By Nancy Paddock
Phenomenal singer/songwriter John Elliott came back to Fayetteville for Roots Festival for a solo performance Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenhouse Grille, and performances throughout the weekend.
Elliott is a force to be reckoned with. Endearing, soulful and irreverent, Elliott’s songs are as eclectic as his view of the world. A superb singer and player, it is Elliott’s songs that make him special. He uses words as punctuation, as paint, as pieces of a puzzle that will never fit together. He captures that essence of being human that we feel but can’t ever express.
Take his song “Concerning the Lincoln and Douglas Debates or Love Found Lost” in which he takes us from wistful longing to Web searching mania to lust and love and back again.
“You can’t win when you’re old, you can’t win when you’re angry, you can’t do everything you’re told. It’s not a sign from above, it’s not from anyone you love, it’s not a bird, it’s not a car, it’s not afraid of what you are, it’s not a place, it’s not a plane, it’s not a God, it’s not a name, don’t waste your money or your time. I know I’m not the only one, I just can’t be the only one, I know I’m not the only one who knows.”
Not all of Elliott’s songs are esoteric. In his 2008 album “It Doesn’t Matter Why It Is, It Doesn’t Matter If It’s Wrong,” he tells the stories of hard people, sad people and hopefully fictional people whose lives you don’t want to live. As in the “The Ballad of Wallace Green & His Dog”:
“Wallace came out West to meet a girl, took his time along the way. She was thinner in the picture, he decided he should stay. Taught her children to be proud, cleaned them up and set them straight. Gave them something to believe, filled up their plates. But all the men he met didn’t treat him with respect. They called him slow, they called him mean. And Wallace Green says: ‘It doesn’t matter why it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s wrong. It only matters that it is and it’s been goin’ on a bit too long”
These songs don’t have happy endings but they make you think …
Elliott’s songs are transfixing; his stark honesty combined with his sublime word play draws you into his fascinating world. He has that quality that makes you want to listen and understand, a low key charisma like the hum of a high-voltage wire.
While Elliott has developed a cult following in the folk world, he has been noticed by the popular culture, too. His songs have been heard on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill” and “Californication.” John has been featured in PASTE Magazine, on National Public Radio and on Neil Young’s “Living With War.”
With seven albums to his credit and more than 250,000 miles on his Honda Civic, John is the epitome of the musical road warrior. He travels the country sharing his songs on stages, in bars and around festival campfires. Wherever he goes he brings a few more people into his growing fan base.
He only passes this way every once in a while, so don’t miss his remarkable music, make sure to check out his website (http://thehereafterishere.com/) for more information on when he’s playing this weekend at Roots Fest, and to listen to his tunes. For more information on festival events, visit www.fayettevilleroots.com.