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    RIP Vic Chesnutt

    Vic Chesnutt passed away. I've been a big fan since the fall of 2001 when I happened to purchase the album he put out with Lambchop as his backing band, The Salesman and Bernadette. I'm not even sure why I got it. I was hungover in a Massachusetts record store, looking for a CD or two to tide me over on my 8-hour drive back down to DC., and I just stumbled across it. It pretty much blew me away and the rest is history. I thought it would be nice to post some of my favorite Vic Chesnutt songs and etc. here. I'm extremely interested to see what you all might post.

    Off of West of Rome:

    "Sponge", the album version.


    "Panic Pure", live at a radio station in Athens, Georgia, in September of 1998.


    Probably no other guitarist (other than maybe Leonard Cohen) has had as much influence on the way I play. Much as I might like to shred the shit out of my electric guitar, as much as I'm always in awe of somebody like Kirk Hammett, nine times out of ten I pick up my battered, busted old acoustic guitar and just mess around with major and minor chords.

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    He was great. I posted something on the US Health Insurance thread about his suicide.

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    His obituary, from the New York Times:

    December 26, 2009

    Vic Chesnutt, Singer and Songwriter, Dies at 45

    By BEN SISARIO

    Vic Chesnutt, whose darkly comic songs about mortality, vulnerability and life’s simple joys made him a favorite of critics and fellow musicians, died Friday in a hospital in Athens, Ga., a family spokesman said. He was 45 and lived in Athens.
    He had been in a coma after taking an overdose of muscle relaxants earlier this week, said the spokesman, Jem Cohen.

    Mr. Chesnutt had a cracked, small voice but sang with disarming candor about a struggle for peace in a life filled with pain. A car crash at age 18 left him partly paralyzed, and he performed in a wheelchair.

    The accident, he has said, focused him as a songwriter, and it became the subject of some of his earliest recordings. “I’m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist,” Mr. Chesnutt sang in “Speed Racer,” from his first album, “Little,” produced by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and released in 1990.

    In a recent interview on the public radio show “Fresh Air,” he told Terry Gross: “It was only after I broke my neck and even like maybe a year later that I really started realizing that I had something to say.”

    Although he never had blockbuster record sales, Mr. Chesnutt was a prolific songwriter who remained a mainstay on the independent music circuit for two decades, making more than 15 albums.

    Musicians flocked to work with him: he recorded with the bands Lambchop, Widespread Panic and Elf Power, as well as the jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and in a recent burst of creative activity he made two albums with a band that included Guy Picciotto of Fugazi and members of the Montreal indie-rock group Thee Silver Mt. Zion.

    Because of Mr. Chesnutt’s fondness for simple guitar chords — after his accident his fingers could no longer form the jazzier ones, he has said — his work was often described as a variant of folk-rock. But the sound of his albums changed with their revolving collaborators, from stark recordings of Mr. Chesnutt alone to finessed full-band arrangements.

    The constant in his career was a keen poetic intelligence that could be sardonic or unsparingly confessional. “I’m not an optimist/I’m not a realist/I might be a sub-realist,” he sang on his 1996 album “About to Choke.”

    Born in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 12, 1964, James Victor Chesnutt was adopted and grew up in Zebulon, Ga.; his grandfather gave him guitar lessons, having him transpose “Sweet Georgia Brown” into every key in the scale. He was injured in 1983, while driving drunk, he later said, and shortly thereafter moved to Athens and became a regular at the 40 Watt Club, where he was seen by Mr. Stipe.

    A documentary, “Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chesnutt,” was released in 1993, and in 1996 his songs were performed by Madonna, the Indigo Girls, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and others for “Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation,” an album that benefited the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a nonprofit group that offers musicians medical support.

    His survivors include his wife, Tina Whatley Chesnutt; a sister, Lorinda Crane; and nine nieces and nephews.

    Mr. Chesnutt was an outspoken critic of the health care system, saying in his recent interview on “Fresh Air” that operations had left him deeply in debt. In his music, he was also frank about his own problems, including suicide, which he had attempted several times.

