“Anything But Mine” Scooter Carusoe and Kenny Chesney

Like Peter Pan, Scooter Carusoe isn't a real boy. But he feels the salt-tinged pang of a moment lost to the wind and the night and the perfection that is memory if you don't mess with it. Kenny Chesney has always represented the essence of the truth of young fresh-faced America -- it is first love, first kisses, first yearnings, first conquests, first heartaches; and in his hands, it is ardent, deep, sweet, savory, unspoiled. For a young man who is a mirror, Kenny Chesney is remarkable in his ability to maintain an innocence and the distance to be a universal truth. He is Everyboy -- feeling every emotion, every nuance, every truth for the first time -- and in that, he shares from an emotional center that's far deeper than even the songs that have built him a franchise. Given the profound nature of discovery, that's saying something. And with "Anything But Mine," a track from what will no doubt be his biggest album in a career of big albums, he has found a way to scrape the need all the way back to blood and bone and sinew. It is desire laid bare, the notion of loss and want merged like bodies in a tangle of human communion, reaching for something holy and delivering and indelible and exquisite. Perfect. On so many levels. A picture painted to where you're in the shadows, watching two young lovers finding each other against the strings of white lights that dot any midway worth its skee ball games and ferris wheels, sensing the two hearts beating against rib cages that ache to get locked in the other. A melody that pulls you out from the shore, out past the breakers and the bobbing buoy lights to keep sailors from the jagged rocks that protect the beach with its melancholy and throbbing pledge of something that is yet to be understood. Add a vocal that's cracked at the edges like weathered paint, creaking like a fence that's seen it all three times over, strong with the want and gentle with the knowing that it will be satisfied from a place ensconced in essence that defies language. If Kenny Chesney is the squint of looking into the sun across the horizon, it is always bigger things that he has been seeking. But bigger isn't always grander, sometimes it is truer, it is softer, it is kinder, it is the unassailable beauty of love for its own sake. And in "Anything But Mine" -- even with it's admission "she laughs when I tell her I love her cause we both know it isn't true…," which singer, subject and listener know may well be the greatest lie EVER told -- this is where the simplicity of desire and need and yearning melt down into a pool of what everyone is looking for. Kenny Chesney didn't write "Anything But Mine," the most perfect song Bruce Springsteen didn't get his paws on. It is a moment torn from a seaside breezeway and boardwalk, a little faded and world-weary -- renewed by the promise of human connection unfolding, electric with hope and joy and the euphoria of the innocence that is love taking root. These are the moments where against what was and what knows, two hearts tiptoe out to the threshold and then fall into each other's deepest pockets, delighted in the smothering emotions that allow them to fly. Bruce Springsteen understood that it's the moments anyone can inhabit that are the most eloquent, the connections that bind us together -- even when it's hard or plain or just ordinary -- that define something important within each of us. To Bruce Springsteen, the common was the truest currency; the basic was where the truth was. And when he wrote songs celebrating those things, we all felt somehow more -- basking in the dignity and heroism that elevates us as we live lives that're unseen. Because even if we're never the object of a network special, a hit single or a major sporting feat, we are. The being is enough. The only thing that makes us more is our idealized reflection in another's eyes. Which isn't the gilded thrill of fame, but the recognition that in our flawed reality we are beautiful to another person -- flaws and all, we are everything in their world. In that moment, the universe opens and we are whole in ways we couldn't have imagined before that circle of two came together. People are flawed. Venal. Petty. Missing all kinds of attributes. There is no way to eradicate the little snags and shortcomings that make us, well, human. And if we spend our lives chasing the perfect other, we shall spend our lives chasing shadows on the beach, ghosts of never were, specters of can never happen and promises that are merely self-projected mockeries. A recent conversation with a dear friend who'd finally bagged the checklist -- gorgeous, smart, accomplished, good job, seemingly into him -- proved the point. It is not about the perfect person, but the person who is perfect for you. Because it is when two people with good hearts and simpatico souls come together, they become more. Whatever the quibbling points might be, they are erased in the recognition that this other person fills in their gaps, helps them through the stumbling places. Their spirit is such that, it gives them wings when the night is cold or the doubts are ravines. And they want to reach out, carry the other over the rough spots, reassure in the faltering places. We are nowhere near ideal. And our idealized notions are tricks and cruel jokes on ourselves. The best that we can hope for is finding that person who makes us more. Which is just what Scooter Carusoe -- a figment in his own rite -- served up. He knows that Mary, a girl who carries her shoes "because she likes to feel the sand under her feet," offers acceptance of the moments, the man, the memories. This is a girl with wide open heart, a true soul and a deep longing. In the singer, she sees someone who sees her -- and so she gives herself wholly. It is a scary thing -- giving so much, as a local band plays and two sweaty bodies cling to each other like driftwood in the ocean, the only hope for survival the recognition of one's true self in the other's eyes. It is also the only option. For once you know, you can't not know. They say that this knowledge is a trap. That love is an obligation. That the inevitable is a cul de sac, which will return you to knowing wiser, though slightly more bruised. That is certainly the cynic’s course. It is logic personified. It is also a slow death. I am not a brave girl. I have a bold heart -- and I midwife dreams for a living. I will stand up to or for, take a punch, knock down someone who's out of line, though would absolutely prefer to kill'em with kindness. You walk the wires of conflicting agendas in the name of passion for a living, you learn to dodge bullets, dance faster, exhale slowly. I can -- as Ginger Rogers is so famous for - dance backwards in high heels. But when the night is descending, there