The Mindful Bard – J.D. Miner, Ain’t No Ordinary Hillbilly

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

CD: J.D. Miner, Ain’t No Ordinary Hillbilly

Release date: 2007

Label: Blueshift Productions

At last, a folk trio from the present decade to add to my folk trio album collection (a musty flea-market horde burgeoning with Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Kingston Trio, The Courriers, The Travellers, and even the apish Limeliters). Yes, those trios could really wail and make those old banjos ring, but not a one of ?em had the musical prowess and writing ability of J.D. Miner, three neat guys based in British Columbia.

I was in B.C. once. Nanaimo. It was a high school band exchange. One night my host treated me to a rant about how his province was sick and tired of supporting us Maritimers. Earlier he had taken the family and myself on a drive through the local reservation (which, I had to admit, looked much more poorly funded than the reservations back home in my have-not province), inviting me to be revolted at how these people allowed themselves to live.

I recently relayed this story to a counterculture acquaintance who told me I had been in the wrong part of B.C. and that the province was chock full of, as he put it, ?really groovy people.? And he was right.

I still don’t know who the lead singer of J.D. Miner is, but his voice is eerily like Garrison Keillor?s, adding to the home-smoked quality of the sound. Another pleasure of this CD is its delightfully tactile cover. Opening it feels like unpacking a box of doughnuts. The inside reads: ?This cd jacket was printed on 100% recycled paper with vegetable based ink, so if you don’t like the cd, at least you can feed this to your cat.?

The music echoes old-time hymn sings, bluegrass festivals, Dixieland jamborees, Texas swing, Woody Guthrie, Stan Rogers, and classic country. The three instrumental numbers on this CD are each more enticing and repeatable than the last.

And then there are the words, all written by Darryl Klassen or Joel Klingler. These are witty and thoughtful lyrics, from guys who obviously don’t take themselves seriously, a sea breeze beside the narcissistic moaning of so many folk prima donnas. If anyone has a right to be vain It’s these guys; Joe Worst is a classically trained bassist, and Joel Klingler and Darryl Klassen are a couple of fingerpicking virtuosos, yet they come across as people whodunnits’d be pleased as punch to be invited over to perform at your next backyard barbecue or union rally.

J.D. Miner couldn’t have come along at a better time. Remember those movies Hollywood put out in 1942 (unfairly labelled ?escapist?) to take our minds off the war? Movies like Casablanca, Bambi, and Tortilla Flat? Those of us enduring the present political climate know all too well the urgency of using entertainment for healing and sustenance. Such things help us get things done. Their purpose, if they have one, is not to blind us to our troubles but to carry us through them. For artists they are one way of staying sane while keeping the old muse fed.

Mix a healthy dose of J.D. Miner in with your Michael Moore documentaries and your Bob Dylan records and you may actually survive this decade with your ideals intact. You may even still be able to write poetry.

The Bard could use some help scouting out new material. If you discover any books, compact disks, or movies which came out in the last twelve months and which you think fit the Bard’s criteria, please drop a line to bard@voicemagazine.org. If I agree with your recommendation, I’ll thank you online.

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