Wednesday, May 28, 2008

wolves howl. dogs bark.

I do not know of anything so far, that feels better than playing hundred-year old songs in firelight with pleasant company. I don’t know of anything more beautiful than when you look up at low-hanging branches, with green leaves tinted yellow and coal gray by the flames and smoke, and then look beyond them at a deep night and hollow stars.

I don’t know of anything more comforting than understanding that I can sing a verse, and you can sing a verse and we can sing it together without knowing our last names or what cars we drive, or caring about those things, but understanding with complete certainty that those same words were whispered before us by long-dead people and will be sung by those long-alive. Because of this, it is forever.

Us musicians, singers, and storytellers know that every time we gather in the glow of a campfire, we're just a small piece of a bigger story. We happen to be holding the songs for a short time, till we pass them on, and we're okay with that mortality. We drink and laugh and dance to it. And between songs we'll sip some libations and talk about the night we heard St. Anne's Reel shake Quebec, or how a stranger asked us to play a tune at a mountain lake in Idaho. And we'll do this like it's the most important thing in the world. Because at that moment, it is.

Wolves howl. Dogs bark. Humans sing old-time songs. These are the sounds animals make. You can disregard this music, laugh at it, or live your whole life without lifting an eyebrow at dorian chords. But regardless of you, it will keep on padding through our culture like a yellow-eyed sheepdog in high grass. Hidden and wild with a unwavering focus. And like a lowline dog in the grass, you can see it if you look for it. It is there.

This all happens, all this emotion and loyalty, because we all know the words. It's a language we picked up here and there. We did it without amps, or outlets. We learned it by ear. We play it because of how it makes us feel. Old time music is, and always will be wet rocks and green moss in a shaded creek in Tennessee. It is bonfires in the shadows of Idaho hills. It is being alone in a blizzard in farmhouse owned by woman named Hazel. It is a campfire by a strangers garden in New York. It's Brian. It's Heather. It's Emily. It's Dave. It's even Erin on the indie rock lam.

I love this music. It writhes and quivers and will keep running uphill when I am dead and forgotten. I don’t understand how it can be ignored. I shudder under thick skin when it is mocked. I feel bad, horrible for those who can’t hold it in their fists and know what it feels like. Like a clump of grass you just submerged in a creek.

It is absurd to feel this way about the matted old dog that is these songs. But this is how I feel.

And I love it with the all.

2 Comments:

Blogger HEATHER said...

beautiful.

May 29, 2008 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger The Old Man & His Dog said...

You could write about a pile of crap in the grass and make it interesting. Keep writing!

May 29, 2008 at 3:56 PM  

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