is an echo that can't be stopped. You can build a dreamhouse, but what if no one can meet the price? What if no one understands the profundity of what's before him or her? Not that it was done as a show… no merely a commitment to the life that was given, the talents that defined what was possible. You look into the night. You consider the stars. You pull your sweater closer. You shake your head, as you turn and head back into the house. And you pine for that moment when you find yourself tilting a little bit forward -- captivated by what you see looking back at you. Potential clients all get the same warning: Look into my eyes and make sure you fall in love with what you see, because what you see reflected back at you is what I'm going to sell to people. As I believe you to be, as this mirror that is my soul sees you, that is how you will be explained… and if you are not comfortable with that, then you will never be comfortable here. What greater gift: to be seen as your best, most golden self. To have that moment when all the possibilities are laid out before you… when the shortcomings just are, but they're obscured by every good and gracious aspect of whom you are. It is the thing we all require, the notion we fear admitting -- even to ourselves -- for fear of imploding on vanity, impaling ourselves on ego or descending into the realm of parody. For as much as we want to believe, it takes an independent jury… okay, just one true heart that we can put our faith in to deliver us from the avarice of the soul. Arrogance disguised as "self-confidence." Ego. Conceit. Delusion. It ultimately is more about doubt, imperfections, futility. Until… Like happily ever after, the person who truly loves us, loves us faults and all. They understand. They cherish. They believe. They believe in us when we can't. Anything is plenty. And we don't have enough we can give them. If Courtney Love once served up a "Go on, take everything, take everything/I want you to…" as an enraged, taunting defiance of servitude; in the hands of transformative love, it's the least we can give -- and the most we can get. We race to share, to offer, to console, to listen, to revel. There isn't enough within that moment to quell the pounding of the heart, the racing of the pulse, the rush of the blood through our bodies or the heat that is creeping through our skin. We are consumed -- and it is a simple, almost unnoticed thing that is pulling us under, burning us whole. It is everything worth surrendering to -- and the joyous death of whatever fears we had is in and of itself a reason for loving. There's a winsome twinge when Chesney sings, capturing the picture -- trying to get his legs under him as he balances against the tide of his emotions and the overwhelming reality of the moment. This is a song of wanting to be enough, of recognizing what the stakes are, what the cost is, trying to create a reality where you can cope, even as you scramble to slurp up every last bit of intoxication that is this girl, this night, this feeling. It is the kind of moment where there is no fear, only urgency. With a quiet guitar figure that circles and repeats, brushes on a high hat, some organ pads, this is a track that moves from the ground up, holding back against what the boy is willing to reveal. This is high stakes poker cast against what to many would be the mundane -- a way to kill the fetid evening - but it is in the interaction that everything changes. Everything changes. We are more. They are more. It is more. Love makes the world -- and the carnival games go round. Local bands churn out the hits and classics, laughter and cheap beer setting the tone. Hair falls across one's eyes; the other's hands sweep it back. We are fearless because we are safe. The risk is calculated. We already know the outcome -- right down to the notion that "In the morning, I'm leaving/ Making my way back to Cleveland/ So tonight I hope that I'll do just fine… I don't see how you could ever be/ Anything but mine…" If it is merely a summer romance, it has given both people a notion of what is possible. And again, once you know, you can't not know. Once you've experienced the purity of true love, you know it is attainable -- if only you'll let go of the side of the pool, immerse yourself in another's gaze and best intentions instead of always holding back and waiting for the other person to lead. The vulnerability being wielded here -- the velvet club to bludgeon the baby seal to love -- opens up a whole new realm of possibility for these songs. This is the real deal, where the rubber meets the road and the deeper, darker, richer, more satisfying love exists. If you've ever been hurt badly, betrayed by a callous soul, this can be a tough order to swallow. But if you don't, you resign yourself to a life of slow suffocation -- understanding what it can be, unable to get to the place you yearn to make your stand. Nothing feels as sweet or as right as that moment when you see yourself reflected in the eyes of someone who sees you as you are. That sense of totally okay, utterly cherished will take your breath away, make you weak in the knees, sweep you away to places you hadn't imagined. Faith and trust. They exist within all of us. If we can't believe that, we can believe in this song. In Mary and the boy who's transfixed by whatever he sees… The young man who confesses, "There's a summer drawing to a close tonight/ And there's so much I yearn to do you…" in a naked way that says "here I am, take me as I am… give me whatever you have… let me be the most me that you see…" It's an act of blind submission. But it is also an act of strength. To be able to just put it out there, to know that the admission will be fielded is bravery personified -- reaching out with the belief that other person will reach back. Though if you lead with your heart, who but the most shortsighted or self-absorbed wouldn't respond? If the summer is dying, there is nothing left to lose. Except the loneliness. The moments that will haunt you. For who wants to live, alone in a room somewhere, turning over images, Polaroid’s of what was like so many lost soldiers or good fairies that circle around your head like a crown of roses and thorns? Who wants a kingdom of what was when there is so much to hang onto? Brave, yes. But what's the real risk? Compared to letting perfection pass? Timing is nothing. Geography negotiable. The human heart knows no maps. Cleveland, wherever. Long distance, highways, airplanes -- there are bridges to physical separation. Close your eyes. Let go. Let it come. Let it wash over you. Let it take you places you didn't dare dream of. And smile; always smile at how much, how good, how strong it can feel. There is an "oooooh-ooooooo" before the final chorus that speaks far more than language. In that