Katie Pruitt – Normal

(Listening to this song while you read this, is strongly encouraged)

Why is a sixty-one-year-old, straight white male writing about a song celebrating being queer? I am writing because being queer should be celebrated by straight white males. I am writing because I want my fifteen-year-old granddaughter to know she is perfect just the way she is… I am writing because this song is magic.

I discovered Katie Pruitt a few months ago when I heard her EP, “Ohio/ After The Gold Rush”. When I heard her sing After The Gold Rush, I felt like it was the first time I had really heard that song.  And then I fell into a Katie Pruitt rabbit hole. I listened to everything she has released, multiples, of multiple times. her music has been front center for a few weeks now.

Normal, is from her album, “Expectations.”  This entire album is a gift, every song has its own magic and story, I can’t wait to hear what she does next. She is a part of something really cool happening in Nashville.

I had completely forgotten the pull that Nashville could have on my heart… fourteen-year-old Rusty’s crush on Tanya Tucker. Listening to Tanya those many years ago is what helped me through my parents’ divorce and over the last little while I have found beautiful reminders in Joy Oladokun, Brandi Carlile and Katie.  Each of them have dropped little goblets of magic into my soul. The power of music can help you face or unlock things, it can help you learn, and it is awe inspiring. Even at my crazy old age, I am learning.

I recently watched Katie on an episode of “The Caverns Sessions”. What a beautiful setting, and while she sang “Normal”, the tug of words began to swirl through my mind. Words for my granddaughter, words for my younger self and words that heal.

Wasted and worn out and wonderin’, “Where do I fit?”

And scared as hell ’cause I knew I was different

I think that most of us have experienced the hammer of society trying to pound us into shape over the forge of normal. There are some of us who no matter the pounding, could not find our way to normal. I have never felt acquainted with normal; I may never understood normal.

What’s it like to be normal?

To want what normal girls should?

God knows life would be easier

If I could be normal, then trust me, I would

Trust me, I would

There was one time in my life when I believed, I knew what normal was. It was in 1969, I was eight years old and living in the most barren place you could imagine. There was no kindergarten. I went to first grade in a two-room schoolhouse. My first-grade class was me, a third grader, two fifth graders and two sixth graders, one of the sixth graders was my older sister Roxi. She is the one who took this picture. That’s my mom, my sister Robbi is in front of me, and Renee is on my mom’s left. None of us have any idea what was on her hand…

Rusty's mom, Rusty, Robbi and Renee in 1968. Northeastern Montana. Outside their tiny house on the plains

That was it, that time, a little slice in my life where I felt like I was normal.

Not long after this picture was taken my parents took me to visit the School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls, MT. I remember making my dad mad cause when we stopped at a stop sign in the city and then started off again, I yelled STOP, which he did. I opened the door I was sitting next to and closed it again. My dad asked what that was all for and I responded, “I had to let Paul in.”

Paul was my imaginary friend.

At the Deaf and Blind School, I found out I was different. I found out that most people see the world much differently than I do. I was born with an optical nerve disorder that prevents it from properly aligning the images that each eye is sending to it. I have a very distinctive squint of my left eye that resembles something of a perma-wink. I have figured out ways of coping and how to work with the tools I was given. But I have never succeeded in being normal, this world was not designed for me.

But when that picture was taken, I had no idea that I was any different than you.

Marchin’ in line in the halls of my Catholic school

Seven Hail Marys if I copped an attitude

And God was a word I had spoken but I hardly knew

Kneelin’ down at the altar with no clue who I was talkin’ to

Stumblin’ ’round Athens with frat boys in hot pursuit

Left me starin’ at the ceilin’, pissed off and feelin’ used

In second grade I had to ride the bus to town. School was a huge building and had every grade, some grades even had two classes each, instead of six students there were at least a hundred… I was the only kid who could not close his desk because his books were four times the size of everyone else’s. They were bigger than coffee table books. I was humiliated but I was also grateful for those books, they made it possible for me to try and keep up. Even in the front row I can’t see the board, but everyone in class knows when you pee yourself. It didn’t really matter though, we moved after third grade, and after fourth grade… I never had access to those big books again and I was both relieved and disappointed. It made it easier to blend in and look normal but lots of things went by without me seeing them, lots of things. I spent a lot of time being scared as hell because I was different.

When I watched Katie singing this song, it struck me that her struggle with “normal” was not that different than mine. She cannot change who she is any more than I can. She should be able to live in a world that is designed for her. No one’s story is the same as another’s but neither of us knows what its like to be normal.

Did they want what’s best or did they want what’s easiest?

‘Cause I tried my best, but God damn, was I curious

And she had me high as the sun on a Saturday afternoon

With no way to unsee this side of me that she introduced

I have never really talked about my eyes, not in depth, with anyone. I have tried but I am so used to trying to compensate, that I just hide it, even from myself. Writing it here, right now. Scared as hell cause I know I am different…

We lived in twenty-nine places by the time I was sixteen and in some way that may have saved me. I blamed being new for not fitting in but honestly, I didn’t fit in because I can’t see. I am not blind, I just can’t see a baseball until its about ten feet away, the time it takes my eyes to focus eliminates most sports. When given the tools I excelled academically but those were tiny windows that closed soon after they were opened. Through it all I have joy. I overcame all of that, I have had several weird and wonderful careers, and I am writing the next chapter now. This may be the best of them all.

The world told us to fit in, but we did the opposite

The world told us to fit in, but we did the opposite

I thought of my granddaughter Sophie as I watched Katie sing. Sophie is fifteen and just starting to write her story. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be fifteen, right now. Sophie reminds me so much of myself, smarter than most people, trying to embrace her differences and trying to fit in. I want her to know that her differences are her strengths. I don’t want the world to force her into their version of normal. It took me decades to understand that our beauty is derived from what sets us apart from normal. I will continue to encourage her to write her story in any way she sees fit and ignore the noise and the pounding to conform.

