has made the most of his chances in the years since Alec has fully spread his wings, and you look up there and see him, and things just seem possible somehow.

Anyone who can make life in Oklahoma worth living has got to have some sort of magic about 'em.

OhandbeforeIforget … up above I picted the QR code for Alec's Patreon presence. It kind of sucked because light reflections. But a lot of you know what Patreon is, and for those who don't, it's a different kind of crowdfunding where you give a little something each month, like being a patron, and the artist or creator kicks you back some exclusive content. In Alec's case, it's a new original video or song each month, and you can get on board for as little as one dollar  a month. So, such a deal, yes? You'll find it all at https://www.patreon.com/AlexanderJamesAdams.

One. Dollar. A. Month.  $12 a year for the happy.

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