Now we’re getting into new music territory for me. The Flatlanders’ More an Legend than a Band is a weird and sort of mystical album for me. It is full of songs about life, loss, and a mix of hopelessness and hope that both teeter on the edge. I’d never heard of this group, but they now fill my ears with a musical saw (I had to look up what that sound was) that haunts me and imagery about places and people that need exploring.
The three songs that speak to me most are “Dallas,” “She Had Everything,” and “Keeper of the Mountain.” “Dallas” is a place song, and I will sink into a place song. It’s not a flattering song about Dallas, but it makes you want to go there. Dallas as a woman that will walk on you when you’re down or a rich man with a death wish and a loving disguise? It makes you want to go there to see what it’s like. But at the same time, we’ve all experienced those places you go into with hope and you fall into despair.
“She Had Everything” feels like a song about someone who is dealing with loss from a woman he gave everything too, and she just wasn’t happy. The need for constant accumulation or simple discontent wears on our lives. Or, perhaps it has to do with how the wealthy (or just entitled people in general) act as if people are disposable. I will say, early Taylor Swift felt this way to me. What I learned from her releasing her “Taylor’s Versions” of things, is that it was less her mode and more her record label that was creating the consumer of people mode.
Finally, “Keeper of the Mountain” feels like a song about discovering the peace of life and the beauty of creation beyond our own projections and experiences. Or, that our experience of nature is just us working through our emotions and spirituality.
In terms of ministry, “Dallas,” with its personification of place reminds us that people can feel beat down, abused, and mistreated by a space just as much as it can be lifegiving. I know many people who feel the church has harmed them and their community. Also, it’s a reminder of the value of place and the experience of place. So often we over emphasize that the church “is a people” that we forget that place matters as much as people, particularly in rural spaces. These spaces are haunted with our experiences, memories, and histories.
“She Had Everything” is a reminder to offer the corrective to the abusive consumer mindset of life. This is particularly important as we live in a world that leans increasingly more consumeristic, even in the church. It’s a reminder to the church as well, to not consume people. The church has a bad habit of using people for their resources, skills, and time without offering the nurture and sanctification it promises.
Finally, “Keeper of the Mountain” is the most hopeful for me. It helps me think of how to teach and preach connection to nature and place in general. To think of a space moaning (all creation moans), or grieving, or rejoicing, is the reminder that we are part of creation and we are part of it. Whether it’s the natural world or the cultural places we call home. It is a reminder to experience how connected we are to place.
Honestly, this was a hard one to write, even though it was a tremendous album. I recommend the whole album, but check out the playlist for the three I mention here!