I thought of my daughter as I watched Katie sing. I can never go back and be the dad that I should have been. I can never erase the rigid life I tried to convince her was real. I can never encourage her younger self to forget about fitting in and just be Elaine. I remember the joy she faced each day with, but my rules got stricter, and her joy grew quieter… her dad was so busy keeping them alive he didn’t see how much Elaine trying to fix things cost her. I want to be a part of her atmosphere as we grow older. I will remind her that I named her after Evenstar and she just needs to shine… Trust me, I would.

Trust me, I would

Trust me, I would

I would

I thought of Atlas, Emily, and Taya as I watched Katie sing. They are all striving to understand their place while grasping for all the beauty they can find. None of my friends are “normal,’ and for that I am grateful. They put up with my way of using way too many words, but hopefully I give them a bit of hope in pursuing who they can be. They are brilliant lights that give me hope for the stories to come. Here’s to ignoring normal and embracing the perfection of how perfectly different we all are.

Thank you, Katie Pruitt, for making this old man cry. Thank you for giving me a piece of your magic that let me open a door that has been closed for fifty-two years. Thank you for being your best self and telling us about it. I am a different man today because you followed your dreams.

I have watched so many people try and avoid being normal and so many of them gave up, myself included. Today I could care less what the world thinks of me, and I am content to just listen, learn and grow. Life can be joyful and full, regardless of how normal you are. We are all just the way we should be…

Embrace that and shine…

Listening, learning, and growing…

Xavier Rudd – The Window

Still Reaching for Hope

(Listening to this song while reading, is highly encouraged)

Twenty-four months ago, the stay-at-home order was issued and life as we know it changed forever.  The things we took for granted and the faces we remember should always be cherished, but we can never go back, and I wonder how many of us have reconciled with that…

I hope you are finding joy. This life is the only one you get to kick around, finding joy is really all there is. The last two years have been anything but fun, so, if you can find some joy every few days or more, you are winning ….

I have learned to cherish each day, even more than we did in the before times. This day is the one that demands your attention, and it is this day that will never be lived again. Tomorrow will come for most of us, but yesterday, well, it’s just yesterday.

Contemplations I’ve held in my hands
Right here beside this window
I’ve seen huge things go by at a glance
Right here beside this window

I find myself struggling harder today than I did two years ago. Contemplations that just rolled off me, now cling to the outskirts my moods. Working in a grocery store through this pandemic has been my window. At times it has been a beautiful window and sometimes it is just exhausting.  I bring my hope to work every day and I try to offer you some joy, but I am struggling. I have seen huge things go by and it feels like we are just squirming and wandering around…

The hate filled rhetoric we see daily cannot be sustainable, yet I see us normalize it, everyday… this is not treading water, this is drowning.

But I will love you my friend

When the cruel world seemed my only friend
Right here beside this window
Through the severing of heart strings attached
Right here beside this window

The fear that walks around today is draped in the colors of bravado, but when you see its heart, it is just fear and I will not be defined by that. I am not afraid; I am who I will always be. Right here beside this window…

I still consume more music than the average person and I think I am generally happy but, I am tired. Sometimes, when the rainbow fades, you just see the long road you still have to walk.

I let myself get tired enough to lay down a friend’s trust. When someone gives you their trust, they are honoring you in the greatest measure. It has made me question myself and ask if I have learned anything at all. The noise of the frantic world around us is no excuse and the exhaustion of living through a pandemic is no excuse, I can only pick up who I can be, and walk.

We all have casualties that we can count over the last two years. The millions who lost this battle and then the millions who are just in a daze, pretending that this is just something that the was made up and we will all get back to normal any day now…

we are never going back…

And when the rainbow comes after the rain before the sun
I feel so real

I still have hope. I still have joy, but we have all felt a toll. I have seen it in my family and the people I work with, and I see it in the you…

I wrote “Reaching for Hopeeight days after we were told to stay home, I wrote about the chaos and the love that we saw from behind the cash register and there is one thing that has stayed constant. We are all, still aching and hurting and many of us are permanently scarred…so many of us are gone, forever.

People are trying to adapt, at least that is what I think we believe, we are all just as lost and frightened as we were two years ago. We are all trying to find our one piece of hope that we can float on until this world either spins into oblivion or a miracle happens. Either way it’s a ride, isn’t it?

When I wrote about reaching for hope, I wrote it with the eyes of those I see every day. That is still the approach I use today; it is the people I see through my window at your neighborhood grocery store that I find so much hope in.  We are all doing the best we can, we are smiling, we are feeding our families and we are grasping at any glimpse of hope we can get our fingers on. We want it to feel so real…and sometimes we find it

And when the rainbow fades, takes my troubles far away
And I feel clear

Most Saturday’s I get to say hello to Henry. Henry is two years old; He is the hope of who we will be, Henry still sees life as a full and beautiful masterpiece… Henry is full of life and his eyes are wide open…

Henry’s mom always comes to my line. I don’t know her name, other than Henry’s mom, I am pretty sure she is ok with that. Henry likes to help count stuff and usually hands me a few things. He knows that I give him an adequate number of stickers to examine. Henry is a remarkable young man, taking in everything and so incredibly full of joy, if you are the recipient of one of Henry’s smiles then you are smiling just like me.

Henry does not know the before, he only knows today.

Henry and his mom are living.

Henry is fearless, Henry’s mom makes sure of that,

Henry and his mom give me hope.

What else is life supposed to amount to, being fearless and knowing joy? If I have Henry’s around me, I will keep my hope burning.

We are not lost, we are just finding our footing, we are just getting our bearings…

And now you sit herе with me my good friend
Right herе beside this window
Where the rains came and the rains they went
Right here beside this window

The upside of all of this is music. So many of our magical musician friends, have taken this time to pour their hearts into creating something to inspire us, to heal and guide us. I am so thankful for the music that is coming out right now, 2022 will probably go down as one the best years for music, ever. We need it… I will not survive without it.  

