My bare feet pounded the linoleum floor. I danced circles in the living room singing along with Jo Stafford and The Norman Luboff Choir. “Jambalaya a-crawfish pie and-a file gumbo, ‘cause tonight I’m gonna see my cher amio.” The words were undecipherable; the song was dancing voodoo. My sisters laughed; I twirled faster – son-of-a-gun big fun had in Wellsville.
NOTE: If you have no idea what I’m writing about, you can listen to Jo’s version of Hank Williams’s immortal Jambalaya. I also was particularly entranced by Rosemary Clooney’s totally child-inappropriate Come On-a My House.
First the light bursts, like fractals, fireworks, illuminated wood cuts. Then the thought I’m awake. Then the thought Here we go again. I’ve been in this ‘mare countless nights. For years I had no explanation, until I found one on the internet: hypnagogic sleep paralysis. The lurking evil, the strangulation, my muteness – all because I failed to fall asleep enough.
I purchased a cassette of Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat” in 1987, the year my wounded marriage finally surrendered. The sax swells, piano joins, cool jazz. “It’s four in the morning, the end of December….” It’s a different song when Cohen sings it; with Warnes it becomes a more complicated love story. I was “nobody’s wife”; she caught it perfectly.
We talk often. Our voices echo each other. When I listen to recordings of myself, I hear them. We are the three sisters, the three witches, the three good fairies. I also happen to be a sap when it comes to movies starring Danny Kaye, so it makes sense that I adore “Sisters,” especially when lip-synched by Crosby and Kaye.
The waking dream came suddenly in the wee hours of this morning. An unusual time for me. The typical paralysis, the expected inability to speak – but this time the specter was one of my sons. I could not tell which one; this made me more afraid. When I woke, I texted both: “Tell me you’re OK. Bad dream.” They understand.
The House Dreams. I did walk through those corridors, there were columns around the swimming pool, and mannequins watched me in a sewing room. I’ve looked for years, driving through strange neighborhoods, in unfamiliar cities, expecting to find a well-explored house. The dreams, however, stopped long ago. I miss them, because now I am left with only nightmares to visit.
Seventeen years ago, two months after 9/11, I boarded a plane and flew to see Kate and Tim, escaping from Kansas and motherhood – a much needed break. During this visit, Kate played an Eva Cassidy album for me. Today, on a cold, wet day, I’m listening to Eva sing “Autumn Leaves”. It’s my favorite fall song, full of melancholy longing.
Sometimes Lyle Lovett comes along for the ride. When the boys were little, I’d put a CD in of Lyle and his Large Band, and they would rock out to the glorious, often funny, often rapturous songs. Now as I drive solo on the long back roads to Wellsville, I find myself singing love songs with him like this one.
Combine Colin Meloy’s melodies and voice with Lin Manuel Miranda’s lyrical madness – ooh heaven to my ears. This is my political anthem for surviving the Trump years with heart and mind intact. When we saw The Decemberists perform in April, this song brought the house down. “Do you know who the fuck I am? I am seventy-six-and-I’ll-Still-Kick-Your-Ass Fuckin’ Franklin.” Resist!
Once I wrote “Kimmery always dreamed she could fly, so she ran to the edge of the bank and jumped.” I often dreamed of soaring over valley houses, river, church steeples, to the opposite hill line. Years later, snorkeling over an outer reef, I felt the land drop away as I watched a manta ray fade into the dark. Flying.
Duncan was two. Cheri gifted us with the 1995 Dublin performance video of Riverdance, when Michael Flatley danced the lead. The opening song effected our wee lad profoundly. The music swelled, the first taps struck the stage, and he ran in circles yelling “The Show! The Show!” We didn’t have the tech to record this. Such good blackmail, lost forever.
NOTE: Sorry for the poor quality of the video. Difficult to get a clearer one of this particular performance. The first song is “Reel Around the Sun” and lasts a little over seven minutes.
Most music marketed to children is insufferable. One of the qualities I most appreciated in my boys was their ability to quickly move past the baby stuff, and into the rarified world of the Barenaked Ladies. Driving to piano lessons or swim meets, we all belted out this ode to chimpanzees in the mail. So much better than Sesame Street!
My mother was flummoxed. Every night I woke screaming and calling for her; all I could tell her was that “the puppets are getting me.” They came up from the side of the bed, and it didn’t matter if the bed was pushed tight to the wall, or if blankets were stuffed in the crack. Every night. Photographic evidence? Perhaps.
Found this song while looking for another on YouTube. There’s something about the beauty of earnest young men’s eyes. These three could have been the boys living down Stevens Street, the farm boys getting off the bus at school, the church boys who inspired crushes while we sat through long sermons. The Avett brothers moved my heart a little today.
I love this song. But I feel my declaration requires an explanation, half-assed as it is. I’ve a strong attraction to violent movies that take violence seriously. So I guess that might be why I love the impossible voice of Florence inhabiting for a moment the kick-ass heroine of this song, who levels the playing field, literally, with her mate.
