To the Mouth of the Source (Short Pants Press)

mouthheaderChicago-based artist Grant Reynolds adapts the lyrics of Joanna Newsom into a series of graphic vignettes that correspond to the careful lyrical choices—executed with a most sincere and thoughtful touch.


57 pgs. B&W, $5

(W / A: Grant Reynolds) 

Grant Reynolds' To the Mouth of the Source, a comic vignette based on the lyrics of Joanna Newsom, thankfully was given to me last week. The 57-page booklet was printed in July 2006, prior to the release of Ys; however, this miniature nugget was able to slip by my everything-Newsom-related search. Although it has been nine months since its publication, it is fitting that I would come across this now, one week away from her new EP, and with the news of her tour with Björk.


The cover of Since the time To the Mouth of the Source was written to now, Newsom's fan-base has at least tripled in size. Every detail of the book—the price tag, the cover, the legend in the map, the dedication, the acknowledgements, and most of all the pictures that correspond to the careful lyrical choices—is executed with a most sincere and thoughtful touch. Reynolds may have approached the project in a leisurely manner, claiming to work mostly on the L train, but the book is anything but careless, and it is an honest tribute to an idol. This is clear from the dedication page which quotes "Sadie": "This is an old song/ These are old Blues/ This is not my tune/ But it's mine to use."


On each page there is a picture, and on the majority of the pictures there is a line from one of her songs. The songs featured in the vignettes are all from the Milk-Eyed Mender album, which include, "Sadie," "Swansea," and "Sprout and Bean." (To the Mouth of the Source comes from "Peach, Plum, Pear.") The songs fall in the order above. Some lines are removed and some are placed out of order. Each song goes on without interruption, and together they make one body of work that highlights the reoccurring motifs, most noticeably white coats and bones.


The pictures are black and white, action-based, and depict Joanna Newsom, usually as a catwoman, in a uniform setting. Anything that gets people, and even other songwriters, to notice Newsom's approach is significant, and through illustrations and by isolating her lyrics a page at a time, Reynolds is effective. While I am still unable to fully grasp Newsom's lyrical meanings, the book gives new angles to explore. With the added musical element, the absurdly high word-counts, and among her dozens of brilliantly written songs, it is hard to pinpoint Newsom at her best. This book is helpful because it dissects Newsom's work into amazing lines that jump out: "And the hollow chatter of the talking of the Tadpoles." | Joseph O'Fallon


Click the images below for a 3-page preview of To the Mouth of the Source, courtesy of Short Pants Press!


In other Joanna Newsom news, the Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP drops this Tuesday. The EP features three tracks, the first official recording of "Colleen," "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie," and an alternative version of "Cosmia." I much prefer this studio recording of "Colleen" to the live version floating around. "Colleen" is very talky, has spurts of exciting melody, is one of her most folk-based, and this near seven-minute cut was most likely written during the production of Ys. The EP version of "Clam" is shorter than on her debut, though longer than on the Walnut Whales, and the most noticeable difference is her male tour-mate's back-up vocal contribution that tames her voice from unleashed peaks. The substantial difference in "Cosmia" is the extra six minutes that allow some percussion and space for the (Ys Street) band-members to jam over the originally placed Van Dyke Parks accompaniment. Check it out.

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