Xavier Rudd released Jan Juc Moon, on March 25, 2022, I found it a few weeks ago. I have spent a great deal of time taking this in, it has given me a hand hold that helps me maintain my grasp on hope. It has given me a view though my window that gives me peace. When I first heard “The Window”, I knew that I would write about it. There is hope and magic in this song, it has helped me feel a little closer to clear. “Stoney Creek” gave me a reason to dance. Xavier has created a wander through his psyche and a glimpse inside his soul, listen to it, from track one to track thirteen, he gives us bits of his soul to carry with us, into the universe. If you listen and let it seep into you, then you’ll carry a piece of Xavier forever. That is this power of a song and it gives me a reason to hope.

When I wrote “Reaching for Hope” I had no idea that we would still be talking about pandemics two years later, but here we are. I wrote about “those” who make it out of this and how they would be defining a new normal.  I think about that now, and I don’t think we need normal. I think maybe it’s best to just look out our window, find the Henry’s to walk with, and then listen to what they need. The energy you spend on others is priceless, choose wisely where you spend it.

When the wax melts and the candle starts to dim
Right here beside this window
I only pray you will be here my friend
Right here beside this window

The people I work with inspire me. They are troubadour’s, they are poets, and they are still figuring out what life could look like. They deal with issues that would mean nothing to you. In spite of all the things swirling around, they just walk, and they put your favorite tea on the shelf. They might be the kid in high school who just bagged your groceries…  they might be that musician who hasn’t written “that” song yet. Some are destined to be doctors and some are animators and some we have yet to see, all of us are very unique and we are each a beautiful thread.

That young lady you just asked to check on your favorite frozen entrée, might be the same women who sits down with you and gives you your options for treatment, just to stay alive. The one you don’t see today will likely be the one you need to see tomorrow.

The joy that I have found in being a part of this group of very special people is unprecedented. They are unique, and all of them have dreams, just like you do. They give me hope just like Henry does, they remind me that there are people in every nook and cranny of this world who care. That is where I get my hope, that is what I give to you, right here beside this window.

I do not know where the next little while will take us, I am not sure what role I will play in it, but I know for sure, the ones who I have walked through the last two years with will always be part of my story. We survived this shit, together.

Reflections of times well spent
Coming back from this window
And I will hold you ’til the end
Right here beside this window

Have I loved hard enough? That is what I reflect on when I think of the time I have. Have I loved so much that love will persist? I don’t think I have….  I have loved enough to know that love is worthwhile. I have loved enough to know the difference between a love that will follow on and one that just meets today. I will hold tightly to the one that wants to walk on.

Many of the people I work with to bring you your food, are living the most complicated of lives, we are all trying so hard, to just live. That is the beauty of your neighborhood grocery store, it could be someone who is just breathing in every day and another who is just beginning to understand that the day can have something for them. We are all still trying to figure out where we are and how we are supposed to get to the next today. We are just looking through that window trying to figure out where we are going.

When my skin dries and my bones begin to bend
Right here beside this window
When the weeds become too much to tend
Right here beside this window

I hope to stumble onto a song like “The Window” every single day. I like wandering through the magic that is woven into the threads of this song. I find real, and I find clear when I take in the beauty of this song. It is one of the examples of the music that carries me.

We all grow old and if we are lucky, we find some joy and we gather some color for our thread as we walk through this life into whatever is next. This is the truth of what I mean when I write that I am learning, listening, and growing.

I will love you my friends, right here beside this window…

Learning, listening and growing…

Daydreamer – Roo Panes

(Authors note; listening to the song written about while reading, is highly encouraged)

Pay attention, boy

Stop looking out the window

I’m sorry, sir, but I’ve learned more of love

By wondering where the wind blows

The first time I heard this song, I knew I would write about it. I was that little boy, staring out the window and wondering where the wind would blow me. I don’t know your story, but I will give you a little bit of mine. There have been chapters in my life that brought me experiences that I never dreamt of living, but I did. They would not have happened, if it hadn’t been for daydreams. Little dreams and big ones, there are so many things I didn’t plan to accomplish and yet I did. So many things I shouldn’t have been able to do, yet I did and so I daydream… for a time I was a farmhand, making barely enough money to feed my family and for a time I was a vice president. They both brought me joy and they both took their toll.

And truth be told

I wonder where I’d be

If it hadn’t been for daydreams

For the river flowing free

Just beyond the mainstreams”   

Over the last few years, I have managed to slide past the mainstreams and find my way into that river flowing free. I have found such a cool groove in my life. I have a partner who is my favorite person in the world, and she makes me a good person just because she chooses me. I hope you can find your favorite person in life; it makes all the daydreaming worthwhile.

I work with the most amazing people at your neighborhood grocery store. We ring up your groceries every day. I love these people, their hearts, their drive, and the fact that they keep coming back. They are what makes the universe beautiful. Every time you walk through our line, there is a chance that magic will happen, I have seen it so many times. We are a place where you can be left to your thoughts or you can have a conversation that gives you hope, maybe I can even give you some of my joy. Afterall it is where you get your food to stay alive… right?

When you are wandering through those thoughts and sorting out who you are and what to do with that… learn to create so you can leave your imprint.

Every single human being can create, every single one of us can. Defining how you create is up to you, it can never be defined by the person sitting next to you. It might be possible that at some point in your life the playfulness just washed away. Take a minute to stare out the window, daydreaming can help you find that little kid again. Be a daydreamer and create, leave your imprint, it is your gift to the universe. Smile at it and dream.

Well, on the fifteenth floor

I bet you’re wondering where the time goes

And beyond the flashing lights

It feels strange to think the grass grows slowly

If you’re on the fifteenth floor or the forty-sixth floor wondering where the time went. Just stop for a moment and have a daydream, you can fly away from that place that confines your hours each day, you can fly… and then you can breathe. It won’t change anything you didn’t already know but it could give you hope.

