By Wayne Slater-Lunsford

Notes_for_a_Novel_-_Robert_Morgan_FisherIn second grade, Mrs. Duncan had me stand in the corner holding my ankles because I would not sit still. Even from the corner, I looked out between my knees at my classmates and got a few giggles and admiring comments on how red my face was and how my eyes bulged after a few minutes. I’d already done my handwriting practice, and the task of the moment was to entertain the rest of the room. In fact, Mrs. Duncan soon understood that creativity and a lack of challenging work were the source of my disruptive behavior. Mrs. House agreed to let me visit her fourth-grade class sometimes, and there I learned a technique that I still use when I think of it. The class would begin any new activity focused and attentive, but soon tended to drift into daydreaming, side conversations or mischief. The noise level would begin to rise, and the natural response would be to raise one’s voice to compete. Sometimes Mrs. House would do just that, but more often, she would LOWER her voice almost to a whisper. The effect was surreal, like a movie with a soundtrack that doesn’t match the picture. The closed caption would say, “Unintelligible speech,” and most of the class would begin to listen more carefully, to try and make out what she was saying. Feet would stop shuffling, pencils would no longer bounce on the desks, and whispers no longer floated around the back of the room. Crystal clarity would blossom for at least a few minutes, and Mrs. House would get her point across.

Most of the things I learned in those years blur together with schoolyard fights and lizards under rocks, chalk dust and the basketball needing air pumped into it. Those moments of quiet clarity in Mrs. House’s class still shine. This technique might not have worked as well with my second-grade classmates, because they tended to get farther out of hand more quickly, but it was like magic in the fourth grade class I was visiting, and that calming and focus were exactly what I needed.

Robert Morgan Fisher is just that sort of genius, who knows when to shout and when to whisper. He does both in his new collection Notes for a Novel, and for those who sit up and listen, there are many moments of beauty and affirmation, and even new understanding.

Robert’s opening line gives the collection its name, yet he uses the term ‘unimpressed’ for the many things this song points out. I’m impressed with how many seemingly unrelated issues become intertwined by the end of the song. Then, lest we become too jaded too quickly, Robert immediately softens his tone and coaxes us gently into a sweet dream of possibilities, with a bitter undercurrent of reality lurking nearby. Before we’ve actually absorbed all these contrasts, Robert dons a petticoat and a prim bonnet and becomes a voice teacher who doubles as a rehabilitation counselor and gains some depth from a special student.

Don’t ever be too quick to judge Robert or one of his songs. When he muses that there Oughta Be a Highway or that the heart never gets cancer, one must allow some time to think –and feel-- it through. Of course, when Robert gets started on Henry Kissinger, it’s a catapult shot straight into rancor. If you’re thinking of just buying a few single MP3’s from Amazon.com, note that this gem is not available alone. I’m very glad I got the full album, because the way Robert deconstructs that pompous ass is monumental.

The second half of the album proceeds by a winding path past nostalgic and humorous spots in our human landscape, pausing now and then to point out a detail or a reflection that may change our perception of the universe. Every step of the way is well worthwhile, and worth revisiting for a fresh perspective. This is one of those albums I’ll listen to again and again. I believe anyone who sits up and listens to Robert will find that he gets his point across, and we can grow from taking Note of his Novel.

This CD can be purchase from CDBaby.

After a couple of years as an itinerant folksinger in Florida, Wayne thought it easier to make a living in the Navy. After ten years of that, twenty-seven years in aerospace has been a breeze. Wayne never quit playing guitar and singing though, and has even written a few songs of his own. Wayne also produces

, and maintains several web sites, most notably http://waynesl.com , http://desertsong.net (Wayne’s musical nonprofit with 1 volunteer) and http://occupyav.com. Wayne can be reached at waynesl@waynesl.com