Lift To Experience's 2001 double-disc The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads is an album I've had to buy twice. The first copy got worn the fuck out. It's a radical concept record about the end of the world.
As the story was originally told to me, Lift were every bit as mythical as their themes of religious apocalypse.
Guitarist and singer Josh T Pearson was a preacher's son. And according to a friend of mine whose band toured with Lift, Pearson told the following story as literal truth. It also functions as an opening missive on The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads:
This is the story of three Texas boys / Busy minding their own bidnis when the Angel of the Lord Appeared unto them saying
"When the Winston Churchhills start firin' their Winston Rifles into the sky from the Lone Star State, drinkin' their Lone Star beer and smokin' their Winston cigarettes, Know the time is drawin' nigh when the son shall be LIFTed on high."
We told 'em that didn't sound very Sunday-go-to-meetin'.
"What do you expect when the Lord calls on the crippled, deaf and blind to lead the Children of Israel into the promised land."
"Children of Israel?" we asked.
"Don't you boys know nothin'?" The USA is the centre of JerUSAlem."
LISTEN: (This will only work loud, on a stereo—laptop speakers will not do)
Lift To Experience - "With Crippled Wings"
Pearson's wild-eyed sermons were delivered by the loudest three-piece I've ever heard. The bass and drums boomed, a thunderous tract for the swirling squeal of Pearson's waves of guitar wash. Alongside his Marshall stack, was an old Leslie, whose rotary speaker flung the shimmering delay of Pearson's cleanly driven Fender Mustang into all corners of the room.
I saw Lift To Experience just once at the Samurai Duck—one of the worst venues in Eugene at the time. Basically a deli tucked into the side of a life-less, stone parking garage, the Duck played home to shitty punk bands who didn't care about sound, layout, or anything besides getting stage-time and loaded.
It was a rainy weekday and the show wasn't promoted. My friend, the one whose band toured with Lift, was calling everyone he knew, frantically trying to scrape together any semblance of an audience. Maybe six people found their way down. Add one for the astonished bartender.
Holy shit, Lift played a transcendent show—as heartfelt, passionate, radical and sprawling as any I've seen in the near-decade since. Strange voodoo magic. Or maybe it was indeed God's work—Pearson embracing his called-upon duty as God's twisted guitar-wielding missionary. At one point, deeply entranced, Pearson fell to his knees and howled back up at the mic, cutting back against more than his band's raging sound, but the din of the world.
Pearson himself cut a strange, almost mythological figure. He was grimy and svelte with wicked mutton chops, dressed in hundred-year-old cowboy boots and an equally worn-out hat. Just like Jesus would look were he born in a dusty barn in Denton, Texas. Downtown JerUSAlem.
As Ezra wrote in his own glowing remembrance some two-years ago, "Pearson was friendly and intimidating at the same time, and if that dry Denton summer had any standing bodies of water, I half expected him to walk on them."
But Lift wouldn't be long for this world. A double-album about the end of the world and making deals with God for fame and fortune can be a hard act to swallow. Especially when these themes don't materialize, instead just shitting on your shoes. While Lift made fans in Europe, few in America ever took notice.
As the story goes—again, through through a snaky grapevine—Pearson lost his shit. Really stepped out into the ether. He'd pop up in Europe in looking more like he'd spent the last thousand years awake, squirming in purgatory. There were solo shows and occasional collaborations and other bits of this and that. But never any real promise of a reunion or follow-up. Ten years is a long time. And although fans of Pearson and Lift are dogged, almost religious in their kneeling, bloody reverence (the late John Peel loved the band enough to record three sessions in five months), everyone had to wonder if The Texas Jerusalem Crossroad was a one-time thing—a product of time, place and perhaps even madness, never to be repeated again.
Then, this morning, a press-release went out. Pearson has recorded a new record and it is to be released next spring. It's not Lift, and although my animal heart disagrees, my human brain knows it's probably for the best. It is a record that will not be topped.
As Peason himself puts it in the video below, "I don't know if any of you guys know who the fuck I am. I don't even know myself. I played a bunch of psychedelic music for a while and then I stopped about ten years ago. Now I just play country songs."
But this new song, a hundred and fifty decibles lower, is still comfortingly clutching in its haunt.