    He sings about suicide in “Flirted With You All My Life,” from his recent album “At the Cut,” describing death as a lover he must break up with because his accomplishments in life are incomplete:

    When you touched a friend of mine I thought I would lose my mind
    But I found out with time that really, I was not ready, no no, cold death
    Oh death, I’m really not ready.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/26/ar...hesnutt&st=cse

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    From the Guardian...

    Vic Chesnutt: a tragedy foretold in song

    His music often addressed death head-on, but this singer-songwriter - who died on Christmas day - always rose above the maudlin

    Vic Chesnutt and death were far from strangers, as anyone who has spent time with his 2009 album At The Cut will know. The Athens, Georgia singer-songwriter sang of death not as something far-off and foreboding, but a constant presence, always close at hand. On Flirted With You All My Life, he describes his relationship with the reaper in the manner of a man addressing his childhood sweetheart. "I flirted with you all my life, even kissed you once or twice," he sang atop trembling violins and warm keys. "To this day I swore it was nice – but clearly, I was not ready."

    It's a love affair that has now been consummated. Chesnutt died on Christmas Day, following an apparently deliberate overdose of muscle relaxants. He was 45. For any talented musician to die before their time is a cause for sadness, but this is doubly painful because after well over a dozen albums, Chesnutt was at the peak of his abilities. His last couple of records for Constellation Records - At The Cut and its predecessor, North Star Deserter - were amongst his best, rendering the songs as raw, fragile chamber-rock elegies that nonetheless had the capacity to explode with impressive force.

    The 1990s were a decade in which it was fashionable to play the tortured artist, but Vic Chesnutt's troubles were genuine. Paralysed from the waist down following a car accident in 1983, Chesnutt nonetheless explained the accident helped to focus his creativity. There has always been something in Chesnutt's songs – a sense of humility, and a wry levity that could only have been born out of tough personal experience – that elevated his music far beyond the maudlin.

    An early supporter of Chesnutt was Michael Stipe, who produced his first two albums, 1990's Little and the following year's West Of Rome. "Michael Stipe has told others — he never told me this but he's told everyone else — that he recorded that first album because he wanted to capture my songs before I died or killed myself," Chesnutt told The Quietus earlier this year.

    At the risk of turning a personal tragedy into a political issue, it's hard not to draw lines between the details of Chesnutt's passing with the shortcomings of the current US healthcare system. While insured, Chesnutt reportedly owed $70,000 in unpaid medical bills and had recently been served with a lawsuit by a Georgia hospital. On the Constellation Records homepage, Jem Cohen, a filmmaker and producer of Chesnutt's North Star Deserter vented his spleen at the United States' "broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic's death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it."

    For his friends and family, Chesnutt's death is a tragedy and a cause for anger. For the rest of us, it's just another sad waste; but thankfully his wonderful music remains, and if you haven't heard it before, now is not too late to seek it out.
    Vic Chesnutt: a tragedy foretold in song | Music | guardian.co.uk

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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo View Post
    He was great. I posted something on the US Health Insurance thread about his suicide.
    I didn't hear anything until today when I was listening to Fresh Air on NPR. Something about how they were going to replay their earlier interview with him but he had so recently passed away that they were holding off for a while. I was shocked.

    The last album of his that I bought was North Star Deserter. I picked it up this summer. There are still a few albums of his that I haven't heard, which means there are some as yet undiscovered (by me) great songs out there. I didn't buy any music while I was in LOS, just listened to the stuff I'd loaded on to my iPod back in 2005. Plenty of Vic on there, and he was always being played.

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    Two more live cuts. Another from West of Rome, and one off North Star Deserter. I was trying to find Sparklehorse's cover of "West of Rome". It's worth a download if you can manage it. Sparklehorse also borrowed part of the chorus for the song "Little Fat Baby" from VC.




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    "Little Fat Baby" by Sparklehorse, aka Mark Linkous, a fellow Virginian. The song, off of It's a Wonderful Life (an album worth buying), borrows some of the lyrics to the song "Myrtle" by Vic Chesnutt. "Little Fat Baby" is supposedly about Vic but I can't be arsed to track down any Linkous interviews to back that up.