soul-baring utterance, there's a feral need -- something far below the cognizant, something that would not be stuffed down or denied. This is a truth that is bigger than two people, two hearts, one summer… it is an actualization with a backbeat. If there is a separation coming, with the sorrow of what is being temporarily denied, there is also a sense of a connection that will last long past snow or miles or minutes. To underscore the point, the song dies out… as the echo of your heart resounds between your ears, a transistor radio echo seems to well up. It is a sound from long ago, pulling things -- emotions, pictures, people -- from deep inside you. As the surf is implied, the tears threaten to well up for that one boy or girl who shall always haunt you, who set a unicornish ideal to haunt you until you can finally surrender wholly again, Chesney's voice comes up dryer than kindling in the desert. It Is brittle, like an old black and white photo or a flower pressed between the pages of a yearbook or Bible, and it reminds you that the passage of time without any blood or sweat takes its toll. It is a siren's song across time and place… a clarion call for what was, what should be, what cannot be relinquished. Indeed, what should never be surrendered. These are the moments that make us more -- standing naked before the universe, love in our veins, night at our feet, infinity before us. My life has been a parade of exits, of leaving, of the next place, next gig, next right-on, whatever. A dear friend once wrote, "You don't take prisoners when you live on the run/ And this town it can finish anything you've begun…," which is a valiant but cruel truth. One day, you wake up, sweep out the bits of the summer and look into the briskness of autumn -- and then you know, as surely as you've known anything in your entire life, you've been had. Run, then, quickly. Capture what is true. Hold it close. It is all you have. As Bob Seger offered at the end of his seminal song of lost youth, innocence and young love, "Woke last night to the sound of thunder/ How far off I sat and wondered/ Started humming a song from 1962/ Ain't it funny how when you just ain't got as much to lose/ Ain't funny how the night moves… with autumn closing in." It was an elegy that shouldn't have been. For Kenny Chesney, it is a song that is not quite over yet. It can go either way. It is an act of will. It is an act of rebellion against the fear and the darkness and the doubts that go bump in the night. Helen Keller said, "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness…" For Scooter Carusoe and Kenny Chesney who opens an artery of emotion in the name of a lost moment, this is his eternal flame.
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“I’ll Be”, Missed Moments Coming Right On Time

Sometimes with the travel changes, the dull roar of right now, the clinging to what you know, you miss something profound, something soul-stirring, something that is the last bastion of hope… or faith… or fairy tales. In my currency, it's usually one of those songs that just slips through your fingers like water, quiet and cool and gone to the ether without a blink or moment of consideration. And so it was with a song called "I'll Be," ultimately from a wondrously titled album named Misguided Roses. Terri Clark, the full-tilt country girl singer, says it's one of the only songs to make her cry… and confronted with it under the worst conditions, it took my breath away. Florence, Arizona is probably not a tourist destination unless there's something else tacked on, some raison d'etre for people looking to escape for a bit from the grind. And for the Country Thunder Festival -- four days of big headliners and lots of secondary acts -- it was a site that was far enough from civilization that it allowed for the campers, the festival aspects, and the beyond-the-city-limits freedom without the encroachment of civilization. With the whirling dust, the scorching sun, the nettle weeds, the white plastic chairs a vast sea of mocking nonattendance for the early acts, it was the most brutal communion of them all. Those who wish to connect with those almost too far away to reach. The headliners tucked away in beautiful climate controlled tour buses. And the catering tent a hodge podge of whatever, marked most overtly by extra large mosquitoes that could hang almost motionless above you like blood sucking hovercraft. In the midst of this, the Clark Family Experience -- now trying to work the utterly more succinct Clark -- brought what they had to the baked and baking. 4:30, fresh from the recession of the heat of the day, yet far too early for any kind of reprieve from the intensity of the elements. Harshness is something the 6 brothers from the tent show revivals and bluegrass festivals understand, having spent 18 months slogging through bankruptcy court, trying to make sense of bad business deals gone worse. Harsh enough that 6 of the most talented, most beautiful young musicians to perhaps ever grace Nashville are scattered across the country, hand-to-mouth, unable to make a living at the thing God put them here to do. Ranging from 19 to 29, looking like Russian dolls, singing like mountain angels, playing like white fire and lightning, the Clarks could be considered a total package. The kind of act that is a sure bet -- save for these nasty complications. And the time apart doesn't do their ability to bring it together any favors. Still, there's no denying the way they play, the way they sing… and when they catch an updraft, it's watching eagles soar frozen on the currents of the canyons. "Silver Wings" delivered with a pang even Merle Haggard couldn't get to. A revved-to-the-breaking-point turbo-acoustic turn on “Crossroads." A 6-part a cappella "Yesterday" was as much a witness to the golden glow of what was as an ache for what's lost. The beauty of these gifted young men is this: in the sprawled wreckage of what should have been, they've never reaped the bitterness that would poison most people. They've never leaned on recriminations; they've merely kept their eyes on the horizon and believed that in the end, it would all be okay. So, it was that Edwin McCain's big hit -- a song somehow I missed changing lanes and planes and clients -- actually penetrated my unconscious. Six brothers, each more beautiful and talented than the next, stood onstage, faces wide open and shiny, the best that life has to offer… the resilience of faith on their soul… the magic of loving the music making them fly without ever leaving that stage. The oldest brother with an acoustic guitar lifting his voice to paint small pictures of moments, images that are where love explodes, immerses, overwhelms. The lyric alone -- "The strands in your eyes color them wonderful/ Stop me and steal my breath…Tell