Today driving home flipping through XM radio, I found a song I haven’t thought about since I was eight or nine. Actually, I don’t know if I have heard it since we sold our cabin. That was 1986 I think. I heard two or three bars, and I knew what it was. Each word came out of my mouth without even thinking. “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille. With four hungry children and a crop in the field”. I swear, I don’t own this song. But today, I wished I did.
Somewhere, I remember crooning this with my dad as a kid. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t know where else I could have heard it. The cabin held all of our country and western music, and I know for a fact that we had a Kenny Rogers cassette (because I can still sing “The Gambler” by heart. On command). The cabin was where I fell in love with Waylon and Willie and the Boys. I can smell the pine trees and manzanita and heat. Today, I loved being brought back there with those ridiculous lyrics. I wonder if Dad and I sang this together in Spot, the old pickup truck. I wonder.
That truck, or at least my recollection of it, holds memories for me. Like driving down to the small general store on a dirt road, windows open because of the heat, just dad and I. We ran out of gas or got a flat or something one time (probably ran out of gas–it runs in the family) and we were picked up by a guy who I swore as an 8 year old, was Willie Nelson. Bandana, braids, tobacco-stained fingers. I think we sat in the bed of his truck because it wasn’t very far, and I stared with eyes boggling the entire time. I wished it had been Willie.
Funny what our memory remembers, and how it perhaps edits what it wants.
Sophomore year of college, my roommate laughed that I could recognize a song within the first three seconds. She’s kind of right. I still can, especially if it’s classic rock, new wave, or something from the 60s. Kind of like the Jerry Jeff song I am listening to right now as I write: it’s called “Sometimes”, but I have heard an alternative version called “Hill Country Rain”. When I saw the title, I thought perhaps it was a JJW song I hadn’t ever listened to. I was wrong. Well, I stand corrected. In real time, as I type and listen, the title of “Sometimes” is wrong. I transferred this disc to my iTunes, and guess what? I didn’t write down the correct title. But I knew I knew that bridge! Phew.
Very little acoustic guitar gets me going, unless the player of the guitar is tall, dark, handsome, and sitting right in front of me. I don’t know many acoustic guitar songs that are strictly guitar–no lyrics, no bass, no percussion–as beautiful as “Little Martha”. I know right when that last chord will fall. I too can recognize it within the first two bars. It’s been a while since I have heard it. Hello old friend.
I perhaps own nearly every Willie Nelson song ever recorded. But actually, I don’t know if I have ever heard this duet between Willie and Hank. Wow. I love hearing the graininess of the record. The tinniness that is Nashville, and the Grand Ol’ Opry, and old time Austin. I know more 70s, 80s, and modern Willie. I know old school Hank. Blending the two today makes me feel like I have discovered a goldmine in my own music collection.
When The Clash’s “The Card Cheat” popped up today, I thought to myself, oh hell. How have I not known so many of my own songs tonight? Again, it only took two bars. I forgot the name. But I played this song on a mix to my creative writing students over and over and over and over and over.
Funny. I always think that smell is the sense that brings me back to a specific moment, place, emotion. But the more I think about it, sound might do this too. I know when the yeahs and the oohs and the sighs reside in songs. I know when to hit my steering wheel during the drum solos. And I can remember a song from 25 years ago, like it was yesterday. Ah, the power of music. I’m glad I’m taking this journey.
Heart of Gold–Neil Young
Hill Country Rain–Jerry Jeff Walker
Cabin Down Below–Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Little Martha–The Allman Brothers
I told a Lie to my Heart–Willie Nelson & Hank Williams
The Card Cheat–The Clash