The Phantom Tollbooth

The Leaven Dell
Artist: Dan Donovan
Label: Mister M Records (UK)
Length:  12 tracks / 46:06

[a young lad runs into the kitchen where his mum is baking some bread]

"Mother, you'll never believe what I just saw out in the forest!"

"Why, what was it, son?"

"It was a man, making wild and strange music!  He was sitting among some stones in a shadowy part of the forest, with instruments all around him. I hid behind a tree and listened to him for a long time."

[mother pats her son's head and smiles]

"And just what kind of music was he making, lad?"

"Well, he had the wooden kind of guitar that doesn't use electricity, and one that makes the low booming sounds, and a mouth organ and some bells.  He played slow, haunting songs, singing sad stories full of mystery and poetry with a raspy, wheezy voice.  I couldn't make out what he was meaning, but I know it was deep.  Oh, and for a few songs a couple of other men would come out of the woods with some drums or things to bang on."

[mother continues to play along]

"Oh really, what were some of his lyrics?"

"Well, I don't really remember the songs that much.  But the last two songs almost made me cry, they were so emotional.  One that I call 'To Fly' made me look up to the sky and think about heaven.  It went like this:  'To fly, fly . . . cool embrace / to fly, fly . . . caress your face / fly, fly . . . no more a man / spiritland.'

And the last one he sang should be called 'What is it?'  For some reason it made me think there's more I should maybe learn and do with God, mother.  He sang:

 What is it for me to do?
 What is it your desire?
 What now all I did was follow?

 What is it have I not seen?
 What is it I hold on to?
 What now all I did was follow?

 What now just to follow?

"Mmmm.  Did he see you listening to and watching him?"

"Oh no, he was too much into the music.  Animals even came up to him to listen and he never even noticed.  He just sat there and rocked back and forth playing and singing and breathing heavy.  At first I thought it was Tom Waits, because it sounded like him, but he wasn't quite that weird and mumbly."

[A frown wrinkles the mother's forehead as she turns from her dough to look at her son]

"Who's Tom Waits?"

"I dunno.  I'm just a fictional character created for a music review, and I had to say it for the readers to know there's some similarity. They'll get over the inconsistency."

[the mother looks around the kitchen and out the window for a second, a worried look on her face]

"You're talking strange, son.  I don't want you going out in the woods by yourself anymore.  And no more making up stories about crazy raspy-voiced men making haunting music out there with the animals."

"I'm not making up a story!  Look, he even gave me a CD.  It's called The Leaven Dell.  Can I put it on the stereo?"

Josh Spencer      8/14/99