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Tom Waits; Betts Speeds

As any motorcycle aficianado can tell you, there's an old truism about Harleys. "If you're going to buy a Harley, make sure you have enough to buy a truck, too. You'll need it to haul your Harley back home when it breaks down." Does this stop Harley Davidson from being the object of lust-in-leather? Have you ever seen a young woman start to swoon when a Fatboy cruises by, then stop, right herself and say, "Yeah, but they've got a terrible maintenence record . . ."

Harleys aren't about reliability. Harleys aren't about a quiet ride. Harleys sure as shit aren't about "When I retire we're gonna buy one and see the country."

They're about passion. They're about blisters-on-your-fingers-blood-never-felt-so-good fifteen hour marathon road trips across states where the sky eclipses the earth. Harleys are real. Everything else is just borrowed chrome and gas mileage.

Which brings me to my evening tonight. Tonight, I went and saw Cameron Betts perform at the Celtic Bayou on open-mike night. Now, I've heard Cameron sing before, and I've heard him play. To tell the truth, my expectations weren't high. He's just starting out, see, and well . . .it wasn't like it was a paying gig or anything like that. Last week, he got the ten-thirty spot and the bar had pretty much cleared out by the time he started his thirty minute set. So I went, more out of a sense of loyalty to a friend than for any performance that I might see.

I'm a fool. I hereby apoligize for the low expectations.

Because, you see, I was treated to thirty minutes on the back of a Harley in full throttle.

Cameron Betts is a decent enough looking guy, in a sideburned, faux Elvis sort of way, but he has a boyish quality to his face that sets him apart. I'm convinced that its the joy that he carries around with him that causes his thuggish, hard features to dissapate into an impish grin which would be perfectly comfortable on any eight year old standing in line for the latest Harry Potter book. He hasn't had much cause for joy lately, but you know what? He's got about as much chance of it abandoning him as he's got of abandoning it.

Now, I'm not going to tell you the evening was perfect. His guitar skills are rusty. He fumbled through a few new songs and some old ones as well. The audience still made him uncomfortable and he fell into the trap of many performers; he turned into an instant goober as soon as the mike was put in front of his face and he had to chat with the audience.

What I will tell you is this: There were moments of absolute, utter abandon in his performance that stole the audiences ability to pull their lips together. In his third song, he performed a Tom Waits tune and during the chorus, his voice roared with the sound of velvet thunder.

As time goes on, you're going to hear a lot more about this young man. Write down the name; keep it near. Yes, give me the credit for introducing you to him and tell everyone what great taste I have.

If there's one thing I can see, it's when someone is in the perfect place, doing the perfect thing for them.

Cameron Betts kick-starts his performance, he doesn't push a button. Then, he twists the throttle and heads for parts unknown.

Don't bother following him with the truck. You won't need it.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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