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David Wilcox, Vista (What are Records? 2005, 2006) ISBN 44626 00772.

           Acoustic singer-songwriter David Wilcox’s Vista is as engaging and comforting as it is beautiful, and it is very beautiful indeed. In the opening track, “Get On,” Wilcox describes the tension between heart and mind, as he decides how to respond “to this mystery that calls me from beyond the view.” As he describes the situation, the choice is forced for “this ticket’s good for just so long; I can think about it til this train is gone; Or just get on.” And the decision is momentous: “And doesn’t it make perfect sense; That life turns on a point in time; And I know that this is mine.” Wilcox is describing what the philosopher William James (1842–1910) described as a “genuine option,” an opportunity to make an irrevocable and momentous choice on a matter that reason alone cannot decide. The rest of the CD suggests that Wilcox did not let the train leave without him.

           Wilcox writes about the wonder and beauty of creation. This is especially evident in “Coming Alive” and “Vista.” In the former he sings of “The comfort we find with our bodies entwined; Opens the soul to the touch; Of a love that’s divine; That’s coming alive.” This sort of love and comfort requires great vulnerability as is evident in “The Hard Part”: “You think your shame and deep disgrace; Are more than I can bear; But you can take me to your darkest place; I will meet you there.”

           In a collection of fifteen very strong songs, “Vista” is the masterpiece. Wilcox begins by describing the experience of a solitary climber reaching the crest of a mountain: “And your expression showed the wonder of this place; Looking westward with the sunlight on your face; At the wide open vista.” The song then shifts to a hospital and we realize that the climb is a metaphor for death and the vista is what awaits us when we are finally “crossing over to home.”

           Though Vista is a celebration of the goodness of creation, Wilcox and his co-writers do not turn a blind eye to violence and destruction. So, for example, while “Party of One” begins with “Skylight in my mind tonight; A window through the storm,” in the following selection, “Into One” the window is broken and it’s time to “Pray they’re safe from the war.” And in “Good Man,” Wilcox describes some believers who live without tensions or doubts and the havoc they wreak: “But their devotion was unquestioned – follow straight and never swerve; The devil always needs a good man – in the worst sense of the word.”

           The final track, “Great Big World,” provides both continuity and contrast with “Vista.” There is contrast, as the subject of the song has his whole life before him, but continuity in the greatness and goodness of creation: “It’s a great big sky; And a great big love for you.”

           Vista is a lovely landscape that I will enjoy for a long time to come.

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