Cassandra Jenkins – “American Spirits”
Earlier this year, the expansive New York indie wanderer Cassandra Jenkins released her album An Overview On Phenomenal Nature. In a few weeks, she’ll follow that LP with (An Overview On) An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, a collection of outtakes and alternate tracks that she recorded with Bonny Light Horseman leader Josh Kaufman. We’ve already posted the early track “Hailey (premix),” and now Jenkins has also shared a lovely new song called “American Spirits.”
“American Spirits” is soft and lush, full of dazed guitars and keyboards. Jenkins sings with warm empathy to someone who comes across like a serious fuckup: “What were you thinkin’ when they pulled you over in the Lincoln?/ Taking off in the middle of the night with a busted tail light.” The song ends with a voicemail from a Texas jail, so there’s definitely a story behind this one. The story, per Jenkins, is this:
I woke up one morning with a voicemail from an unknown number while I was on tour in 2018. The area code was from the Texas border, and I had a sinking feeling my friend had gotten arrested on his way to come see us play in Joshua Tree. I’m fortunate to be close to someone who can speak so candidly about their incarceration and how the prison system has continuously affected their life. When we spoke recently about the voicemail in this recording, I asked him what he was feeling in that moment. He said, “I was really scared. So I called you, and I called a lawyer.”
I cherished this voicemail for years because, even in that difficult moment, I could hear a tenderness in his voice as he confessed, as well as avoided, reporting that he had spent the night in jail. What resulted is the poetic ambiguity that can arise from the struggle of searching for the words to tell someone we love exactly what has happened.
Listen to “American Sprits” below.