Write Here, Write Now: 12.16 – Dead Woman’s Jewels

The Dear Janes – Dead Woman’s Jewels. “Never thought to refuse

After the adventure/misadventure of my time in West Yorkshire, it was suggested that I exile myself to the US. Scholarships were available to study at a college in one of the heartlands of Quakerism – Philadelphia.

There were many countries in the world I had wanted to visit, but the States was definitely not on that list. I thought I knew it from popular culture – overbearing and unavoidable. What was there to discover about a country that was omnipresent in  popular music, the movies and the small screen, that had a global presence?

But it was what was available and so I went for it. And discovered a country that was just like it was in the films – every location seemed like a movie set – and yet was much more than that behind the superficial appearance.

One thing I soon found out was that it was quite easy to get swallowed up into one part of the country that didn’t have much connection with other parts of the double ocean straddling land mass. This song is an illustration of that. the folky low key side of the music scene that doesn’t trouble the headlines, but still makes its mark in its musicianship and songwriting.

I discovered the Dear Janes quite by accident, possibly by listening to the local PBS radio station that played tunes by the likes of Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin and other artists I’d never heard of. Kind of a bit like the Indigo Girls in their harmonizing, I do like the odd instrumentation and willingness to tackle unusual topics in their song writing.

Swept up in a residential college in the pleasant suburbs of the city of brotherly love, pursuing Quaker history, spiritual writing, crafts, horticulture and mass catering recipes, I slowly started to absorb what it was to live an American life – malls, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, snowbound winters and humid summers – even baseball and NASCAR. Words and phrases associated with the region, often derived from native American usage became familiar, comfortable.

This was a world I had not expected, but it was welcome, Perhaps it’s appropriate that the band I chose for the first blog of my year in the US are still as obscure as they were then – that there is only one song on YouTube, and I cannot find the lyrics anywhere. Even in the great maw that is the centre of the information age, it is possible for pockets of isolation to exist. Long may it remain so.


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