Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cooperstown hailed in Paste Magazine

Any time you can mix ghosts, baseball, and Bob Dylan into the same song, you're doing all right. That's what The Felice Brothers do on their song "Cooperstown" from their latest album Yonder Stands the Clock.

It's hazy and indistinct, propelled by accordion wheezes and guitar strums, and those snarling Dylan words that are, impossibly, written and sung by somebody named Ian Felice. And like a lot of the songs that Dylan sings, it communicates a great deal without making a lot of literal sense. The ghost of Ty Cobb wanders the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. There's a church service, perhaps a funeral, going on. And then we're back in 1905, a young Ty Cobb on the basepaths, a young woman watching him from the stands. And from there it gets seriously weird and metaphysical.

For those who may not be familiar with the man, Ty Cobb may have been the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. And he was universally despised; a mean, contentious sonofabitch who never had a kind word for anybody, and who came into a base with spikes flying, determined to injure any poor schlep who happened to be between him and his goal. In the summer of 1905, his mother gunned down his father. Three weeks later, he played his first game for the Detroit Tigers. And he spent the next 21 years with a chip on his shoulder, daring anyone to stand in his way.

So a line like "he had a game like a war machine" sounds just about perfect to me, as does the line about the wolves that stand between first and third. I think I've been in that game. It's a great song; a fever dream of a bygone era, poetry excavated from the Georgia clay, simultaneously earthy and transcendent.