No. 4, “Miss Amputee West Culver County,” a bittersweet ballad about a beauty queen. Singer and guitarist John Bustine tells the story from the point of view of the man the pageant winner left behind, singing, “You took your heels, your stitched up sleeves, and your phantom pains on an unpaid leave/But whatever led you to believe there was more to life than this?”
“Miss Amputee” was a tune without a song until Bustine heard an apocryphal tale about “Jägermeister Mary,” a woman who showed up to her bartending gig one day without a hand—and without an explanation. Bustine, 33, filled in the blanks, imagining a story where her boyfriend felt responsible for the amputation, perhaps necessitated by a drunk-driving accident. “But instead of forever damaging her, it gave her the courage to go out and do things she might have been scared to do,” he says. Specifically, she won a beauty contest for amputees and then left her boyfriend and hometown.
Need a Hand?
For the first two-thirds of “Miss Amputee,” Bustine is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, and he initially envisioned the album would be entirely solo. “I assumed I’d be making a Fuck me, I’m a sensitive songwriter, solo-acoustic thing,” he says. But Bustine, a Silver Spring resident, liked the momentum provided by electric guitar, bass, and drums toward the end of the song. “The part before the band comes in, everyone in the recording studio referred to as ‘the boring part,’” he says. “They were kidding, I hope.” —Sadie Dingfelder
Bustine plays Iota Club & Cafe Monday, Jan. 7.