I’m not sure if it’s a Libra thing,
or a writers thing, or a guy thing, or what, but I seem to move through life like I’m on a pendulum, throwing my enthusiasm in definitive directions, but only for a relatively short time. I enjoy the feeling you get from rushing around in a frenzy and huffing and puffing and getting it all done. There is one bi-product of this though, that is harmful to productivity and its something I count on my heroes to help me overcome. I’m talking about the void, the aftermath, the morning after, when you seem to have created this empty space in which its ok to do nothing. It’s the “well-earned Sunday-off” mentality. Sure we all need a break, but when you’re on the pendulum, it means there can be significant amounts of time you spend neglecting your craft, your hobby, your loved-ones….. Whatever the case may be. Balance is hard to achieve.
In these lulls I put on music that brings me back to motivation, and appreciation. I just wanted to take a minute to speak about two heroes of mine. Pinnacles of songwriting. Songwriters who, in my mind, never leave the workshop. Folks who live in constant service of the muse. Even if it’s not true, the idea that there is someone out there more accomplished and talented than I, pushing their envelope and discovering new things, motivates me. Here are a couple of songs and writers that make me want to be better. If nothing else, you may want to give these songs a listen in some down-time. Some very mellow down time…..
This song is on Waits’ Real Gone Album. Its a letter home written by a soldier, a commentary on the war he’s been through. Nothing I can say about the song, could speak as clearly or with as much meaning, as the song itself, that’s why I love it.
“What I miss you won’t believe, shoveling snow and raking leaves.”
When few words can do the work of many, when the same words can mean something different, each of the 100 times you hear them, that is something work towards I think.
“You can’t deny, the other side, don’t wanna die any more than we do.”
“Tell me how does God chose, whose prayers does he refuse?”
These are words that collect us together, they include everyone. An atheist prayer, a criminals apology, bound by human flaw, no matter what choices we make.. Thee common denominator. So many in songwriting strive to dwell in the existential. Very few songwriters can do this from the pews, rather than the pulpit.
“And I know, we too are made, of all the things that we have lost here.”
Bravo Tom. If its possible for something to feed you, and keep you hungry at the same time, this song does.
Gillian Welch won a lifetime achievement award at the Americana Music Awards this year in Nashville. She went on after Loretta Lynn played to a sold out amphitheater. I watched the amphitheater empty out while Gillian played, and I realized in that moment, that I am not on the pulse of what is meaningful or popular in music to the masses. But it’s ok, because every time I have encountered a beautiful scene on a long drive to somewhere, or been alone with my son when he has discovered something new in the world, (to his own towering amusement,) every time I want access to feel something important, I put Gillian Welch on, and that is enough for me. It is the music I listen to the most. The writing is mystical, and enormous in its simplicity. There is so much room for the listener in these recordings, and the sadness, the tearing up, the joy, the calm it induces, the impression of it always, is flexible. Not to mention the harmonies…
I have no idea what these songs are “about.” The word Revelator is a word Gillian made up, and then went ahead and defined in the song. The artistic license in that decision alone inspires me to no end. If you’ve ever been to an Alternate Routes show, and watched a 6 minute guitar solo, you can rest assured it is not Eric demanding he get to do that before we go on stage. Allowing an artist to unfold, and to take his or her time is something I need on stage. I need to be apart of something that redefines itself all the time, something that goes beyond where you thought it would end.
When I saw Gillian Welch play at the Ryman Auditorium. they played “Revelator” last, and the guitar solo was 8 minutes long. When the audience found themselves beyond that wall, beyond the boundaries they thought the song was made of, and we all turned around and looked back at the shore from that long
distance we had been carried away from it, we had been somewhere unique and adventurous, together… and everyone stood up. When music reaches, when it disorients us, when it brings us out of our own heads into a new place, where we don’t feel like we know anything, where we don’t feel expected to know so much, to a place without precedence , where we can be children and things are possible again, thats when music matters most to me. That’s the music I’m trying to create on my best day.
So here’s to some pretty ditties and some lofty chatter. Thanks for reading, I realized today I have no idea how to use apostrophes…