    REM's cover of "Sponge".


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    Cheers for posting these, KB. The man was killed as much by our sick US "healthcare" system as by the consequences of his car accident. What a disgrace.

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    he was interviewed just a few weeks ago on NPR's 'fresh air'. i'm sure the podcast is still available.

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    Quote Originally Posted by raycarey View Post
    he was interviewed just a few weeks ago on NPR's 'fresh air'. i'm sure the podcast is still available.
    It is Songs Of Survival And Reflection: Vic Chesnutt's 'At The Cut' : NPR

    Let me add Michael Stipe on Chesnutt http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...ryId=121933081 in compensation for redundancy.
    Last edited by robuzo; 30-12-2009 at 08:00 PM.

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    Death proved a jealous lover. Chesnutt died on Christmas Day, 2009, two days after taking an overdose of muscle relaxants. Fresh Air remembers him with excerpts from that December 2009 interview with Chesnutt and guitarist Guy Picciotto, the Fugazi veteran who collaborated with Chesnutt on At the Cut.

    Picciotto returns in the second half of today's show to remember his close friend and collaborator. Also in the Fresh Air studio are R.E.M's Michael Stipe, who discovered Chesnutt playing in a bar in Athens, Ga., and produced his first two albums, and photographer-filmmaker Jem Cohen, who worked with Chesnutt on several film and video projects.
    More on Fresh Air this afternoon. Excerpts from the last interview with VC and and new interviews with M. Stipe, Jem Cohen, and Guy Picciotto. NPR Media Player

    I've been listening to North Star Deserter recently. Kind of difficult to do because I've only got it on double vinyl with just about three or four songs per side so there's a lot of flipping. Well worth a listen.

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    The way I see it: Vic Chesnutt
    Published 03 September 2009


    Vic Chesnutt, musician


    Does art make a difference?
    At the very least it makes a huge difference to the artist. But rock'n'roll changed the world - so did hip-hop.

    Should politics and art mix?
    Politics and art are mixed. Art developed and exists as it does today because of political patronage. From cave paintings and Stone Age Venus figurines to classical architecture, Byzantine church mosaics, Renaissance masterpieces and the entire National Portrait Gallery . . . it's all political propaganda. Then there is art as populism: Guernica, Goya, Mark Twain, Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", M*A*S*H. In the beginning, rock'n'roll was by its very nature political, populist propaganda.

    Does money corrupt an artist?
    Not if they are rich already. And frankly, sometimes when money and artists mix, great things happen. Of course, a hungry artist is very different from a sated one.

    Is your work for the many or for the few?
    Um, have you ever heard my music? I would say 20 years of doing my thing has proven it's for the few, no matter what be my wishes or pretensions, ha!

    Which artist do you most admire?
    To write it down seems strange and I tried hard for a long time, especially in the beginning, to resist his charms, but dammit, I think Basquiat is my favourite painter.

    Which artist do you least admire?
    Not a big fan of the King of Pop - may he rest in peace, though.

    Which product, if any, would you advertise?
    Almost anything. This is where money has corrupted me. I vehemently despise Wall Street but I'll take their evil money for a song.

    If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
    Ask anyone - they'll tell ya. Dead.

    If you were world leader, what would be your first law?
    A tariff on corn syrup.

    Who would be your top advisers?
    Chicks and Juan Cole.

    What would you censor?
    Pharmaceutical advertisements.

    What would you legalise?
    Drugs, prostitution, polygamy.

    Who would you banish?
    I don't think banishment is effective. Look at Napoleon.

    What are the rules that you live by?
    The entire Newtonian gamut.

    What would you like your legacy to be?
    I'm not sure yet what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe world leader!

    Do you love your country?
    Love/hate, you know the drill. Stockholm syndrome.

    Are we all doomed?
    Well, yes, every living cell on this planet is doomed, but the human race, as a species, like rats and cockroaches, will live for ever. Or until the sun explodes.
    New Statesman - The way I see it: Vic Chesnutt

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    From Pitchfork.com...