me that we belong together/ Dress it up with the trappings of love/ I'll be captivated, I'll hang from your lips instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above…" -- is jaw-dropping in the way it steals too deep inside and rips away the last barriers to the vulnerability and the willingness to subjugate one's self for the need to strike that bond. But when you put that lyric in the voice of a boy who has seen much, who's not been able to stop moving or exhale in ages, it becomes an ardent plea. It is a yelp for delivery, for recognition of that which matters, an outreach for something to elevate all that is -- the glitter and sparkles and softness and warmth and kindness -- to a transcendent place. Alan Clark has a voice like that. Ragged enough to be real, sweet enough to make you want to listen, to surrender, to collapse into his arms when you can't go on or to sweep the sweat-soaked overgrown ebony bangs from his eyes when there's just not much more he can take. That it's a simple voice -- not complicated, not nuanced, not conflicted in what its supposed to be -- the emotion is what it carries. In a world of artifice, someone who can hold up a chorus of "I'll be your crying shoulder/ I'll be love's suicide/ I'll be better when I'm older/ I'll be the greatest fan of your life" without flinching, without self-consciousness, without doubt may very well be the strongest kind of person of all. There is no looking back, no looking down, no consideration except this thing that can indeed offer the missing piece. It is common language, used in uncommon ways. It is a basic voice, made riveting by the intensity of the honesty that informs it. It is a pledge and a promise, a seeker finding something they weren't sure existed, a moment of cowboying up, of a need that goes beyond the lyric to the very atoms that exist at the core of this quiet boy who has nothing to offer but a truth that is both profound and penniless. Just when you're sure it can't break your heart any more, Alan's brother Ashley slides in with an even gentler, more soul-stirring harmony. Ashley has a voice that is spark and court, dignity gone mad by the intensity of what he feels, yet controlled because there is no choice. These are witnesses to how hard it can be, refusing to relinquish the notion that there is a refuge in love, in another heart that's as true, as alive, as willing to throw itself into the abyss. It is the sound of a gate opening, of a cloud clearing, of rain falling. It is the possibility that we all look for, need, refuse to think may be out there waiting to be recognized and delivered -- yet can't quite write off for that emptiness would consume in ways far more maddening than the mocking of calloused denial. Songs have a way of showing up when you most need them, infiltrating the essence of your soul, pulling back the drapes on a stormy night to show you stars turned to diamonds with one moment of recognition of something to then unseen. "I'll Be" is such a song at such a moment. When you hurl yourself at life with an intensity that makes a difference, much falls beneath one's wheels. You don't look down or around for there's no time and the vertigo sets in. You lose yourself in all that you do, hold the victories aloft, find the joy where you are able and savor the difference you make And it's enough. It's enough. It's enough. You, the gunslinger madonna, midwifer of dreams, faithful acolyte of the power of music to deliver and define, shoot out the lightster, dreamer and dancer and laugher with gusto. You are so present, so there… that it all goes easy, you land softly, you fly when you want to on the soles of your shoes and the sweep of a hand in the moment. What you want you never consider -- another's breath soft on your neck, a hand held and petted in the quietest hours, looking up at someone through the sprawl of your hair across your eyes -- because there's never time or pause or even the need. Then a client says the song makes her cry, and you trust their song sense, so you listen. Maybe the song is perfectly matched to the singer -- and the honesty exponentiates. Perhaps the notion that someone else seeks or believes makes you think that it's not such an odd thing to desire. Next thing you know, you're three dates into the start of a high-impact tour, waking up in a bus lot in Indiana -- you know that 'cause you're smart enough to check the locals' license plates -- and your brows are furrowed trying to remember what it was about that damn song that you can't even quite remember that's haunting you. How did it seep inside, and what does this hostage taking of your subconscious mean? A neon circus, a wild west show, the very best pipes maybe to ever grace country music, a whirling dervish presence on stage and an industrial strength muscle of music that hits it hard and sends people home spent and euphoric -- shot straight from the heart of Saturday night. It's all happening, and it's all mine for the taking -- and I do, filling my cup and my dancing shoes to the brim night after night after night. Yet, like some dime store junkie, I'm slinking from local to local looking for a record store within walking distance. Chastened to realize that their not knowing about something so close to where they work probably mirrors my own unconsciousness about where I live. And finally, determined to revisit this thing panging at my soul, I just start walking…Across a parking lot, by the Showgirls 3 Lounge -- a breast bar that promotes fellowship amongst the patrons with an actual golf outing -- and an abandoned donut shop, across a major intersection and waist deep into the kind of strip mall cancer that's devouring our nation. But the beauty of the homogenization of retail, you can always count on certain chains to remain unbroken. Lured forward on the promise of a Borders, I found a Best Buy. And in that software/hardware conjunction, there was Edwin McCain's Misguided Roses -- along with the just issued DVD of "Standing In The Shadows of Motown," for the long bus ride back to where I'm from. So you pay your money, you retrace your steps, you hope it wasn't a hallucination whose ephemerality will yield nothing more than an overly ardent young man so needy that it can only make the object of said song flee for fear of drowning. But it's not. The Clark Family was true witness to what Edwin McCain intended. At 10 minutes to 4 -- miles from there, still not quite here -- it's on eternal return: that slightly lumbering song of everything love should be, if we'd just stop making it so damn hard. The shadows of doubt that lurk behind you. The betrayals that orbit and mock you. The fear of looking silly. The need to have no risk involved. All those things that conspire against a pure moment, a true release of all the things that bind us