The companion CD to the Oxford American’s recent Southern Music/Georgia issue contains a melancholic and swooning folk-jazz piece entitled “Potter’s Field,” by a woman named Alice Swoboda.
Led by Swoboda’s deep, soulful voice and cascading guitar, the track features minimal accompaniment of percussion and organ, though the players, much like Swoboda herself, remain unknown. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the artist are befitting the haunting nature of this masterful and dark piece of work (one of only four that Swoboda ever committed to tape). The simple and tranquil melody evokes an idyllic calm that flows smoothly, yet unsettlingly, against her gloomy, down-and-out, end of the rope poetry.
“…drinking, no place to go but run-down hotels and sleeping on the floor. Ain’t got no money. What’s the use of a will? ‘Cause the city’s gonna bury me in potter’s field …. I’ve lost my soul, now the devil won’t make a deal. But there’s a six-foot hole waiting for me in potter’s field.”
Strange, weird, arresting. Fittingly enough, the track initially resurfaced on Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul series, albeit on the heavily funk-laden Tragar & Note Labels compilation. Even Swoboda’s additional contribution to that record, “I Think It’s Time,” rides a much funkier and upbeat rhythm. Naturally, “Potter’s Field” sits last on the record, a force all its own. A bittersweet end, leaving you unsure of where to go or what to do next. There’s a seasonal connection there as well, as it seems to embody that strange, existential conflict between the frosty seasonal blues and the warm unknown wonderment of a white-coated winter. This song couldn’t have come at a better time. words / c depasquale