    Appreciation: Vic Chesnutt

    by Stephen M. Deusner, posted January 11, 2010

    In October, just two months before his death on Christmas Day, I interviewed Vic Chesnutt about his latest album, At the Cut, and his then-current tour with members of Fugazi and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. I opened the conversation with an icebreaker about the collection and the general impression he wanted to convey through it: "That I'm a fuckin' MONSTER!!!!" was his spirited reply. It was my mistake, asking a stock question of an artist who is anything but stock. In his nearly 20-year career, the Georgia native has been an unfailingly unique and ornery songwriter who has over time chucked his limitations and written and re-written his own rules as he went along.

    Throughout our interview, he had trouble explaining his own music, not because he was disengaged or disingenuous but because he felt the songs themselves said everything he needed to say, so why bother discussing them further? Why dispel the mystery or explain the art? He did finally reveal that his new band was the best band there could ever be and that the album is all about inspiration: "'Philip Guston' was inspired by Philip Guston. 'Chain' was inspired by Jem Cohen's movie Chain. 'Chinaberry Tree' was inspired by an off-handed remark by my father-in-law. I wanted to show in the lyrics sheet where some of these ideas came from. I wanted to illustrate about inspiration. That's why the cover's inside the Met. It's all very appropriate."

    Since releasing his first album, Little, in 1990, Chesnutt never seemed at a loss for inspiration. He released 13 albums under his own name, along with one album as Dark Developments (with Elf Power and the Amorphous Strums) and two as brute. (with members of Widespread Panic). He was a serial collaborator: Each album introduced new partners in crime who introduced new sounds and ideas into Chesnutt's repertoire, creating piecemeal a highly diverse and accomplished catalog featuring Michael Stipe (who produced his first two albums), Lambchop, Van Dyke Parks, Kelly and Nikki Keneipp, Bill Frisell, and Jonathan Richman.

    Despite his gregarious recording habits, Chesnutt often came across as a fucking MONSTER, if only toward himself. Both as author and character, he is inescapably the subject of his songs, and his is the one perspective he could never escape. Countering dark subjects with darker humor, his chagrined albums comprise an autobiography in song, recounting a storied life, documenting strained relationships, and evoking perilous despair. Arguably the defining moment of his life-- or at least his career-- occurred in 1983, when Chesnutt was in a car accident. Already the 18-year-old budding musician was harboring intense depression and suicidal thoughts, and the accident left him with a broken neck. For the rest of his life he was confined to a wheelchair, still able to play guitar and make the scribbly sketches that would later adorn his albums. After moving to Athens in the mid 1980s, he began a weekly residency at the 40 Watt Club, writing songs about friends, acquaintances, or people in the audience. Little, which Chesnutt and Stipe recorded in one quick, casual session, recounts his southern childhood in careful and often chilling detail, whether he's watching "Speed Racer" on TV or building rabbit traps out in the woods near his home. Such bittersweet memories colored his songwriting for years, most memorably in "Panic Pure", a standout track from his second album, West of Rome:

    My earliest memory is of holding up a sparkler
    High up to the darkest sky
    Some Fourth of July spectacular
    I shook it with an urgency
    I'll never ever be able to repeat.

    In 1996, Chesnutt was the subject of a tribute album, Sweet Relief II, featuring Cracker, R.E.M., Sparklehorse, and, most memorably, Mary Margaret O'Hara covering his songs. It introduced the singer to a new audience and also revealed the extent of his medical bills. When he died, he was more than $70,000 in debt, which he claimed prevented him from receiving crucial treatment. It's unclear how these things contributed to his death.

    There's a prickly physicality to his lyrics, which often referred implicitly to his medical conditions. On "Supernatural", from 1993's Drunk, he describes an out-of-body experience that transforms the medical into the mystical: "I flew around the hospital room once on intravenous Demerol, it weren't supernatural." His music was full of similarly odd textures: His reedy, wry voice could float up into a buoyant falsetto or descend into a menacing grumble, and he mangled his pronunciation and meter playfully, drawing out syllables to make familiar words sound wholly new. He has been celebrated as a singer and songwriter, but Chesnutt was also a shrewd guitarist with a similarly squirrely style. Because he lost some movement in his hands after the accident, he picked out his notes with what sounds like a slight hesitation, putting them just askew of the beat and giving songs like "Withering" and "When the Bottom Fell Out" their uneasy pace.