You are a part of the tapestry of the universe and without your thread, it is incomplete. To have hope you must find joy in the wonder of who you are. There is not, nor will there ever be, another you. Leaving your imprint will bring you joy.

Do you wonder where the time goes? Do you dance through the moss and the fog of your daydreams? Did you soar above everything or are you slogging through the mire of a pit full of worry?

All the birds you never heard

All the words you’d say to her

All the things you thought that mattered, turn into things that never really did. Truth will keep slithering around your fingers until you stop grasping for it and then it resolves, and you know the truth. Most of us wait too long to listen to the birds and we wait until it is too late to say all those words we should have said. Daring to daydream can help unlock that vision you have for you; it can help you say the things you need to say.

Oh, I wander where I would be if I hadn’t dared to daydream.

Did you find hope over these last two years? Did you see peace or just think about it? We have been loading up your groceries this whole time, smiling and asking how your day is. Everyone has had a shit two years, but here we are. You, the one who walks through my line at your neighborhood grocery store. I am interested in your story and how you are. We all have unique things we give the universe and I want you to know what yours is.

I never knew where the river would lead me, I never knew where I would end up, but I found this cool groove of walking through each day realizing that I have some joy to give and I daydream, it helps me stay in that river, flowing free.

Do you wonder where you’d be
If you’d ever dared to daydream?

Oh I wonder where I’d be
f it hadn’t been for daydreams”              

Roo Panes was the second artist I wrote about on this blogging adventure. Three years ago, yes, all the way in the way back of May 2019. I wrote about his song, Soldier of Hope. Andrew “Roo” Panes is one of my favorite lyricists, I am truly humbled by this man’s ability to bring hope through his prose. “Start small, grow tall… have the heart of a giant but know you’re a man. Start small, grow tall.”    His music has given me a glimpse of myself and allowed me to sit and cry and then get up and find my groove. I didn’t know him at all when I wrote that post in 2019, but I know him better now. He sings with his heart and writes a lyric that will tickle the fabric of the universe, this is magic folks, this is magic.

Do you wonder where you would be? I did, as I listened to this song. The improbable, bumbling, tirade of jilted paths my life has wandered, has enriched me, I am who I am because of this bizarre walk I have taken. If I have learned anything, I have learned the value of being creative, leaving my imprint. For me it is writing, it is playing music and it is the joy I give to you as you walk through my checkout line. All the birds you never heard, because you were too busy talking or too busy listening to something shallow and short. Creating breathes life, find out what you create, and then do it. It is you and it is real, even if you daydream it…

Think I will go daydream a bit…

Learning, listening, and growing

The Music That Binds Us

Six months before the pandemic, I started working at my neighborhood grocery store. I took this job to have a flexible schedule so I could write, I did not expect to find such an immensely beautiful example of all the good in humanity. There are literally dozens of people that I have worked with that have shown me the value of being human. Some are still here, and others have moved on.  I have made some of the best friends I have ever had in my life due in part to what we just went through and in a larger part to the goodness in these people. I am humbled by the depth of these people, and we are bound for life. I have discovered for every connection I have made with another soul, there is a song that wraps it up and keeps it in my spirit forever, especially for those that have moved on. Yet one more reason that I am eternally grateful for the magic in music.

Let’s be honest, 2020 changed us all. In one way or another it changed us deeply. The challenge we face now is to try and understand what those changes mean and where we go from here. I am convinced that more than a few of the people I have worked with through this thing will go on to change the world…they are giants. I cannot be dismayed or hopeless, there is so much good in the world, I have seen it. I see it in these people that work hard to ensure that you have groceries on your table. Every day we work to give you food, we have risked our lives and the ones we live with, so you can eat. In the end it has been a long and dreadful year, but it has also been one of the best experiences of my life.

“…we did this, through all through this shit, we survived this…”

I did not get a lot of chances for friends when I was growing up, we moved around a lot, I mean a LOT. New schools, new nicknames…I got so tired of being the new kid that at some point I just gave up trying to make or keep friends. I knew we would always move. Then I grew up, I had kids, they had kids… Over that time, I made a few friends that are good and so true. Honestly though, I think I am just beginning to understand what “friend” means.

This thing I do for a daily wage is a gift. This thing I do has shown me the heart of humanity, the things that have made me weep with joy over the goodness of what I saw. The people I have worked with are like the mountains I wish I could climb. I love what I have learned, and I love these people, we did this. fuck yeah, we did this.

If we are fortunate, we will meet people in this life with whom we exchange something. It might simply be the love of the outdoors or cooking, it could be anything, but most of us will find someone with whom you can share something. Occasionally we find someone with whom we can share our spirit with and in turn they share theirs with you. I am not talking about a physical exchange, or even an emotional one, this is something that goes far deeper than flesh or psyche. This requires an authenticity and depth of love that not everyone can bring to bear. If you are fortunate, you too will meet your “people” and if you do, I am willing to bet that there is a song that will bind you forever.

“These are the spirits that are connected to me, they are my people, and I am theirs.”

My friends, the sojourners, the wanderer’s, the ones who took a brief pause and gave me some of their light. I will love them forever and I will carry their love with me into my next life. They loved me despite my scars, they are hope, wrapped in painters and poets, in encouragers and storytellers. These are the spirits at your local grocery store, the people who sometimes are invisible to you. These are my people…

If you have found your people, then take the time to celebrate that you have five minutes with them. You might get a year, you might not. If they are your people, then when you get to talk, it will be just like the moment you last spoke. It won’t be awkward, and it won’t involve guilt, no matter how much time has passed. This is friendship, no one is promised tomorrow, and we all have a path to follow. We will laugh with them when they find joy, and we will weep with them when they are hurting…. Find your tribe and love them right where they are today, you never know, it may be that awkward kid you just met.

