by David PowellThese poetic reflections on The Band's 1998 studio album Jubilation first appeared in The Band guestbook in August '98.
jubilation 1: an act of rejoicing : the state of being jubilant 2 : an expression of great joy.
Get on board the train with The Band on a ride down south to New Orleans. We'll stop at stations along the way where you can get out, stretch your legs & breathe the warm, moist air as we take on more passengers. Down in Kentucky a sudden rain shower cools you off in the middle of a hot Southern night, as you stand on the platform drinking a cold bottle of RC-Cola.
Back on the train, you sit in the dining car as the boys begin their guitar pullin', exchanging songs with winks & nods all around. You just sit back & enjoy, occasionally staring out the window as the cotton fields, small dusty towns & cities fly by. The ringing sounds from guitar, bass, dobro & mandolin strings echo out from the wooden sound boxes to mix with drums, accordians & harmonicas. Every once & a while someone picks up a horn to add a lonesome wail to the sound. From the back, Eric lets loose a few notes on his electric guitar, turned down low so as not to disturb the other passengers asleep two cars back in the Pullman. Brother John joins in singing as a young couple dances a pas de deux down the aisle.
When the train rolls into Memphis there's an hour layover & you tag along with Levon, Rick & Garth to take a spin with Ronnie & Bobby in a Cadillac. They crank up the volume on the radio to hear the King sing as you speed by Graceland. "Train I ride, sixteen coaches long." You look out the back window of the Caddy at the trailer towed behind where guitars, amps & equipment are rattling around. As they speed down a two lane blacktop onto a gravel road shortcut back to the station, you notice the big hawk painted on the side of the trailer as it careens wildly. There's just enough time to help the fellows kill off a twelve pack of Dixie beer. You make it back just in time as the train's pulling out; the guys are laughing so hard that they almost fall down as you jump back aboard the train.
On the last leg of the ride down to the Crescent City, you stare wistfully out the window while the fellows play another round of songs. Once, after Rick sings, you let out a nervous laugh, hoping to distract attention as a tear falls from your eye. As you listen to Levon sing the next one in that familiar weathered voice, you realize how much emotion Lee can still convey in just a few well crafted lyrics. There's a lived-in quality to the songs that lets you in on that comfortable feeling the guys share when they play together.
To soon it seems the ride ends. Mr. Toussaint is standing on the platform waiting as the trains pulls into the station in New Orleans. He's brought along a new song for the boys to try out when they get to the hotel in the Quarter. Later on that night you watch The Band join in at a jam session down at a club. Afterwards, exhausted you go back to the hotel to sleep. All night long the songs you've heard haunt your dreams.
Late the next morning as you drink your coffee & chicory at a sidewalk cafe, a couple of beautiful creole girls walk by. You find yourself whistling that last song that Garth played the night before as you smile that smile, knowing how fortunate you are to have been along for the ride.