Songs from farther down the road.
January 17, 2015 § 6 Comments
Slow Dance Journal is a Sunday publication.
I’m posting this week’s edition today, Saturday, before I hunt down the ironing board to press the silk dress bought at Goodwill.
Before I drop the guitar strap over my head and tune up one last time.
Before I look out across the What? Cafe’s motley assortment of chairs, probably all acquired at the same place as my dress, and see whether friendship and Craig’s shameless promotion have brought out an audience for the launch of our first-ever professionally recorded CD.
Craig says getting anyone to listen to original music is hard. Listening to the unfamiliar takes time, and attention—which is why in the course of a normal gig we will always play “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Proud Mary.”
Although three of the songs on the CD we are launching are in waltz time (we like waltz time), measured on the old Dick Clark, can you dance to it? scale our songs don’t score very high.
We’ve put a lot of thought into those lyrics.
The songs in the collection have evolved over many months.
In some cases, many, many months.
The earliest version of Nantucket can be found in my college journal.
The song tells the story of a girl working a summer job on the island, falling in love with another college kid who is mating on a headboat called the Martha V. The last verse goes like this:
The years like the tides rush in and recede.
Our footprints long gone, but never the need.
We’re just landlocked sailors drifting down life’s highways,
dreaming of the ocean for the rest of our days.
I know more about looking back now, and I haven’t forgotten what a breathless crush feels like. Both color this song.
The original title of our CD was Veteran Hearts: Songs from farther down the road. A title with a colon. Whoa.
Then the swooning excitement we always feel over the newest song took over, and Sunnyland, our love song to the state of Florida, became the title.
Most of the tracks are songs of experience colored by memory and yearning.
The Other Side was written in honor of my father, who survived my mother by nearly twelve years. As he said shortly after her death, “I can remarry, or I can learn to cook.” He had no desire to find anyone else, so he learned to cook.
Although he lived a full life during the years he was alone, he missed her intensely and I realized, especially at the end, that, all those years, he had been waiting.
The old man cries, because he dreamed of her
And she dreams of him on the other shore.
He looks out far, far across the river deep and wide
She waits for him, on the other side.
Over time I have come to think of this song as a tribute to an entire generation of men and women who fought in World War II, went to college on the GI Bill, built the great American dream and raised the boom generation of which Craig and I are both a part.
Although the songs we write begin with one or the other of us, they always end up as true collaborations.
It is like the harmony we sing. There is a place for each of us in the process, and the result of the joint effort is closer to multiplication than addition.
Take Song For Larry, written for a dying friend. The opening line, I’m waiting on an old friend to die, is a little jarring, and then there is the verse:
Buddy you’re the one going on before,
and when you get there hope you prop the door,
so I can hear that heavenly song,
and if it’s hey-bop-a-ree-bop gonna sing along.
The thought of eagerly awaiting an old friend’s death already tests the tear-stained model of loss, but Craig upped the ante by giving the melody an irresistible lilt. Death with Craig’s guitar part seems as if it should be fun.
The songs on the CD range from the deeply emotional to the humorous, like Johnny Come Lately in which the narrator encourages Johnny to come in out the window, like you done before.
I guess today, as I get ready to face those full or empty chairs I’ll keep in mind the lyrics of another one of the upbeat songs in the collection, No Never Mind.
Better get used to what is, what is.
How it don’t go bang it mostly just goes fizz.
Look for okay but not gee whiz.
And it won’t make no never mind.
Don’t worry about doing either of those things—Slow Dance Journal is not a carnival barker in a plaid polyester jacket yelling, “Step right this way!” but if you click here, you can listen to samples of each of the songs.
Go on. Give it a click.