I first heard “Cool Summer” by Bob Lind on a broken stereo in an old Mercedes. The owner was someone in one of those young romantic couplings that seem, when you are also very young, to be ideal and concrete, but in hindsight are but an experience, and a heartbreaking one. They become a pair of names: “So & So and So & So belong together,” one thinks. And when it ends, the tragedy of it is almost as jarring for you as it is for them, like they are your favorite characters in a novel.
To me, The Elusive Bob Lind feels the same way – like the personal mythologies each person carries have been made suddenly real and tangible in an LP. It is the sound of a small room suddenly writ large – a resonant, electric production with strings cushioned around some very private solo recordings. The end result is a set of songs so strange they work – too private and too personal, a little messy, a missed cue here, a dropped measure there. For these reasons they become transcendent.
Bob Lind hates his Verve Folkways recordings, and rightfully so: Demos wrestled from his grip and cynically repackaged by a label trying to cash in on a hit, they have everything to do with the incredibly personal process of an artist developing. They are accidentally wonderful. There’s something special in this record, in that it is the sound of something becoming. Two things rub up against each other – The unfettered, incredibly personal feeling of Lind, and the lush, sessioneered sound of the tracks added unbeknownst to him. There is soft Brazilianesque percussion, the backbeat feel of electric folk churned out in New York and Hollywood studios, the cinematic lilt of strings. The accompaniment aides in defining the songs – It is, in a way, a beautifully framed piece of naiveté; Tales of girls in mountain altitudes and suntanned arms, fleeting moments of beauty and pain and uncertainty that becomes experience. It is like a lithographed print of a earnest loner’s diary, learning what growing older feels like in real time. “I was just a drifter then,” Lind sings at age seventeen, a bridge between the Glen Campbell of “Guess I’m Dumb” and the Dylan of “Girl From North Country”.
The Elusive is like those young summers you took for granted, that feel as if they will stretch on forever. Later, as you look back on them – you realize they were over before you knew it. Bob Lind didn’t even know it at the time, but his songs did: “When you’re young / your life can seem / like an endless happy dream / but your choices aren’t always yours for the makin’ “