NOTE: This is an acoustic version of “Kiss with a Fist,” which is much different from the more common electronic one. For that, watch the performance on Letterman.
Slush, the feral cat who adopted us, loved a good lullaby. This was no indoor cat. We made him a cozy den on our front porch, which he used on the coldest winter nights. I fed him each evening, and then we’d sit on the cold stoop together, him nestled in my lap, soft snow falling on his gray fur.
NOTE: Besides “The Coventry Carol,” he also was partial to “Hush Little Baby” and “Dona Nobis Pacem.”
Hopelessly, I loved a bass player with flowing golden hair. My lack of musical knowledge appalled him, so he gave me a copy of the Pat Metheny Group album in 1978. Jazz fusion, he said. Fused with what? I thought but didn’t ask. Fused with dreams, fused with long, open roads, and fused with the big sky bowl over Missouri.
NOTE: I’m stretching the idea of “song” a little here, since everything on this album seems to be an exploration, rather than a form. That said, listen to “Jaco”. There’s a nice connection with my previous Joni Mitchell song: Jaco Pastorius improvised with her on Mingus, and he played with Pat Metheny in the early days.
There was good pop music in the 1970s, but I didn’t discover most of it until the 1980s. Our local radio station, WLSV-790, stuck to the certified billboard hits. And from that quagmire of disco and glam rock, I unfortunately learned Air Supply’s entire insipid catalog, including this memorable ear worm. “I’m lying alone with my head on the phone….”
The video popped up on facebook. Six young men singing in a circle; the greenish light of the German metro station coloring them and the people who stopped to listen. The perfect acoustics of the tunnel, the harmonies, the poetry in a language I do not speak – this is as close as I can come to worship of anything divine.
If I could compose my dreams, they would be choreographed like the fight scenes in Zhang Yimou’s Hero. Only Tan Dun could write the music. And impossibly, I would be as lovely, and deadly, as Maggie Cheung. I watch “Fallen Masters, Falling Leaves” often, captivated by the women’s grace, the perfect eye of the camera, and the kiss of melancholy.
NOTE: I’ve linked the clearest video of this scene I could find, but sadly it is also the shortest, cutting off both the beginning and the ending. Most of the longer clips on YouTube had dreadful dubbing or quality issues.
I need to pack. Nothing is right. Everything should have been done, but now it’s time to leave, and I’m still trying to figure out what to wear. Melania (no damn joke) arrives to say it’s time to go. We can’t keep Donald waiting. She’s wearing high heels that must be 24 inches tall. I say, “I could wear heels.”
NOTE: Disclaimer here. I am not, and never will be, going anywhere in heels! I refer to this as my Baron Trump Dream, and sincerely hope it never returns.
I lived for years in northwest DC, and Alexandria, yet I never managed to get to the Birchmere, or Gallagher’s Pub, or Food for Thought to hear Mary Chapin Carpenter. That’s like living a block from the Stone Pony and missing Bruce. I likely passed her going through the Dupont Circle Metro every day. “I Feel Lucky” is best live.
At every show’s end, the three Jenny’s leave their microphones and walk to the front of the stage; sometimes they even climb down to stand with the audience. Then they sing “The Parting Glass,” to me the most lovely, heart-breaking Irish benediction ever. Three times I’ve witnessed the total silence of the audience as their sweet harmony filled the theater.
NOTE: In case you haven’t heard of The Wailin’ Jennys, shame on you! Go do something about it!
Gillian Welch goes flat, every time. In fact, I’d argue that in “Tennessee” she masters flatness – the deadpan delivery, the hopeless lyric, the simple facts and nothing but. David Rawlings – sigh! – his fingers are a mystery, and somehow he harmonizes with her without going flat. “It’s beefsteak when I’m working, whiskey when I’m dry, and sweet heaven when I die.”
I have not had time to love this song. There will be time, but this was the melody of my morning, and it hasn’t left me since. “No pause. Press play. Don’t stop.” His voice always surprises me. I forget Batiste is a Julliard-trained fellow, disguised as a jazzman. A gospel baby, hiding under a funky beat. So very fine!
This love is serious. I’ve known snow, the kind that comes and stays without a thaw for months. On the prairies in Alberta, Canada, where Kathryn Dawn grew up, winter could send out fingers of snow in September, sometimes even August. How could you not open your door?
We celebrate Thanksgiving with abandon. We fill the house with far-flung friends. Boys come home; dogs dance. Suddenly the house contains more food and drink than is possible to consume. On Thanksgiving morning, this is the song that I listen to first, before anyone talks to me, while I drink a cup of coffee looking out on the rimed woods.
There were two Conors in last night’s pathetic dream: a toddler Conor who looked more like a doll, and a grown Conor who looked like a stranger. Toddler C came in with black butterflies following him, which turned out to be bats. Suddenly he’s covered with bites and I’m screaming for grown C to help me. He doesn’t. The end.