down. With the warm sax that slithers through like some vestige of resolve and McCain's slightly muscular read, it all comes back. That rush of "oh, dear…" from the side of a brutally hot stage landing squarely, but softly in my lap as the miles give way to Bobby our driver and a state of the art Prevost that was built for Steven Tyler."You're my survival, you're my living proof/ My love is alive and not dead," says one more man of abandoned faith, one more heart closed down to the possibilities -- delivered by who knows whom? But obviously a survivor of the write-it-all-off-and-shut-it-all-down-sweepstakes, desperate to make the hurting stop. And when Edwin McCain confesses with no shame, just the exhaustion of the constantly moving, "I've dropped out, burned up, fought my way back from the dead/ Tuned in, turned out, remembered the thing that you said…” there is hope for us all. Hope for us all -- the drifters and the damned, the running and the scared and the scarred. Maybe it's the quietest leaps that are the most terrifying, maybe it's knowing that salvation of the human and humane is putting one's faith in someone else and allowing them to elevate you rather than being sure they will consume you, destroy you, pull you down under the water. As a woman who's recently had her faith scorched, her heart kicked in, her good will devastated by a callousness that almost defies humanity; just the notion that this could exist makes my blood flow backwards in my veins. Yet I know, too, that I need to believe, to accept, to dream and perhaps mostly cherish this notion. Yes, I live with the wolves and the jackals and the wild things that hunt or are hunted. But even those things can be tamed on a level -- with patience and stillness and a sense of the gentle currents of what is meant to be. The poet/songwriter Rodney Crowell once wrote me that "it's the biggest hearts that break the hardest and take the longest to heal…” but he also promised a return to innocence from that sort of decimation. Maybe in being cut to the quick and incinerated to the ground, much ultimately falls away chipping away the ashes and hard shell, this song beckons me to believe once again. Redemption with a sweeping melody, a lyric that offers everything in a few scattered images and plain spoken pledges, an unremarkable voice forever etched like a torch in the darkness. "I'll Be" becomes one of those balming comforts that can hold you soft and warm until the real thing comes along.
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“Let Me Touch You For A While” Allison Krauss Creates Intimacy Amongst the Disenfranchised

There it was one day -- propped against my doorway in West Hollywood -- a plain brown cardboard box like so many others. Anonymous. Almost closed to what was inside, normally heralding not much, so not wanting to make any promises either. Slit the packing tape and looked at the humble little cassette inside marked Union Station in thick black marker. "Union Station… hmmm, whatever." A note inside said,"If you like it, we'd love to have you do the liner notes…" and so, vanity played to, I drew a bath and took the boom box into the tiny beige-tiled bathroom that was my refuge in that executive single which was really just the world's most spacious closet. What I heard almost electrocuted me: pure and high and silvery and golden. This was a voice that's all filigrees and nuance, emotion beyond what existed in the experience of a very young girl. A young girl. That was the key. Because the sadness and the ache, steeped in this almost phosphorescent innocence, seemed both insurmountable yet utterly, ultimately survivable. But there, in the steamy, swirling environment of bath oil and clouds of moistness, it wasn't just a wash of emotions, I was soaking in it. Transported through every heartache I'd ever had; thinking about all the lost moments and opportunities; considering that which was before me in the music's wake. Sometimes records are just entertainment, other times they're aural catharsis. So it was in the throat of this Illinois teen, a bluegrass prodigy and fiddler who could break your heart just as easy with her fingers as her sparkling soprano. I wrote those liner notes; you bet I did. And when I met Allison Krauss at Nashville's famed bluegrass outpost The Station Inn, she said it read like a romance novel -- which made me feel awful, but she said it was compliment to be sure. I've Got That Old Feeling went on to win a Grammy. And when she earned her first platinum album, in a rare moment of graciousness in a business of "all me, all the time," she saw that I received a platinum award. Alison Krauss, a whiz kid who loved Bad Company. Alison Krauss, a girl who barely exhaled Keith Whitley's aching "When You Say Nothing At All" -- and swept the CMA Awards as an outsider. Alison Krauss, a woman for whom the music is what truly mattered. But women -- turning from wunderteen to absolute adult in a room that values youth above all else -- have a whole other place at the table. It's a trick not suited to many, undertaken by very few and accomplished by even less. As a musician, Alison Krauss was jaw-dropping. As a vocalist, nonpareil. As a woman -- one who shed many pounds of baby softness and blossomed into a certified babe along the way -- there was ground to cover, terms to define and an aversion to the overt sexualization and pandering that many call "marketing." And just how does one grow up an angel of the honky tonks and hollers, when one's grasp is instinctual not grounded in real life experience? Time, perhaps. A marriage that doesn't make it. Real life -- and the room to her grow her music as she sees fit. For this is more than a muse with a set of gossamer pipes, Alison Krauss is a genuine musical current. Just how. Just when. Looming, yet impenetrable. The kind of hand you can't rush, can't force. Just exhale and patience and faith. Then one day, you turn on the car radio -- and there it is, the moment so profound it'll take you to your knees. Know it's coming. Trust the artist. I was killing time in Vegas, a hollow city that's all promise and no delivery. Between an awards show that had gone very well and a major interview with a publication that shall remain nameless. So I did the thing those who wish to be lost beyond the masses often do: I drove. All the way to Arizona. And in one of those areas of coverage, there it was -- wafting out of the rent-a-mosquito's speakers -- "Let Me Touch You For A While." Fragile beauty. Tentative outreach. The fear of looking stupid. The terror of not connecting. The promise of healing something larger. The moment of utter possibility. All encased in Union Station's always tasteful musicianship -- a velvet cushion for this glittering outreach from one broken winged dreamer to another