Monday, February 21, 2011

Okemah by The Iguanas

This is a guest post from Eric Holmstrom. (I wasn't able to find a full version of the song to post but you can listen to a sample here.) I had never heard this song before Eric emailed me. It now has an honored position on my playlist. Thanks Eric! And thanks to everyone who sends us great posting ideas.

Rock/Swamp Rock/Americana/Chicano --- that's how ReverbNation categorizes the music of the Iguanas. They possess what is described as a "broad palette of styles ranging from crunchy, edgy rockers; funky soul strutters and succulent West Coast R & B to trad conjunto; dreamy cruisers and hard-boppin', conga-powered jazz supported by a myriad of Latin beats." All of this and more is on their last CD - If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times.
In the midst of its mélange of word and sounds the impressionistic Okemah stood out, catching the ear and interest of this history major and palliative care chaplain with images and impressions that led to a second listen and then, a third.
Okemah? Choctaw overalls, sunset sounds? Cottonwoods, cotton mouth? Frozen hills of Chosin? That old robed Filipino? Smelling the old muddy creek, seven days a week. "Please release me, now, baby let me go." The medicine is kicking in, and I'm dreaming of chemo once again.
Rod Hodges, the Iguana's songwriter, guitarist/accordionist wrote the words to Okemah at a point where his father's death and the drowning of New Orleans were going on simultaneously. "When Katrina hit, my father was dying of cancer, right at the same time," he says, "So it was a really rough time for me. That's pretty much a description of my experience in the hospital with him, I was describing feelings and in some instances, literal things I heard or saw during that time." (iguanas.com)
Evocative and haunting, Hodge's words conjured up his father's time of dying. You hear his father's march on bloody frostbitten feet in the hills above the Chosin reservoir, living to live and then die another day. You see the Filipino, a veteran floor mate in that washed out faded robe on the VA oncology floor. You wonder where you do go when the meds kick in and chemo dreams take you down again?
Where do you go when your father and your city is dying? Where do you go when all you can do is go with him? Okemah's haunting music and its lyrics are Rod Hughes' answer.

OKEMAH
Black bottle thumping across my back,
dragging a twelve foot cotton sack.
Old Filipino in a hospital robe, singing please release me, baby let me go,
singing please release me, baby let me go.
And the medicine is kicking in,
and I'm dreaming of old chemo once again.
And the medicine is kicking in,
dreaming of, old chemo once again.
I can still smell that muddy creek,
Oklahoma sun, seven days a week.
Cottonwoods and cotton mouth,
Choctaw overalls and sunset sounds.
Frozen hills of Chosin, deep in my soul,
Okemah to Korea, they call it age of rock and roll.
And the medicine is kicking in........
veholmstrom@verizon.net (Eric Holmstrom, D.Min. BCC)

1 Responses to “Okemah by The Iguanas”

Navigator502 said...
February 24, 2012 at 6:50 PM

I believe he is talking about Okemah Oklahoma...