"Big Dumb Town" and "Knife and Fork," both from Ridgway's fine fourth solo album Black Diamond (1995) were released as CD singles by Australia's now defunct TWA Records in mid to late 1996. While Ridgway has, of late, been unaccountably neglected in his native United States (no prophet is recognized in his own land), he is very popular down under, as the release of these two CD singles implies. If there were justice in the world, "Knife and Fork" should have been an underground hit single in the U.S., down under, and elsewhere. I'm not sure that "Big Dumb Town" is as strong a single as "Knife and Fork." Admittedly, the song reveals that Ridgway's scathing satirical eye is securely focused as ever; however, it is finally not as urgent or compelling as the darkly obsessive, ever-so-slightly sinister--and fetishistic--"Knife and Fork."
Big Dumb Town
Knife And Fork
Some of these songs Ridgway first began playing at live shows in Southern California beginning the summer of 1993, roughly at the same time he began premiering songs that he would eventually include on Drywall's Work the Dumb Oracle album. "Big Dumb Town" sounds as if it originally might have been written as part of the Drywall project; I'm certain that the previously unreleased tune "After The Storm" was written as part of that project as well. "Hear That Bird," an example of flanerie (idle strolling or street walking) in Ridgway's work, is apparently the title of the "hidden" or "buried" track following "Crystal Palace" on the Black Diamond album, and so in fact has been released previously to this CD single.
My best information indicates that the previously unreleased tracks "Garage Band '69" and "Amnesia" (which is, actually, the re-titled "My Drug Buddy") were premiered at one of his gigs in September 1993. The composition of the two songs thus dates from the same period. I've sung the praises of "My Drug Buddy" (AKA "Amnesia") elsewhere; it originally appeared on the Floundering Original Soundtrack but, unfortunately, was omitted from Ridgway's Film Songs (1997). The little heard "Garage Band '69" features Ridgway in rare form, not precisely in a sentimental way, but rather as gripped by the strong emotions of a powerful, vivid memory:
In an old garage/
Rain is comin' down/
Half a block away/
You could hear that sound/
Powered up by love/
A tribute to the amateur and indomitable spirit that animates the best rock and roll, "Garage Band '69" is one of Ridgway's finer songs, and for this reason makes Big Dumb Town essential for any serious fan.
For completists, of course, the CD single Knife and Fork is essential as well, if for no other reason than to envision this superb song as a single, and because it includes the previously unreleased, pessimistic "After The Storm."
In short, these two releases contain some heretofore unreleased material originally dating from 1993. The "Drywall Project" was the focus of Ridgway's creative efforts from 1993 to roughly mid-1995. Late in 1995, Ridgway released Black Diamond, to which the unreleased tracks above are loosely connected. For the time being, at least, he has abandoned the "Drywall Project."
Both CD singles are only available as imports.