battered survivor of the conflict that is human hearts versus pride. Alison Krauss, telling it like it is. Suggesting a balm that reaches deeper than mere words. Offering something that can make a difference. IF… If the other person can reach back. That other damaged soul, torn and frayed at the edges, faded by the disappointment, off balance from the not knowing. It's a giant puddle of recriminations, of faltering desire, a lack of faith in the other's attraction. Can vulnerability truly be that without guile? Or is it a pose? And what might they want? And yet, hope and the hunger for gentle human touch spring eternal… that connection, flesh to flesh, the traction and friction that reminds us we're alive, that there's a world beyond words where two life forces entwine into one whole and release that badness, that madness, that sadness to the darkness, to be sent skyward where it will dissipate and come back as a rain that might do more good than tears. And so the acoustic guitar with a haunted muskiness finds a circular pattern, the sound of footsteps on an empty late night street. It's the echo of every loss -- and it chases after you like a ghost, something distant, pale, yet real and beckoning. It is the moment of capitulation… where one more moment is less tolerable than the notion that rejection is a stake. From the very first line -- "It's been a long time coming, as you shed a lonesome tear…" -- it's obvious that our braver newer world comes with its own fortresses that keep the danger of hurt out, even as they insulate us from the very connection that makes us more alive. Does the unknown countenance, or barely known visage, buffer the risk -- or merely teflon the illusion from the graffiti of cracked character and the chinks of human failings? Both consumed in their own certainty that the other might not, would not. Each believing that what they have is too old, too tired, too worn to ever connect full-on -- except for that one germ of hope that refuses to be extinguished deep inside the woman willing to risk the darkest tags our society has to offer to make that last final attempt. Don't think that she isn't as devastated as the object of her concentration. Confessing, "I'm gonna ruin my black mascara…" as she ponders the abyss of her alienation, she recognizes the other's reeling balk, with a ruminative paintbrush she captures his truth, too: "the flame no longer flickers/ you're feeling just like a fool/ you keep staring into your liquor/ wondering what to do…" Funny thing about "Let Me Touch You For A While," it's four months later -- and still it haunts me. On late night car rides, where there aren't even highway lights. Alone at a keyboard, trying to make sense from the daily rush of what happened to this one or that. In the morning, drinking Waffle House coffee and considering the future. We've survived 9/11. Somehow. But can we survive the moats and trenches we dig between each other. What's the cost of the separation? Can we lose our souls? Our hearts? Our minds? Because this may be a song about a woman picking up a man in a bar. But it's not about sweat for sweat's sake, the cheap release of rage against cotton sheets or the glisten that is bodies lit up by varigated neon flashing beyond a motel parking lot. No, in the moment, in the potential of a glimpse into another's weakness, there's a strength… a willingness to reach out, even if it's only for a moment or several. There's a gentleness to this merging -- the tenderness of the lonely, needing to remember what that blood in their veins is for. Who wants to be the human carnage, the white bones bleached to a beyond-Clorox white, dry and rough and brittle? And if you remove the sense of appreciation that is the touch of the truly longing, then you remove the sense of senses. The senses… more so than common sense. The senses, to be indulged and submerged, to lift you up on waves of something greater than two lonely hearts trying to fight back the tears and the years and the aches and the doubts, long enough to get to the morning and feel a little warmer, a little closer to something bigger than the body beside them. Listening to Krauss' voice spiraling up, with the teasing mockery of the desparate yet bottomline, she offers something less than sublime: "I know a way to make you laugh/ at that cowgirl/ as she's walking out your door…" With that flash of passion, of fire, she mocks the obvious girlprey that most men on the prowl feast on. It is light and ironic, spunky -- and it says, "I'm inon the joke, cowboy, make a smarter choice… Find redemption and release and heaven and calm." Just as you're about to write Krauss off as the kind of girl who knows how men really are, the kind who bust you right open and leave you psychically splayed on the bar, she circles back, leans close enough to smell the perfume and sweat on the back of her neck, feel the softness of her hair as she once again levels her intent and her willingness to find a commoner ground. "I know a way to make you smile/ just let me whisper things you've never heard before…" This isn't some cheap come-on from barfly to one-eyed soldier of the night. It's a deeper kind of communion, one from so deep it'll drown you. And the sort of prayer to what's best about all of us that there's no prurience involved -- merely two people trying to hold back the twinge of whatever's gone for whatever's left. Jerry Douglas' dobro weeps blood and rose petals and thorns over the melody, rising up like illusionary oil slicks on the road. The notes fall like ripples in that pond of pain -- and roll towards the shore, where hopefully someone will warm them, wrap them in something soft and lift them towards where they need to be. There's a strength to Krauss' quaver… a sense of knowing something more, of being a woman of greater resolve and conviction than to surrender her ability to find that gift of merging, where the sum defies the pieces -- the pieces falling in jagged shards from a sky that's too close to the ground, but still leaving the stars just beyond one's reach. With "Let Me Touch You For A While," Krauss pulls one from the heavens. That they scatter the Milky Way in their fumbling tentativeness is only unintentional. -- Holly Gleason 16 September 2002
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“Run” Strait Desire, No Chaser, George Strait