    Chesnutt's music was an idiosyncratic blend of folk, art-rock, and country, but the darkness of his songs was never an expectation of style or a genre accessory. Rather, it was the consequence of simply being Vic Chesnutt. He let loose all of his demons into his songs, which aren't confessional as much as they are self-reckoning, but he let more light into later songs, which sound more gracious and poignant within the framework of his career. Consider "Flirted With You All My Life", a track from At the Cut which has become something of an epitaph in the past few weeks, quoted in numerous obituaries:

    When you touched a friend of mine
    I thought I would lose my mind
    But I found out with time
    That really, I was not ready
    O Death... I'm not ready

    The tragic irony of "Flirted With You All My Life" is that Chesnutt died so soon after writing those lines. There is, however, no comfort in that song; he is neither coming to terms with death nor is revealing a new appreciation for life. Instead, he is simply ruminating fearfully of the monstrous finality of death and the unbearable enormity of oblivion. That he could parse his meaning so finely in just a few words made his voice unique and his death all the more tragic: "Flirted With You All My Life" sounds like a middle chapter, not the end of the story.
    Pitchfork: Articles: Appreciation: Vic Chesnutt

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    continued...

    Whenever an artist dies, there's an impulse to sum up his life in one overarching story, a single guiding narrative line that connects everything he ever did. Chesnutt was far too complex for that, his catalog too deep and idiosyncratic. As an antidote, below are 15 essential songs from throughout his long career, which form not only a retrospective but also show the diversity of his output and the breadth of his accomplishments.

    1. "Isadora Duncan" [
    Little; 1990]
    The first song off Chesnutt's first album sets the tone for every note that would come after: the creeky voice and the askew phrasing, the loping guitar, the odd imagery. Michael Stipe, who produced this debut and Chesnutt's follow-up, reinforces the dreamlike aspect of the lyrics with a closely mic'ed intimacy as Chesnutt describes an encounter with the famous dancer of the title. That it's a wheelchair-bound singer dreaming of dancing only underscores the song's poignancy.

    2. "Speed Racer" [
    Little; 1990]
    The Japanese cartoon becomes an entry point for a discussion of Chesnutt's atheism, which he says developed when he was a young teenager. "I can dodge the thunderbolts and scratch out an existence on this glorious but simple plane" was his metaphysical mission statement, married to one of his most demonstrative choruses.

    3. "Panic Pure" [
    West of Rome; 1991]
    Perhaps the quintessential Chesnutt song, "Panic Pure" begins with a cloudy memory of childhood and progresses into a screed against the scrutiny of critics and listeners. On their own, the lyrics sting, but Chesnutt's stumbling performance-- drawing out his vowels ominously, rushing or slowing his phrasing-- only reinforces his ornery introspection.

    4. "Florida" [
    West of Rome; 1991]
    Chesnutt reportedly attempted suicide several times and wrote about those urges frequently. Nowhere is the idea of death more poignant than in this hymnlike ode to the "redneck Riviera," which he describes as the most pathetic place in America and therefore the ideal place to take one's life. Listen for his gorgeously halting guitar solo after the first verse.

    5. "Supernatural" [
    Drunk; 1993]
    Chesnutt never met a word he couldn't mispronounce to sound new, offputting, even sinister. With its fluttering guitars and dark intimations of astral projection and déjà vu, "Supernatural" indulges subject/verb disagreement ("it weren't supernatural") and willful distortions to make the mundane seem overwhelmingly mysterious.

    6. "Onion Soup" [
    Is the Actor Happy?; 1995]
    The precarious grip of friendship is the subject of this epistolary song, whose bleak subject matter-- the increasing estrangement of pen-pals-- belies its buoyant momentum and sunny disposition. That guitar riff sounds like a long walk down a country road, and his circular melody culminates in one of his loveliest, funniest, and saddest refrains.

