It Ought to Be Enough
It Ought To Be Enough was recorded over three nights at The Chapel at Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, California. The spartan sound conceals nothing, and the eerie, sanctified presence is palpable. Two microphones were placed in the aisle in front of the first row of pews, with the artist facing the altar, which meant that an outsize image of Christ on the cross was always in front of his eyes (a daunting situation, given Abner's Buddhist leanings). Perhaps this explains the special atmosphere of the sessions. It feels more like a reckoning than anything. And so Abner focuses on the enormous verities - of love and death, and good and evil - without flinching from uncomfortable facts. The Cross by the Road is a story-song in the Texas tradition, but more subversive than the norm. Lawyers aren't supposed to be fit subjects for compassion, but Two-Bit Lawyer does for the profession what Death of a Salesman did for traveling salesmen. The bittersweet Plans for the Future (Fiftieth Birthday) confronts the mystery and mystification of middle age. The loneliness of the hour is only assuaged by Heidi Jacobs, who contributes sweet and sensual harmony vocals. Then there is the niche that Abner has made his own - the post-mortem song. In the brooding O Catrina, Abner's Song to the Siren, the major/minor phrasing suggests the ebbing of the life force. Pat Garrett's Lament is sung in the character of the dead bounty-hunter, stricken with guilt about the friend he cold-bloodedly murdered: 'Now I'm walking that forgotten road, looking for you where the wind won't blow.' This is better than Leonard, and as good as Townes. If we take the sentiment of the title song at face value, and this really is Abner's swan song, then, yes, it ought to be enough: enough to demonstrate that a writer of unmistakable stature has been toiling in semi-obscurity for too long, and enough to prove that he hasn't altogether squandered his talents. As often happens, invisibility has served as a cover for some great, great work. ~Mike Butler, August 2006.