“This is for everybody that has a job that doesn’t count for much anymore.”
Cue the Travis pickin’.
Filmed at a shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, via the crew behind Western AF, modern day folk troubadour Willi Carlisle performed his latest single, “Tulsa’s Last Magician”- and I’ll be damned if the heartstrings don’t get a firm tug.
Having not been too acquainted with Carlisle prior to witnessing this, (though I stood next to him at a Wooks show at The Station Inn in Nashville last month) it quickly becomes clear that this man was destined to be a sonic storyteller.
The raw emotion and passion exhibited in this performance is palpable, as demonstrated by the tear that comes to his eye towards the end, adding to the moving nature of the song.
“And he practiced all his worst mistakes in a dirty bathroom mirror / And when his mother drank / He learned to disappear,” he sings, with his guitar strapped up high. Carlisle leaves you hanging on every line, as he tells a tale of the troubled, hard-worn life of a Dust Bowl magician. From the character’s fractured home-life as a child, to struggling to make ends meet doing what he loves, to sitting on the couch watching the weather man, we get a very real taste of the human condition with this character.
The depths of detail in Carlisle’s lyrics are most impressive, as is his vocal delivery. And not to be discounted – though perhaps easy for him at this stage – is his finger picking style while singing these intricate lyrics. As a very modest guitar player and songwriter, I can attest to just how impressive this is.
The alleged inspiration for this tune comes from a night in Orlando that Carlisle spent with a bar full of drunken magicians, all of whom were telling stories about the “greatest” magician they knew and lamenting their passing. If ever there were inspiration for a song, this experience seems very worthwhile.
Born and raised on the Midwestern plains, Carlisle is a product of the punk to folk music pipeline that’s long fueled frustrated young men looking to resist. After falling for the rich ballads and tunes of the Ozarks, where he now lives, he began examining the full spectrum of American musical history.
“Tulsa’s Last Magician” is the lead single off of his sophomore album, Peculiar, Missouri, set for a July 15th release via Free Dirt Records.