Listen to this song by former Red House Painters/current Sun Kil Moon linchpin Mark Kozelek. It’s “Find Me, Ruben Olivares” as taken from his 2000 album Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer, on which he also reinterprets a selection of Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs in a similarly contemplative manner.
I first heard this tune thanks to a compilation album on British Music and Film Magazine Uncut, with the first impression that the guitar playing is the lushest, fullest acoustic sound I’d ever heard. Then, I was struck by Kozelek’s voice; it’s a down to earth voice, as if a friend is sitting next to you. And then the song itself hit me, a certain beautiful sadness to be found there in what comes off as a kind of road song, a song of searching. I’ve always been interested in the idea of the hero’s quest. And this song suggests this idea to me very strongly, which makes it my favourite of Kozelek’s.
Ruben Olvares is a boxer, which perhaps might be seen as an odd namecheck in this gentle folk-rock tune. Or maybe not so odd. Since this is a song seemingly about travel and about the trials along the way, it seems to me that the life of a fighter, moving from city to city, and making a name and a living for himself by putting himself at risk could also be the life of a musician doing the same, albeit in a different context.
Really, that what AC/DC’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” is about as well, which might be the thread with which Kozelek followed in the making of this album. Ultimately, what comes across to me is the idea of displacement, of searching for a home, and maybe trying to connect with kindred spirits in the process. This is true of anyone who makes a life on the road. Beneath all of the bravado and machismo of rock n roll singers and fighters too, this is the layer which is common to everyone. And this is really what’s being explored by Kozelek here.
And whatever the context of the search, the hero’s quest out in the world, I think this idea of questing for connection with others is really the chord that is struck here.
There is a world big as a mountain
There is a world to be shared
Still there is love tall as a mountain
Still there is love.
If we are talking about the quest, what better goal is there than this?
For more information and music from Mark Kozelek, check out markkozelek.com.