27 November 2006

You'll be the mule, I'll be the plow, come harvest time we'll work it out....

There was a time, years ago, when you could watch VH1 and actually see videos of new artists you would never have had the chance to otherwise hear of. This is how I discovered Nanci Griffith. It was a video of her song "Its a Hard Life Wherever You Go" from her then new release, Storms, that caught my eyes and ears. What I saw on the screen was a beautiful, lithe woman singing of the harshness of the world and the bigotry that goes with it. From a cafeteria line in Chicago to the back seat of her taxi in Ireland, she viewed that what we teach our children shapes the future of the world. While this in of itself is/was not a new revelation, the song was catchy without being preachy, and I had to know more about her. I ran out, got that CD and found many other tunes that reached deep into my soul, inspired me as a song writer to work harder and look at the world around me just a little bit more closely. Another song from that CD is a tune called "If Wishes Were Changes"....'there'd be no goodbyes....I wish that you loved me the way that I love you, I wish I had angels that sang in my dreams...' It's hard not to pay attention to such desperate and longing lyrics. You'd have to be a completely numb person not to notice. She has a voice that maybe isn't for everyone, and her music walks that fine line between folk and country, though I would argue that it's predominantly folk, but she writes from a place of Texas-sized emptiness that few people are capable of writing from. But don't get me wrong, this is not music to slit your wrists by, because she veils her words in a cloak of catchy melodies and more pop-leaning production values, which can leave you guessing, if you aren't paying attention. The song above, "Trouble In The Fields" about her grandparents struggle in depression-era Texas, I discovered on a CD of live songs called One Fair Summer Evening (also out on DVD). It's a Cd of 'greatest hits' of sorts that I wrote about in a previous blog called "Dig through a record bin..." from October, if you are interested in reading more about it. Needless to say Ms. Griffith and all that she has done is a huge inspiration for the new demo I'm working on.

I went on a road trip last week with Abby. We went through Zion National Park, into Bryce Canyon, and down to the Grand Canyon in a 4 day stretch. We did a lot of hiking down into the canyons, and gazing at the wide open spaces. All this in an effort to see what we can while still living on this side of the world. While of course the Canyons were unspeakably beautiful and awe inspiring, it was the drive between them, and the drive home that also amazed me.

I live in a city that is far too crowded and has gotten even more so in recent years thanks to the City Council that is allowing the destruction of 2 and 3 family houses in favour of 32 unit condos and the like. So being out in the middle of Utah, and northern Arizona where there's more land and wildlife than humans was truly eye opening and a much needed reminder that life exists outside a city. The few houses, or rather dwellings we saw along our 1400 mile trek and the few 'towns' we passed though reminded me of what it must be like to actually need the people around you in order to survive. Unlike LA where people generally only 'need' people to 'get them' higher up the proverbial ladder, these places are vast, harsh and dry and you can't survive in a bubble. You can't tune them out because there aren't enough of you to go around; you don't get in your car to avoid people you get in your car to get near them and visit. I got the sense from those that I spoke to that you can't go it alone, and that where there were communities, a real sense of togetherness and an 'us against the elements' bond existed. It's kind of like being in Boston in a snowstorm, nothing is open but the local diner, there's 3 feet of snow on the ground, and all your neighbours are digging out their cars and helping one another to do it. We don't have that here in LA. We have sunny, warm days all year round except for the occasional rain 'storm' (such as we are having today as I write this), and thusly we have no reason to 'need' each other in order to survive the day. You can go it alone here and live a very comfortable life because there is nothing that brings strangers together, no reason to bond, no reason to reach out, no harsh weather to get through. It is very easy to just be numb. I think that is why so many love it here, and why so many don't. I get it. But I'm glad I was reminded of what it is to need a mule and a plow, and to work it out later.

Thanks for tuning in...Until next Monday.....CHEERS!!!!!

1 comment:

jodi said...

interesting perspective. i felt more sense of community in brooklyn after 2 years than i ever did during my 9 years in san francisco. we're all smashed in this city and we can be as anonymous as we want - with our heads in our new yorker magazine and our ipods in our ears - or we can open up and realize just how connected we all really are. come home, ladies!