Every now and then, full immersion therapy comes via the radio. A song wells up, wafts out and takes you hostage in a way very few things can. Welling up, you don't even notice it, the melody drifting through your synapses, evoking things you've never considered cognitively -- maybe not subconsciously, either. But then, BLAM! There it is. Whatever it is. Just running down your face or through your veins or beating with your heart. Nuance, gossamer moments you can almost see through -- except there's a brick wall finality, a chill to knowing something that had always alluded you. And so it was that this basic rich male voice somehow started digging into my mind. Didn't notice it exactly, didn't melt or pull over -- just felt a dawning awareness of the solidity of a man, a real man, a grown man who knew what he wanted. Desire and yearning, controlled and yet -- utterly immediately necessary. George Strait has always been an artist you can count on. Smart songs. Well-crafted singles. Songs destined for dance floors and wedding chapels. He is the standard setter for what Nashville is capable of. Maybe that distorts the expectations. Maybe -- because it's all so good -- it perverts his ability to connect with us. "Oh, yes…" we acknowledge as the latest hit single comes on the radio, "another great record from George Strait." Take the brown eyed handsome man for granted without taking anything from him. We know the greatness, why should, why would anything stand out? And there I was on the Florida Turnpike somewhere between Miami and West Palm Beach, listening to this gentle plea to get back. Didn't recognize the voice at first, which probably made me lean in a little closer, listen a little deeper, allow myself to be swept up. It was a yearning request from a broken heart, but it was made with a lot of dignity. It was plain spoken, but regal. It was about holding one's head up -- and if not admitting whatever bad thing had come between the two people in question, there was a nakedness to the want that was stunning. A couple quiet acoustic guitar parts, little puddles of steel pooling like unacknowledged tears around the critical parts with just enough salt to burn the pain into the arrangement. The beat, laying back just a little bit, like a heart that's trying its best to maintain the rhythm -- but not sure it's up to the challenge in this hollow empty state trying to be rectified. And there's the piano, notes rolling back and forth -- not echoing the beloved's movements, so much as the desired travel plan our singer has concocted. Quietly elegant. The thing George Strait has always done best. It makes the girls weak in the knees because he posses the ultimate self-knowledge: he knows the most manly thing one can be is honorable and honest. So with grace, he confesses his need. It is not an obsession. It is not demanding. It is not overbearing. Nor is it about possession. "Run" is a song that is designed to let the girl know he wants her back as quickly and as powerfully as a country song has ever pledged its desire. And that twinge of want -- though no doubt fired by some modicum of lust -- is about seeing a greater need than perhaps had been previously considered. This is not the song of a silver-tongued devil, let me point out. This is a song that could fall from the lips of any man, any man anywhere who realized that he needed a woman back. He could be a doctor or a lineman, a rodeo rider or a computer programmer, an analyst or an accountant or a mechanic. The notion that "there's a plane or a bus out of Dallas, I hope you're on it/ There's a train moving fast down the tracks, I hope you caught it…" is as direct a request as can be made. It's in the leanness of the sentiment where George Strait's silent romantic streak catches fire. Cheap poetry and divinity aren't the weapons he brings to the table -- and Texans have spent years embracing his knotty pine truths, the confessions that build solid lives out of normal places. George Strait is handsome in that classically chiseled, gorgeous man way. One could argue that it's the package that gets this potency across the plate. Except that I was on a burned out two lane, watching not much pass beyond the windows, even less fall beneath the tires. In that void, there was a voice, a melody that was as bittersweet as anything I'd heard, a voice that seemed so solid, so resolved, yet so… well, a little bit beat-up, tired even, but holding its head high. Perhaps not as sleek as what we've come to expect from ole Strait -- and that's what opened the windows of appreciation up wide and full. Valentine's Day's coming. There was a relationship walked away from. This wasn't necessarily the sentiment being sought from the former paramour… more the sad reminder of why the good-bye. Because the notion someone could have this sort of desire speaks volumes about what we should strive for in our most profound intimacies. That they were willing to not go for the grand gesture, the big flex, the check too big to ever cash -- that it would be about loneliness and need and her, well, who wouldn't want that? Indeed, that's been an ingredient in George Strait's ability to bewitch women. He understands what they need. Sometimes it's that perfect smile, a little glimmer, a song to kick up one's ropers, too. But other times it's simple appreciation of what was or is. Where some men fall prey to sizzle, tight dresses, low cut blouses, too much make-up -- and heaven knows, George Strait ain't dead -- it always seemed there was something a little deeper about his appreciation of the fairer sex. Not for him the painted harlot, more the woman in the cotton dress or blue jeans, the hair pulled back in a pony tail, the eyes shining with an appreciation for what life has to offer. It would seem to most women, George Strait is a man who would appreciate them as they are. Who would celebrate their inherent beauty, recognize their passions for the world as it falls around them, respect the emotions they bring to the lives they touch -- and in those moments, a far greater value becomes attached to the object of desire. It's not about what gravity does to a woman's body, the way time steals hair color, adds lines around the eyes and lips. It's not about flash or dazzle, but what's inside. Leveling the playing field, embracing the deeper truths, owning that desire can burn longer and more intensely when drawing on embers that're a slow burn, George Strait shows men how to set women aflame -- and brings the women to their knees from a truer kind of want. And there's also no li'l gal superiority trip at work. It's about needing to be the best option for the woman as well. Taking a breath, he confesses with a hush and the slightest drawl, " cuz I swear out there ain't where you ought to be/ So catch a ride, catch a cab, don't you know I miss you bad/ But don't you walk to me/ baby, run…" The laconic pace of delivery tells the story. George Strait standing tall, offering all he's got: the pledge of need. He's not one for flowery promises, he gives something far more important -- the moment where the rubber meets the road, the willingness to acknowledge that which really matters and the hope that she's going to hear it, hear the completeness of his desire and respond in kind.
