06 February 2009

Good Day In The Field


One advantage to being unemployed is that, while I am stuck at home working up resumes and scouring the Internet, I get to listen to music as much as I want as loud as I want. I am free to play the air guitar and the air drums (even the occasional air bagpipes) and shake my moneymaker all over the damn house without shame, censure or scorn. Well, perhaps a little scorn. I am pretty sure my cats look upon all these antics as a truly vulgarian display of poor taste and worse manners. I care not, for I am an artiste.

Of course, all of this imaginary musicianship does little to further my career as an architect. It pays to be creative in that profession, as a rule, but I have yet to encounter a single prospective employer who wants to know if I can accurately play the chord sequence to “Monkey Wrench” by Foo Fighters while grimacing musically.* This is quite the pity. I have been practicing, I know I can nail it if they just give me the chance!

I have been assisted greatly in my musical excavations by the receipt of an iPod as a gift on my most recent birthday, in conjunction with a wireless rig to some pretty good bookshelf speakers that I purchased with some bonus money.** A consolidated music library with the flexibility of streaming from the iPod or my laptop has allowed me to listen to a deep catalog of stuff I haven’t listened to in years. Thank the lawd for shuffle!

One of the most striking aspects of “Music Appreciation Month” in the Gumbo house is the sheer breadth and depth of memories and emotions I have experienced. At various times I have been nostalgic, deeply pensive and riled up. I have been sad to the point of tears and overjoyed to the point of crazed laughter. Sometimes all within the space of a few minutes. All sorts of memories:

1: Sitting on the benches at a local playground on a summer weekend, my friends and I eating cheap carryout pizza and ill-gotten beer. When we could, we would pitch in and get someone to buy us a case: Three six-packs of Budweiser and one of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Guess who drank the PBR. Heh. “Free Bird” wasn’t far away, either.

2: Carrying around my brand new (drum roll) boom box with an 8-track player in it, wearing out my copy of “Deguello” by ZZ Top. Yeah, it was the definition of unhip, but it was mine and I didn’t care. “…Spied a little thing and I followed her all night, In a funky fine levis and her sweater's kind of tight, She had a west coast strut that was as sweet as molasses, But what really knocked me out was her cheap sunglasses…”

3: I can remember sitting on the edge of my bed, head in hands, wallowing in anguish and self-pity because the first great love of my life didn’t love me back, she just really wanted to be friends. “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin was on the stereo. I hated that song for the longest time after that day, but lately it has worked its way back into my playlist. It is a great tune.

4: Freshman year in college, the blond streak in my hair, skinny ties in the closet and I had Oingo Boingo’s “Cry Of The Vatos” on the turntable in my dorm room. Not so much a song as a collection of funny noises set to a melody, it always put me in a silly mood. My next door neighbor, a true son of New Jersey and a die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan(atic), knocked on my door and said “What the fuck is the matter with you?”. I laughed and said nothing. Later that year, he got me drunk the night my nephew was born and I was trying to study for a calc test. My nephew turned out fine, but the calc test was a train wreck. Ouch.

5: My fourth year in college and I had moved in with two of my friends, into an off-campus apartment. One of my roommates was the Audio Equipment guy, had a great rig with huge speakers and a CD player. Because of that, I bought my first ever CD: “Electric” by The Cult. The song that did it: “Wild Flower". It still gets me, right there.

6: Senior in college, and I am heading back to my apartment after a late night in the architecture studio. It was some distance off campus, and I was (in my mind) lucky to have a creaky old 1977 Chevy Nova as a form of transportation. Sort of a pre-hoopty, but it ran and it has a radio. Zipping down the road, and “Copperhead Road” was blaring out of the speakers. At the time, listening to Steve Earle snarl out those lyrics, I thought he was the bad-assest of the badasses. Great song, just don’t drink whiskey while listening to it!

I graduated from college just before the 90’s, entering the ‘real world’ and leaving behind the easy access I had to the same range of music I was lucky with in my studio and dorm. I was relying primarily on one local radio station, did a lot of listening in the car during my commutes. It’s weird, I have a bit of a musical memory drought from those years. Mostly what I remember is either goofy (Presidents of the United States of America), grungy/poetic (Soundgarden, U2) or angry and dark (Tool). What I can recall is mostly singing along with one or another of those groups (Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Alice In Chains should be in there, too), and being vaguely dissatisfied with life. It didn’t start out that way, it was a gradual thing, but looking back I realized a bit of a cloud had settled in on me by the end of the decade. I know it sounds really weird, but “Aenima” by Tool actually helped me through a rough patch.