In finding my people I have found that for everyone there is a song or sometimes even ten of them and when that song plays, I can immediately see their face or hear their voice. This is the magic I have talked about so much and it serves to keep me connected to each one of my people regardless of where they are right now, figuratively, or physically.  Whenever I hear “Bronze Radio Return” sing “Still Wandering” I can hear Adam tell me he is still wandering and it warms my soul…whenever I hear “America” sing “Sister Golden Hair” I am immediately laughing with Mattaya. When I hear the “Eels” sing anything, I am playing my guitar with Fran again. When I wrote about my first friend, my sister Robbi, I used “Novo Amor’s”, “Keep Me” but I could have used a hundred different songs that bring her to my mind, a lifetime of experiences will do that.  With my very best friend, my Susan, I could also pick a hundred different songs, but I will always feel her love and beautiful embrace when I hear “Van Morrison” sing “Into the Mystic”.

I hope you find your people as you navigate your way back to your normal. You don’t have to work at your neighborhood grocery store to do it, but you do have be authentic and willing to give as much as you receive.  Cherish the music you share together, that will stay with you , just like their love and their support of who you are. When you find your people, you have found a path home.

Listening, learning, and growing…

Bear’s Den – Only Son of the Fallen Snow

Happy new year friend!

This New Year brings us not only a new day, but a new decade. The places we have come from, the places we see out in front of us. We all try to be the one they think we should be. But we all just run, trying to find that ancient corridor… There are days that we get to look up, we get to smile and remember why we like winter.

I have always written about a single song in my posts. A song that I have found magic in, but this time I am writing about a broader work. “Bear’s Den” released this EP on December 6, 2019, titled, “Only Son of the Fallen Snow.” The title track was released a short time before the EP and I knew when I heard it, I would write about it, and then when I heard the other two, “The Star of Bethnal Green” and “Longhope”… I knew I would write about them too.

All three songs are treasures of magical wonder. I couldn’t just write about one or two, I had to explore, ponder and extrapolate the magic from all three. A feat, ladies and gentlemen, yet to be accomplished on this lullaby of prose and magic. But this is right and perfect, because this release from Bear’s Den is right and perfect… aw the magic. Kev and Davie, I thank you…

Welcome to the new decade, one hundred years beyond the roaring twenties. That was when my grandmother became a teenager and saw the flower that bloomed become a thorn. Later she became a mother and later her daughter brought me into this world.  Edith was a woman who owned her own veil. She did what she wanted even if she had to try and hide it, very badly most of the time. But she was true to something deep within her own spirit that only she knew and loved. I remember the last time I saw her… it was not that long after Chet had passed, and she seemed a little lost.  I don’t remember a single thing she said that day, except that she loved me… But I remember her calm readiness to get on with it.  I remember so many things she said when I was a kid visiting their home at the foot of Mount Adams. Her laughter at how free I tried to be and her encouragement to run after that. She roared like one who grew up in the roaring twenties. She was so imperfect, but she was one of the best examples I will ever know of being the authentic you.

Oh, the man that I was
And the boy that I have become

When we grow up, we get to be responsible. In my experience we just get numb. The more mature we get the more we just don’t feel.

I’ve had a chance to chat with the man that I was and the boy that I have become.

Sometimes a song hits our ears just in that moment, like they knew we’d be here. I understand that music hits me in a different way than it does most. It is in this that I have found great joy. I am beginning to understand the who of me. I am beginning to let that kid, the one who laughed with Edith, at the most ridiculous things, see where we can go wandering.  

I am different, I am unique. I hear the magic in a song, and I understand that it will only strike in that moment when my souls’ ears are ready to hear. I have embraced my gift in finding the magic in music. It makes me unique and gives me joy, over and over.  If you can be moved and washed away by a song, let it take you where you need it to, and then drink.

This EP from Bear’s Den is just that, three songs that found me, listening, it found me ready to learn and then I grew from taking their magic in.

Only Son of the Fallen Snow

This song interrupted my daydreams. I was exploring who I was as a kid and trying to find what I buried back there. Through their magical lyrics they awoke in me a clear view of the boy that was and how it could take the place of the man I had been. I cannot profess expertise in how this song was written. But I can profess a deep gratitude in how it impacted me.

The magic of music should disrupt your norm, it should make you think, bring you joy, make you grow. and it might make you weep. Those are just a few of the traits that are part of the magic in music.  Andrew Davie (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar) and Kevin Jones (vocals, drums, bass, guitar) have given us a treasure in this EP, they exposed a piece of their soul as they wrote these songs and they allowed the magic of music to take flight and bring those of us who were in that place, a chance to drink deep and be quenched…

This song couldn’t be simpler, musically. It’s truly a beautiful, sweet, wandering of sound. The horns, oh those beautiful, fallen snow of horns. They build something very subtle and beautiful when they work into the line about going wandering. The foundation of the drum, the constant of the acoustic guitar, the piano, just outside of your conscience ear, but carries the vocals, like a bridge walking from chorus to verse… The music of this song has made me weep.

I listened to a podcast about this EP and I heard a few things about what they poured into each of these songs. They talked about the place where their dog used to reside and the one whose eyes were deep water. They talked about the wine glass that fell. They talked about how long they have had this song, just waiting for that moment it fit.

You can wake up tomorrow and go to the gym, get ready for work, head out the door and then you are struck by a song.  The one that marks a period in that day of your life and becomes a profound moment in time. A moment that you will be able to go back to each time you hear that song. This one will be one of those for me…and because I am who I am, it will take me back to thousands of places, because I let it.

It is kind of like a wave, when you stand out in the ocean, feeling the sand at your feet…then it washes over you and you can choose to dig your toes in or you can let it carry you away. The latter is scary but that is where you can find the magic, it only happens when you let it. This song took me wandering to so many places, and it brings me great joy, right now as I write this.