    7. "Free of Hope" [
    Is the Actor Happy?; 1995]
    As a songwriter, Chesnutt often seemed more beholden to literary rather than musical influences. Faulknerian in its intense southern gothic imagery and its implied story of a family in decadent disrepair, "Free of Hope" begins with an inscrutable opening line that makes no logical sense but just feels true and brutal.

    8. "Good Morning Mr. Hard On" [
    Nine High a Pallet; 1995]
    Chesnutt recorded two full-lengths as brute. with members of the Georgia jamband Widespread Panic, who added some Southern boogie to his oddball tales. The best of the lot is a paean to his penis. "What's the big to-do," he asks himself. "Why the stiffy salute?"

    9. "New Town" [
    About to Choke; 1996]
    The 1996 tribute album Sweet Relief II introduced Chesnutt to a wider audience, and he winked at the opportunity with the title of his major-label follow-up, About to Choke. That album may have lived up to its title, but "New Town" remains one of his cleverest compositions, thanks to the insistent repetition of its catchy melody as well as its persistent ambiguity: In describing such a bucolic setting, he never makes clear whether he's cheering the town's idealism or parodying its pipe dreams.

    10. "Duty Free" [
    The Salesman and Bernadette; 1998]
    For his 1998 album, Chesnutt teamed with Nashville freak-country collective Lambchop, who provide warm, sophisticated accompaniment for his third-person tales of title characters, who bare the brunt of his projected worries. "Duty Free" combines the gravity of a Dixieland funeral march with the whimsy of an old Disney score. With so many people backing him, Chesnutt cleans up his vocals, delivering a somewhat straightforward performance, but rather than dilute his eccentricities, he only proves that he could transcend them.

    11. "Band Camp" [
    Silver Lake; 2003]
    For his debut for New West Records, Chesnutt worked with producer Mark Howard and a crew of session musicians to create his most polished album. The stand-out is "Band Camp", an energetically performed, bittersweetly remembered tale of a wild-spirited high school girl who vamped during band rehearsals and soaked her tampons in vodka. That she settles down and becomes life-size is the song's heartbreaking twist.

    12. "Everything I Say" [
    North Star Deserter; 2007]
    Chesnutt signed with Constellation Records and recorded his tenth album with an ad hoc band featuring Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and members of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. The result was another departure in a career of many: "Everything I Say" is one of the hardest and heaviest songs Chesnutt ever recorded, fluctuating between the spare verse and the explosive chorus. It's a new idea for him, but one that manifests his inner turmoil remarkably well.

    13. "Bilocating Dog" [
    Dark Developments; 2008]
    It was only a matter of time before Chesnutt got around to recording with fellow Athens mainstays Elf Power. Dark Developments, which also included locals the Amorphous Strums, is a loose, rambling album that alternately spins yarns and spits election-year venom. "Bilocating Dog" is one of Chesnutt's goofiest compositions in years, made even weirder by the band's backing vocals and the warped doo-wop coda.

    14. "Chinaberry Tree" [
    At the Cut; 2009]
    When Chesnutt reconvened the band from North Star Deserter for a second album together, they were old friends rather than new acquaintances. And their familiarity with each other is evident throughout At the Cut, which melds his lyrics to their dramatic arrangements. Picciotto's guitar slices through "Chinaberry Tree", as Chesnutt sings about "the meanest chinaberry tree that has ever been" with palpable desperation in his voice. One of his greatest strengths was to turn the mundane into the epic, and here a little yardwork becomes a grueling spiritual struggle.

    15. "Flirted With You All My Life" [
    At the Cut; 2009]
    In interviews Chesnutt has described this song as a break-up with the idea of suicide, but the most telling part of the song isn't the quote that appears in most of his obits, but the final, harrowing lines describing his mother's death from cancer: "She fought but then succumbed to it, but you made her beg for it. 'O Jesus, I am ready.'" That the melody is so lovely and unforced only underscores the loss he felt then and the loss we feel now.
    Pitchfork: Articles: Appreciation: Vic Chesnutt

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    Chesnutt not being able to pay his medical bills came to mind today when it was mentioned on The Writer's Almanac that Poe (today was his birthday) couldn't pay his bills, having for example received $15 for "The Raven."

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