2000 and beyond has been a bit of backwards and forward for me. I started getting into all the music I had left behind from my teen and young adult years at the same time I was expanding my horizons into “the softer side of Irish Gumbo”. I was getting much more interested in folk, country, funk and rap. I picked up a taste for some “alt country” and old blues. I ended up listening to a much broader range of styles, with an exponential increase in singer/songwriters in my music library. I can now count among my collection various works by Ellis Paul, Jeffrey Foucault, Eddie From Ohio, Johnny Cash, Son Volt, Parliament/Funkadelic and Jeff Lang***. It was also about this time that I started attending the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, New York almost every year.

It was at the 2001 FRFF that Jeff Lang provided me with one of my all time favorite music memories. Jeff is a blues/folk oriented singer/songwriter from Australia, and happens to be a monster guitar player, to boot. I was fortunate to catch Jeff on the Workshop stage, a smaller one than the main stage, in a group workshop with about 8 other performers. We were sitting on a blanket in the grass, and the weather was sunny and excellent.

The performers were taking turns playing songs based on a set theme for the workshop, I don’t recall the theme, but I’ll never forget the song. Jeff stood up to play “Ballad of Hollis Brown” (a Bob Dylan original) but discovered a problem with his guitar. He asked to borrow one from Mary Gauthier, who was sitting next to him. She gracefully obliged, and Jeff proceeded to play.

I wasn’t a big Bob Dylan fan at the time, so I didn’t know anything about the original. Jeff launched into the song, setting a fast pace for it, and tore into the lyrics. About a minute into the song I realized that I was hearing something special. Talk about passion for the music! Oh, lawd, he lit that thing up! He was really bringing the story to life, and his guitar playing was inspired. Possessed, almost. He did a bit of a solo, kinda fast and bluesy. My jaw was dropping, and when I looked around, mine wasn’t the only one. We were gobsmacked, flat out. When he finished playing, there was about two seconds of silence, and then everybody starting clapping and shouting and hollering. We were on our feet, standing ovation. The other musicians on the stage were just staring at him in awe, and clapping. Jeff turned to Mary to hand her the guitar, and she is looking at him like he’s a lunatic. She looks at the guitar, then looks up at him with a smile, and says “What in the hell did you do?”

What the hell did he do? Why, he amazed us by creating magic, that good day in the field.

*For the record, I cannot play the chords. I can grimace musically, in a variety of styles. Including klezmer and Tuvan throat singing.
**The last bonus before the Crash of ’08. I don’t regret the purchase one bit. I likes my tunes.
***Geek that I am, I actually have three signed CD’s from him, plus I introduced myself to him at a show he played at the Kennedy Center in D.C. Nice guy, and tolerant of doofuses like me

PSA #1: Tomorrow, Saturday February 7th is another Pic and Prose collaboration with Michelle at Confessions of a Desperate Housewife. Please stop by both of our blogs and drop some comment luv, it’s a feast for the eyes and the mind!

PSA #2: The simply smashing Petra at The Wise (*Young*) Mommy has invited me to participate in a contest to win her affections, for the weekly “HeBlogs/SheBlogs” post that she runs on her blog. Ordinarily, Heinous at Irregularly Periodic Ruminations is the lucky fellow to keep Petra company, but Jim will be on hiatus while he takes care of some personal matters, and we wish him all the best and have him in our thoughts. Please visit with Petra for the rules and stuff. Myself and seven other strapping young lads are competing for the honor, and you lucky readers will get to vote on us! Contest entries will be posted beginning Monday, February 9th on The Wise (*Young*) Mommy, two per day for the week. My entry will posted Monday, so please visit and vote!


  1. Nice music appreciation essay. When I have time I will check out some of those links.

  2. You had me at 1977 Chevy Nova. My high school boyfriend had that same car and I ended up blowing up the engine. The needle always showed that it was in drive when it was actually in second gear so I drove for awhile on the highway in second gear. In my defense, Violent Femmes was blasting on the radio and I was singing along.

    I'm glad you're getting a chance to rock out while you job hunt. I think we followed a similar music path in our lives.

  3. Without a doubt, you are an ARTISTE Irish - even if it is with your keyboard rather than an air guitar. . .

  4. This is my favourite post of yours. Reminiscent and full of music references, perfect!

  5. You're unemployed? I thought you were a writer?

  6. I could picture the whole kit and kaboodle.

  7. I read the comment wars over at Petra's site and I can't wait to see how this all turns out!

  8. Despite our age difference, you and I listened to the same music in the 90s, heh.

    I look forward to reading your contributions to He Blogs/She Blogs!