Edith was one of the places this wave took me, she ran down that same corridor as I did. She ran for joy and taught me how to do the same. Today, the boy that I have become can roll around in that joy and smile…

The Star of Bethnal Green

I know that there are many of you out there that have been caught by a song, you were caught and taken along a spiritual journey. It can happen in a wide variety of ways, driving in your car, sitting on a bus with music in your ears or just sitting and quietly listening. There are times when music can simply transport you and take you through a thought or emotion, it can ease a pain or bring it to bear for you to be challenged and learn from. If that isn’t spiritual, I don’t know what is. 

The word spiritual means: “Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”[1]  That very succinctly describes the magic in music that I seek out and consume. When you listen to this song you are given a beautiful example of the magic of music.   I have listened to a musician pour their heart out on a stage and make me feel as though the heavens have opened and I am there all by myself, basking in the beauty of that song. I have seen an entire audience sing as one voice in response to a musician’s magical music and then be completely silent, their spirits soaking up the moment.

I have chased the idea of gods and religions for a large part of my life and it has taken great work for me to separate the constructs of manmade belief systems from the pure joy of letting your spirit soar. I experienced the joy of music through the first stages of my life in church and some of that music still holds magic for me today. In some simple way I heard that thought and that emotion written about in this song. Listening to the The Star of Bethnal Green  gave me a space and a moment to let go of my struggle of detangling religion from spirituality and just fly.

I hear the orchestra as I stand in awe
I felt so close to the Lord
I’ve tried my whole life to ignore

I listened to this again today as I drove to work on a wintery northwest day. It is perfect that Bears Den launched this in winter and referred to it as a winter themed EP. So much of finding the magic in music relies on timing, are you open to it, do you have room for it, are you afraid of it?  I can’t say exactly what Kev and Davie were thinking of when they wrote this, I heard their conversation about how this song started from a ditty on a piano, and when saved on their iPhone it was mistakenly geotagged for a pub a ways away and became this beautiful gift. They developed their own ideas and vision for this song. It is remarkable how something like this song can mean so much to so many different people. When Bear’s Den decided to produce a video they worked with Jake Graf, who found magic in it and made an immensely profound video that gave life to his experience of that magic. This song has the potential to move so many people and speak to them in the way that might need to be heard just at that moment. To write this, Kev and Davie, is an accomplishment of the highest art and your treatment of it after being entrusted with this is a brilliant example of a musicians love for their craft. Even the name of the song is magical, the mistaken geotag, I would say, is a beautiful happy accident.

This song also talks about someone who leads you…

Your hands guide mine over the braille
I felt each word without fail

It talks about someone who loves you. I let this song carry me through the writing of a letter, an idea that was sparked by the third song on this EP, but we’ll get to that later.

Over the last eighteen years I have been with my best friend, she is my Star of Bethnal Green, my wife. In her quiet, beguiling way. she sings to me, her own song of the who of her. And there have been so many times she has been the guide for my hand over the braille.  This song forever, will bring her beautiful face to my eyes as I listen. That is the beauty of the magic in music.


This was the first song on the EP I wanted to figure out how to play. The opening of the acoustic guitar with that synth, pseudo organ echoing in the background and then that first verse… wow! I heard a bass line in this song the very first time I heard it. The song doesn’t have any emphasis on bass in its arrangement at all. Which doesn’t take anything away from this arrangement, it is musically one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in years. All I can say is that the first time I heard it; I heard a bass line. It made this song especially unique to me. It pulled its way into my soul and fed me. I’ll keep working on playing what I heard, I’m not there yet. But its such great magic….

Then the lyrics hit me, that happens a lot with me…a song will pull me in with its music and then days, weeks or even sometimes years later I hear what they are saying. Fortunately, this time it only took a few days.

Don’t leave her hanging around, she won’t wait there forever
Has a cat got your tongue?
Are words locked in your lungs?
Just breathe in and breathe out

This punched me, hard enough to write that letter I mentioned. In opening yourself to someone even after so many years, you might still need a gentle nudge. But if you have the chance, tell the one you love that you love them, however you do that, just tell them… I am so fortunate to have such a powerful strength in the one I share this life with, sometimes when I can’t see anything clear, she sees in the places that are so dark to me.

I chose not to leave her hanging around, so what I couldn’t say I wrote. Writing provides me a way of coming home. Which for me, means to be at ease, to express and bask… “Just breathe in and breathe out.” When I write I can be free and express what I would normally stumble through. Words get locked in my lungs, so I write. There is something truly liberating about laying your thoughts and feelings out in a way that you hope some will understand and writing that letter was just that, and so is writing this blog.

That night as we drove through the sleet and the snow
I think of all you’ve endured, please don’t let us fold

My wife and I have driven through the sleet and the snow and we did not fold, no matter what we endured. In fact, we are stronger. I know every one of us has a different story, we have all walked a path completely unique to us. But music is a constant, it is a magic that can transport us to whatever destination it has for us.

Do you let music transport you, can you lay back in its current and just drift, in the magic of the song? I get washed away; I always have…magical music does that to me.

I will ponder the weight of these lyrics for years to come.  Each time I listen, I get a little something more from it. If I was to think of a word for what this song means to me, it would be balm. It just eases over me, then it flows into me. Sometimes…you can even fly.  _____________________________________________________

I have listened to these guys since I heard “Above the Clouds of Pompeii”. I have explored them; I recommend you do the same. Their catalogue takes you wandering through some seriously magical corridors. Hopefully they continue to pursue that magic, so we can hear from them over and over.

These three songs are an abundant gift of magic, it is remarkable to think about how young Davie and Kev are. They have an incredible gift that shines through their music. My hope is that they keep listening to whatever their source is and keep being incredibly honest with the artist within themselves. We will all be richer for it.

