The Song Stories
Traveling Slowly: Songs of the North/South Highway
by Cristobal Ayres Wells & his Amigos Bravos can be purchased for $10.00 HERE
“Traveling Slowly: Songs of the North/South Highway” by Cristobal Ayres Wells & his Amigos Bravos is a mix of traditional & contemporary songs from the Bioregions and Peoples of the “Western Hemisphere ” of EAR~TH. The results of many bus rides & long walking down song roads whose junctions & watersheds connect the North & South American continents by a long spinal chord of musics ——mixed together campfire style with a bundle of newer songs that came out of me living on that same long road – 19 songs / Vol#1, Sung with bands, choirs, and at All Species Festivals over the Cusp of Ages between 1969 & Anno Phonini ’09 according to the Calendar Mayano/Nuevo Huevo.
When I was a kid I sang, “For the Beauty of the Earth” from the hymnal & it stood out in contrast to all the other songs in the book, in that it acknowledged the primacy of Nature, of what exists, and I said Yeah! Grew up dancing to the Moss Brothers, singing early R&B & live covers of “Charlie Brown,” and at age 16 one night in a Beatnik cafe in Rochester NY, a guy walked in, Mike Seeger, looking for a street, looking for the lost Blues player Son’s house, so I helped him find his house and went and got my girlfriends guitar because Son didn’t have one. He took it and said, “Come back in 3 days.” and closed the door. We did, whence he started out straight-away playing slide on “Death Letter”. Right there it caught me. ~ Then I got the Ramble & Tumble from Spider John. That same year I got to hang out backstage with Doc Watson and I caught the Deep River Blues~ Then Ramblin’ Jack, who still swings his ax, came through town and I learned “Guabi Guabi” up close, but it was passed on all the way from South Africa.~ Wandering into a workshop that summer at Newport ’65, the Times-turning Dr. Dylan coincidentally handed me his harp to hold, while he practiced Mr. Tambourine Man in front of my face. ~ Late one night walking past a Music School, I heard a man playing with the weather on the strings, inside the piano ~Henry Cowell ~ and then I started hearing the 133 years of recorded music in the world – Charles Ives flying over the sound-scapes of North America, the Missa Luba flying over Africa, and I had found the Aeolian Wind Harp, tucked away in a dictionary for 400 years, while skipping class, hanging out in the Library. I made one out of Spruce and it blew me further down these long old roads, and a few new ones.
That was all along time ago, but it’s just like today. We were wanted to go to kill in one of America’s endless wars, that one in Viet Nam. But I was drawn more to the Lyrics, and there was this amazing multicultural rev-up & revival going on, and mobility for the young and footloose like never before! I hitched coast to coast just listening. ~ I had heard the articulate reasoning and clear call of “I ain’t a-Marchin’ Anymore” from Phil Ochs & Buffy St. Marie, “Universal Soldier” & Dylan’s “God On Our Side”, so I knew I couldn’t go to that war or any of the others – but I’d passed the physical and they were about to call me to go when one night, I had a dream of ‘luminous farmers on steep mountainsides’.
By then it was 1969 and I had been going back and forth from San Francisco to Nevada with Rolling Thunder whom I’d met while he was working as a brake man on the train line. ~ I told him about this dream, and that I was being called to war. He told me straight away, “You’re going to be leaving this country.” Within that month a Hippie showed up at Peter Coyotes commune in Olema and was offering to give away 30 free tickets to Columbia, which went mostly to war resisters and their young families. The day of the flight, RT took me to Micky Hart, got me $100 for expenses, and drove me to the airport, singing under his breath those high wailing chants he sang while driving long-distance. He told me there were “some people a couple hours North of the capital in Ecuador whom I should meet,” no names, and no directions. He meant the Otavalenyos, and there we acquired horses.
I traveled South from Bogatá for 6 years, buses, walking, hitchhiking, horses, playing guitar in the street or trading work to eat, and following a path laid out before me of old-school, back-lands, agricultural people alternating with ugly modern cities, with a few stunning old exceptions, and thus Songs – cultural rivers of song, watersheds of music, streets & plazas of new, old and ancient musics, ancient small village festivals. So, as well as hearing the cultural upheaval coming out of the States, I heard the music, in many parts of Native and Latin America and Black South America.
I returned to North America in another time of the world after the people had managed to get organized enough, for once, to stop a war. All these years since then I have lived and worked up and down the Western Hemisphere, able in my adult life to put on small grass-roots collaborative programs of ecology and arts for communities through creating public studios–wherein we keep alive a cultural arts exchange mixed with science activities exploring themes of place and creating small festivals of ecology for towns and barrios.
All through my life I have lived and done all our All Species Projects works on a shoestring, but I decided awhile back to put out a couple volumes of songs I’d archived from lost history – even though flawed & poorly recorded moments, some of them maybe, “ya had to be there,” there’s something therein I wanted to send along for the sake of recalling – as histories appear and disappear–It’s good to get a grip on where we’ve been & where we goin through the Songs that carried us.
From the beginning of time, until a year that’s called 1878 – there have been 132 years of recorded music – and in about that same time, the guitar has surrounded the planet & become one of the international languages of emotion – Before that, the ancestral musics and histories for millions of years were carried by travelers who sang and recited in decimas & couplas, rhymed & rhythmed poems, who told stories and epics- who carried modes and melodies, instruments and lyrics tuned to and reflective of the Bioregions they were from, and from the tectonic chords & rhythms, modes of the mountains and towns, the seas and soils, the airs and human~biotic arenas of the Forever Wild Earth.
I’m still walking, still listening for the Big Songs. Where you find them please send them my way ~ Now that we are many Ears Together. I’m listening for the ones that fulfill a need ~ to get you through certain moments of Life. The ‘Amazing Grace’s’, the ‘Graciás a La Vida’s’, the Planting Songs like Sumachta Sara that make the people feel like planting corn even now, songs to feel the glory of love & dance, songs that teach the histories of tragedy of selfishness & war, songs to converse with all Nature, the Halleluja Choirs, the Todos Juntos, the ones that incite people to stand together, the We Shall Over Come, the ones that give you strength alone, like “On the Road Back In” by Harold LittleBird is one of these rare healing songs. He told me it came through his hands, He watched as they wrote these words down.
It’s clear to me that Song- and Seed-carrying Kokopellis and traveling Bards leave modal melodies & rhythms in peoples & places as they travel South & North all along the Andes–from the Patagonia to Amazonia to Central America up through Meso-America, and onto Alaska. No matter how fresh the material, how original, never the less, we are beholden to the Origins–the 3-Rs of Rhyme, Rhythm & Reason, and as such are more participators than creators.
~In-Vent(ilate)ers, We are breathed and therefore feel the Multi-Benevolent Graciás – Hallelujah ! Muchas Gracias por escuchar! con todo Amor ~CAW