  9. Oh, you'll get my vote for sure!

    And I will forever be grateful to you for all the music you've recently introduced me to. I have expanded my musical tastes in a direction I never would have thought of going thanks to you!

  10. How strange - this would have been the post I'd written in the "You Decide" thing - the one which you voted for but no one else did! Mine wouldn't have been as interesting so I'm glad you were outvoted...

    Great minds think alike or fools seldom differ? You decide, sir, you decide...

  11. Awesome post with some equally awesome music included!

    Fingers crossed for next week, looks like you have some great followers voting for you already!

  12. I always liked music but was never hooked until three years ago. Hubby got me my first iPod (and has since upgraded me to a bigger one). Now it's 24/7 music around here. Either on the computer, in the car (loving the ipod adapter in there), in my ears, or using our speaker thingy. I dance with my kids when they are around and without as well. It can definitely motivate me to do dishes or any number of otherwise stupid but necessary things (including work).

    I'm so in love with my iPod I've made hubby swear he'll let me be buried with it.

    I'll check out your postings next week as well!

  13. I've been a Dylan fan for as long as I can remember. Hollis Brown is a great song as are so many of Dylan's. He is one lyrical genius.

    Good stories. I can remember what song went with so many moments in my life: breakups, love making, road trips, etc. Good stuff.

  14. Man!
    I love music festivals - I wish I could have been there. It's not all the time someone makes magic like that. I can't remember last time that happened to me with a not-so-famous artist.

    I guess the best I can do is when I first heard Coldplay. They were unknown in the US and I had just broken up with a 3 year boyfriend, then I found them on a UK website looking for random local artists there. I bought the CD instantly after hearing only a clip of "Touble" and had it shipped overseas.

  15. First off, you suck for being done your Petra post already. Second, my grandpa had a '77 Chevy. When he died in... 2002(?) that car was MINT. The 90's? That was a weird decade. I seem to be blank from about 91 to 96.

  16. Irish,

    Speaking of musicians named Lang, you know of Johnny? Awesome guitarist.

    Rock on

    PS my posts for Petra will be up Tuesday. Good luck bro-If I lose, I hope it's to you


  17. I can't wait to see how you and Petra do! I have my fingers crossed man! I will be voting for you!

  18. It's amazing what happens to you when an old song comes on that you haven't heard since your teens or early 20's...
    It'll be redone with your daughter going,"How did you know that song??"


  19. Oh, oh, oh, Mr. Gumbo. I think I'm in love. Music or your taste in it is the window to the soul. Don't let anybody tell you it's the eyes.

  20. Grimacing musically is a talent, my friend...

  21. OAM: Thank you. Please do, there is some interesting stuff, for sure.

    Casey: “Let me go oonnnn, like a blister in the sun…” – I had that on vinyl. Eek.

    Lizspin: Ha! You are very kind to support me in my delusions…

    Sez: Lovely! Very glad you liked it.

    Belle: Yes, ma’am, ‘tis true. On both counts.

    PHST: A high compliment, thank you.

    SK: Good. And my I say, you are looking absolutely lovely, my dear :)

    CPM: (snort) Yes, us old timers can surprise you kids now and again…Thank you!

    MD: *blush* Thank you! And I am happy to spread the music luv!

    TBF: Great minds, good man, great minds. In good company, indeed!

    Petra: Thank you! I do, and wow, don’t you look phine!

    BMA: I feel the same way about my iPod now. Thank you for dropping by!

    Syd: ‘Hollis Brown’ was a real eye-opener for me. Right on about the stories and music combination!

    Teri: I digs the “music in the field”.

    CD: Suck? Ha. Dance, puppet boy. I wish m Nova had been mint, but, I got it for a dollar…

    IB: I do, in fact I keep getting those two confused. You honor me sir. I am proud to be in such great company!

    Sandi: *blush* Why, thank you, glad to hear it!

    SMB: *blush* I hear you. Thanks !

    Braja: I have practiced for so long. Now, to get paid…

  22. I love "Copperhead Road".

    "Harlan Man"'s another good one. Steve Earle had to grow on me and now he's stuck fast.

  23. Excavator: That song kicks ass! I'll give "Harlan's man" a listen. Thanks!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...