I am going wander off now, I’m going wandering, down those ancient corridors and maybe I will see Edith and she’ll laugh at the little boy she used to see and shoosh me on my way. Oh, the man that I was and the boy I have become…

I will keep working out that bass line, its close…

Listening, learning and growing

[1] https://www.lexico.com/definition/spiritual

Jamestown Revival – This Too Shall Pass

If you’ve read my blog, then you may be thinking that I only find magic in sad or somber songs, but the truth is, a happy tune is just as magical. “This Too Shall Pass” has given me an amazing amount of joy. Over the last few months, I have tried to write about this song, but have found myself just wanting to listen and enjoy its magic, one more time…just for me.

The magic in music will wait for us, we’ll only hear it when we are ready. We may acknowledge that we just heard a good song or find it simply lingering around in our mind, but when our life is in the place it needs to be, that song can then reveal its magic to us. That is how it was with this song.

My life took some bizarre turns over the last year or two and I found myself spending a lot of time trying to understand my place in this world. Over this last summer I managed to get some insight into my place. Through that and some incredibly good days of life, I have found a place of contentment. I intend to stay here and a part of that is to hang onto some of the magic that helped me get here.  “This Too Shall Pass” helped carry me through that journey, it didn’t just give me hope, it gave me joy.

Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay wrote about walking through life… that bad decision that leaves you by the side of the road kind of life. Seeing the need to let go….and then doing fine. In a four-and-a-half-minute song, they gave me some magic to hold on to. It didn’t promise me roses and sunshine, but it gave me joy. They take us through a life lived very much like many of us have lived, making mistakes, questioning who we are and then getting through it….

“I tell you, my brother, if you only knew
Beyond the horizon’s a beautiful view
And if you keep moving, you’re gonna find
Maybe you’re doing, you’re doing fine, doing fine”

The lyrics of this bridge just make me smile, these four lines, they’re just magic for me. I know we all walk a unique road but there is so much that so many of us can relate to in this song. And so much joy to be gained from the way Jonathan and Zach gave it to us.

Jamestown Revival laid a foundation of rhythm, then they incrementally built pieces upon it. Using all kinds of interesting voices and instruments, and yet, keeping this a very simple and brilliant master work of music. This song starts quiet and then takes a gentle uptick as momentum kicks in, adding instruments, vocal harmonies and a meandering sense of conversations about the joy of life mumbling in the background, telling you quite frankly, this too shall pass… and whistling… This song doesn’t lead to a crashing crescendo of emotion, but rather, it just gives you hope and encourages you with a more subtle crescendo of a roomful of joyful good feels, stomping the floor kind of good music!

and whistling…

This is a beautifully magical piece.  It is an example of how a tune can powerfully do more than just fill a room with sound.  This song has a fluid foundation of rhythm that moves through the changes of what it’s trying to build. It delivers a subtle, coursing, roiling…just under your skin kind of song.  In some ways this song has enough careless strength to carry you up and through many a thing.

Yeah, you should really plug this in and just let it play…and play…. Let it wash you up a bit and make you smile. Keep listening hard to this tune, find its magic.

The happy, chatty and laughing crowed in the background is just icing… and there is whistling

“This Too Shall Pass” was released on the album San Isabel by Jamestown Revival on June 14, 2019.  It is just one of the many from that album that are worthy your listening investment.

I’ll have to keep my ear on them…

Listening, learning and growing

Hope – Old Sea Brigade

I know almost nothing about this artist, I just discovered him tonight, a random, auto generated playlist and wow, you get blown over.  I will remedy my lack of exposure over the next few days, but I wanted to write about this one while it was fresh. I am just going to focus on first impressions, this is a good example of how music moves me, how its spirit speaks to who I am or what I am seeking. Or, it could just make happy.

In the opening line of this song, Ben Cramer manages to encapsulate a perfect wish or plan for your life.

“I wanna feel hope when I die

So I know what I left behind”

It could be just where I am at right at this moment, but this really struck me hard. Here I am fifty-eight years and humming and somebody wraps a lyric around this thought like that.  I have spent a great deal of time over the last year and a half really trying to see where I wanted to go and what I wanted to find once I got there and this really is it. I want to feel hope, not just when I die but right now and every day until then. Hope is joy; it can get you out of bed in the morning and help you walk through the last few hours of the night. All the miles I have walked and fallen; it really is as simple as hope. I have always chased hope, and in the depth of this tune I hear that in the melody and the lyric.

”I don’t wanna feel alone when I sleep

Heavy chest, I’m tryna breathe

Don’t rob me from what I might need

Joyful mind in the breeze”

When you chase hope you will drive all the way back and then some, you will go wherever that hope takes you. Many people can be very confused about how they should chase the end of their life. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the brief chance to glimpse my own soul and figure out my own bit of confusion. I will chase the end of my life with wild abandon, I will choose each day for a chance to make history and provide some glimpse of hope for all of those around me. I too, want to feel when I die, and I also want to know that I passed loves test.

Mr. Cramer, if I ever have the chance to see you and say thank you, I look forward it, this is a tremendous work of art and I am very grateful. You are an artist who has found their way to bringing the spirit of music to life.  Own that my friend, and choose ever day to make history.

Just a joyful mind in the breeze…

Listening, Learning and growing….

Dawes – Crack the Case

“I want to sit down with my enemies…and say we should have done this sooner”

Taylor Goldsmith is a young man and years ago I would wonder how someone so young can write something so deep. What is their life experience that equates to a song that will pour out of them and make ripples across time and space?  But clearly someone’s age has nothing to do with it. I have heard countless examples of masterful songwriting that has nothing to do with their years of experience. Dawes, headed up by Taylor, is a band that I have followed since their first album in 2009. Uniquely they seem to just get better and better as they write and record more. I have often said that an artist has their entire life to write their first album. It is what comes after the first one that tells who they really are as an artist and songwriter. Dawes is a band that has stood that test of time.

