“Oh Brother” is the first song on Jordan Hull’s self-titled album, and features a short opening anecdote: Hull, cruising along the road, watches “trouble unfold,” as a reckless driver speeds ahead. He wishes that he could warn said driver of the deathly bends, but then again, he notes, “every story has an end.”
There’s a bizarre enlightenment in this morbid acceptance; it’s a clever way to open an album that praises the philosophies of transience and self-discovery. Hull, like many others, is a disillusioned former church-goer who’s explored Eastern schools of thoughts. Unlike many others, he has an uncanny ability to explain these practices through the written word. I think it would be pretty cool to meditate with Jordan Hull; as an old, Buddhist professor once said to me, “nicotine allows great thoughts to arise in one’s mind.” I think beer does this too.
Later in the song, he cites the easy life of a Union Square inhabitant. He’s not referring to today’s village, where I often revisit for my five-dollar manicures and lychee martinis. He’s harking back to a “freewheelin’ time,” when Dylan was playing obscure sets at Gird’s Folk City, when Simon and Garfunkel were casually hanging out in the coffee houses. So not only does Hull offer us a contextual meditation in this first song, he also reproduces the lifestyle of the New York refugees, the underground scene that has since boiled into the most iconic of all musical generations. All within two minutes.
It’s not surprising that Hull is interested in expands his consciousness and artistic expression through spiritual sagas, Bohemian-Austrian poetry, and the foundations of true American folk genre. Below are his “Top Five Quick Reads to Expand Your Consciousness and Induce Creativity.” I consider this his “Top Five Morning Reads In A Local Café,” because in my own, preferential mind, East Nashville is the village of our times.
Jordan Hull’s Nashville Five :::
1. Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
Nietzsche paints an allegory of life as a Mountain we’re continuously climbing, with the concept of the perfect übermensch as the highest peak. The irony being, it’s a goal we’ll never achieve. This was a refreshing alternative to the idea of a perfect Christ I was taught to compare myself to as a child. In that world, you stain the sheets or get caught smoking, and by 15 you’re damned. (There’s no way JC never rubbed one out. He was just a teacher, like the Buddha, but politics got into the writings and translations). I grew up with a lot of Christian guilt. Nietzsche, some comparative religion courses, and dating gals of different faiths helped me break out of that conditioning early on. The dude’s just an all around BA. He’s calls himself the Antichrist for chrissake!
The sections are short, but deep, so they can be read quickly or methodically picked apart, like a poem.
2. Be Here Now:
The story of Ram Dass is an American saga. He started out as a Harvard professor in the 50’s, became involved with Timothy Leary and his psychedelic experiments, and before long the two were fired, and left to conduct their research independently. The leading poets, philosophers, musicians, and other creative minds of the day would drop in on these experiments, and drop out.
But the drugs were only a method, a means, to the truth these thinkers were searching. Dass wrote Be Here Now after meeting his Guru in India, and discovering the same levels of heightened consciousness could be achieved through meditation and mindfulness.
This book is everything Donovan, the Beatles, and the entire summer of love was getting at, expressed with the eloquence of an ex-Harvard professor. (And there are lots of groovy pictures). Check out the documentary “Fierce Grace” on Netflix. There’s a good one on Wavy Gravy too.
3. Letters to a Young Poet:
This is a collection of letters written by Rilke to an aspiring poet. He covers just about everything: life, love, writing, depression, joy, solitude, nature.
There are only about 10 or so letters altogether, and I’ve found them all online. A quick read with a lasting impact.
4. Journey To The East:
I’m a huge Hermann Hesse fan. Everything by him is great. But this, in my opinion, is his most “unique” work. It’s a quick read at just around 90 pages. Using surrealistic imagery, Hesse captures, to a T, the mysticism behind what it is to be an artist. From the highs you get when you break the glass ceiling and slip into Narnia, to the devastating lows when you think you’ll never feel inspired again. It’s all there.
5. The Works of Woody Guthrie:
Guthrie is one of the most lucid creatives, ever. He used to say, “I’m the owner of a leaky mind.” His thoughts flowed like water into whatever creative outlet he could find. By the time of his death from Huntington’s in 1967, he had written over a thousand songs, averaging at about 50 songs a year. The guy could do it all: write, paint, perform original/ traditional music, cause social reform, and he had the adventurous spirit to boot.
Guthrie, along with Twain, was a major influence on Kerouac ‘s On the Road. The ties between folk music and American beatnik/ bohemian/ hippy/ punk/ grunge/ DIY/ counter culture are deeply rooted. It is a mindset that I know if I lose, my work will go with it. (But like anything, you can snap back in an instant— there’s always hope! Stay clear of deathly thoughts. You’re born to win!)
Check out: Bound For Glory, Born To Win, and Artworks