So, this song, it starts with a good play on the game of telephone. I can only imagine how many times the boys of Dawes have had their words tweaked and misconstrued. Then Taylor talks about a friend, who is finally ready to kick her husband out. Then you get to that line,” I want to sit down with my enemies” … How many of us would look forward to looking our adversaries in their face? Maybe as Taylor suggests, if you knew some of what they have lived through, you could see them in a different way. There have been countless times over the year that this song has been out that it will give me pause to ponder how I can have hope in very troubled times. Those troubles can be a disagreement with family, losing a job or watching the destruction of simple respect for your fellow man.  This song does a remarkable job of helping you consider how things look from the other side of the table.

“Finding out that we occupy, Somebody else’s opposing side”

This line stops me cold almost every time I hear them sing it. Think about for a moment, every person you have had a disagreement with sees you as the opposing side, just like you see them. It may not make them right or just but hopefully it makes you think with reason and a rational understanding of the fact that they have dreams too.  This was for me the most poignant song of 2018, thank you Taylor….

Musically, this song is close to perfect, it doesn’t try to do anything to overshadow the intent of the writer. I am particularly appreciative of the bass line, yeah, I know I am supposed to be but honestly, that is not the first thing I usually gravitate towards. But this one is so perfectly subtle and pure… it literally carries this song through wherever it chooses to go. Starting with a delicate piano woven through strings that lead into a beautiful melodic foundation for a very profound song. “Crack the Case” can be found on the 2018 album “Passwords” by Dawes. I really think you should go check it out.

Listening, learning and growing

I Guess I just Feel Like – John Mayer

I Guess I just Feel Like” is John Mayer’s latest release and I have been hesitant to write about this one, mostly because it took me a while to be able to get my head around the emotions that it brought forth. I am not sure I am there yet but in the soul of this song is tremendous power and I wanted to try and put that into words.

First a few things about John Mayer, yes I know he is a pop star, I don’t care about that. In my introduction I mentioned that I wanted to discuss more than just genre, feel or origin. When I listen to music, I am not thinking about how popular they are or what label they are signed to and certainly not what genre they belong to. I am just listening for good music. I remember when I saw John play “Gravity” on the Grammy’s in 2006, it evoked such an emotional response in me, I still get that same response today. That is music with a soul. I also realized just how good of a guitar player he was, he is a once in a generation player. I am not just talking about chops either, I am talking about the emotion and how much of his own spirit he pours into playing. He is truly one the best alive right now and it shines brightly in “I Guess I Just Feel Like”.

I had the great fortune to be a chaperone for a high school jazz band when they participated in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho in the late 90’s. I was lucky enough to get a seat in a workshop there with Ray Brown, the father of Jazz Bass. I will never ever forget what he taught that group of twenty or so lucky people. This was the first time in my life I ever saw and heard anyone put into words what it meant to pour your soul into music. That festival had players from all over the world who were masters of their craft, even Lionel celebrated his 90th birthday there. We had all seen “chops” over and over and over that week. But Mr. Brown showed us how to play with soul. I will never forget how he came in pulling that big old double bass and getting set up, all by himself. Then he smiled at us and talked about all the amazing talent we were seeing this week and how much we could learn from this and then he said he wanted us to just sit and take a few things in. He played a slow deep melody on that beautiful bass; it rumbled and sang with a voice I have never heard a bass player produce before or since. Then he told us about opening your soul and letting it flow through your hands, he said not worry about how many notes you can fit in, just let it sing for you. Then he played some more… I am not a religious man, but I am spiritual and that was one the most spiritual experiences of my life. When I find music that someone has poured their soul into as Mr. Brown described, I can be right back in that room in Moscow Idaho, sitting one the floor listening to a master teach. I think John Mayer could someday, be one those masters and “I Guess I Just Feel Like” is a step in that direction.

When this song was released a short time ago, I was undone. Music can play off the state of your mind and where you are at in your life. This one found me in a place of questioning who I am and what I am doing with my life. I am finding out that no matter how old you are or how accomplished, you can feel like giving up. I have had more than my share of privilege and great opportunities. But the circumstances of the world or your own personal surroundings can cause you to question your purpose and how you should push forward. This song embodied that for me in such a personal way, and that is truly the magic of music. I haven’t solved any of the world problems and almost none of my own, but I did receive a balm in the guise of a masterful outro, ala John on the guitar….

Listening, learning and growing…

Mansion – NF

I know this song is not “new” but it is new to me. My son sent it to me yesterday…

I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone describe a state of mind quite like NF does in this song. The rooms with walls of a blank expression. The mansion where the rooms exist. This is raw, this is a brilliant wordsmith masterpiece. If you can listen to this song and shrug it off, then cool…but…

You may have listened like me and were broken to your knees because someone just spoke to your soul… This is the kind of music that is magic, if you can breathe this in, you can be different as a result of it. Let’s be very clear, this song doesn’t need to describe your precise situation. But its description of the way we place those critically important experiences into rooms within our mind, is a brilliant illustration of how music can reach our soul.

The magic…the music that makes us hear and respond, the soul is how the lyrics reach out and grab you, take me for example, my son sent this to me in response to an email conversation I started about chasing your dreams, music and other dad nonsense. This song just stooped me in my tracks. No matter why I needed to hear it, I did and so here we are…

Music can be incredibly personal, when an artist chooses to show us this kind vulnerability, they give us a gift. A gift that is so precious and priceless. I feel a debt of gratitude to NF for this song, and to my son for sending it.  This is what I talked about in an earlier post about soul. In the context I am using it, soul is not tied to a genre. It is a reference to an artist offering a piece of themselves in their music.  This kind of depth of vulnerability is rare, don’t wait to listen to this.NF released this song in 2015 on his album, “Mansion” and he has released two since with albums in “16 and “17.  You can be assured I will digging through more of his work, but I was so struck by the soul of this song that I had to write about it. NF provides a precious example of how music can reach so deeply and unexpectedly…and it can come from anywhere.

Listening, learning and growing…