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Me and Romeo Ain’t Never Been Friends, Gerald LeVert

Truth comes from funny places. Joy even more so. Late night urban radio and songs long forgotten in the glow of the dial in the dashboard. From that very rolling or parked perch, slices of dated production emerge in waves and sheets of what was the right-then, sounding like what-was, but still managing to hit a nerve, connect with a timeless emotional reality, be it pain or lust or love. The shafts of synth -- all satiny smooth and shimmering with a cool remove --percolate as the guitar serpentines its way through the vocal breaks and the beat benches the whole damn thing. At its best, new jack swing or rhythm and blues or just plain black music gets it done, moves you along the conveyor belt of moments - and gives you something solid to grip in your sonic time travel. Gerald LeVert's "Casanova" is one of those songs. It is a feel good record that turned 1987 inside out, that bounced its way into the smile-inducing pledge of eternal commitment, total appreciation and the implied promise of getting the girl just exactly where she wants to be every single time… Gerald LeVert -- progeny of soul royalty the O'Jays -- has a voice that is an emotionally conductive instrument. Wincing, ardent, pushed to the brink, but trying to convince a girl that he's the regular Joe who will be more than she could ever hope for, he brings the bravado and the vulnerability of the unknowing teetering on the brink of what might not be to the table hard -- and closes with the raw want of one who can't even contemplate the possibility of denial. Produced by Reggie Calloway -- known for his Midnight Star, Deele and Shalamar records -- "Casanova" is as wonderful a slice of good clean erotic roll-out as has ever been lobbed. When a boy will come on this straightforward with a beat that sweeps left, then right, when there's this much innocence basting a willingness to "get down on my knees for you, baby," it's the nexus between Prince's naughty-by-nature funk and Motown's brown-eyed soul. But as strong as the record is, it's actually the song that puts an arrow through the heart. Cupid in a pair of Timbalands and baggy low riders, this is serious business -- with the protagonist going straight for his own jugular. Yes, he pledges the thrills of a lifetime, but he's also quick to tell the truth -- a truth that's about stretching paychecks, nothing going on but the rent, trying to carve out a place in the world, looking for someone to recognize how special they are, to make them feel a little bit better about the day-to-day, 9-to-5 drudgery of real life. Is the truth an anti-truth? Something so completely devoid of glamour there's nothing appealing. Or is a simple honest man bringing it all to the plate, pledging whatever he's got totally to the object of his desire the sexiest thing of all? Who's to say, except the unseen paramour du jour or pour la vie. "Casanova" is an exhortation for an invitation, a slow burn for permission from a man who recognizes the clumsiness of the working stiff looking for his place in the sun -- and a girl who probably resides just outside his grasp. But if the match is struck, what flame will endure? burn higher? hotter? Which is the trick of the tail. Or the definition-defying notion of bring on the heat. For in the mix, the hunger is both libidinous and validation. One tempts the other, the other promises the rest. And in a rare moment of revelation, the crowning realization is this -- utter satisfaction isn't merely about the boot-knocking, but the higher power that is being loved by someone who has knocked one off their feet. And the device… THE DEVICE! Sheer genius: pitting the boy, the man, the hiphopster, gangbanger, prep or striver next door against the great heartthrobs and romantic foils of our time. Without a flinch or a blink, the song opens with the compare and contrast Blue Book busting confession, "I ain't much on Casanova, me and Romeo ain't never been friends…" In close form harmony, LeVert's nougat and satin sheets harmonies sweep straight into the next line with an ease that promises a second nature reaction, a reflex response to this full immersion reality he's trying to create for himself "Can't you see how much I really love you/ Gonna sing it to you time and time again…" There's a churchy style confession delivered in scatty conversational tone. He ain't slick, this boy. Heck, he ain't a boy, he's a man who knows his limitations -- and he can only offer his whole self in exchange for her heart. But his whole includes a vulnerability that smacks of unscarred youth that will admit both want and need…and in the most plain spoken terms, he lays it all out.
"Every time I wanna see you, I can't find the words to tell you so But I love, I love, I love you baby -- And I just got to let you know How much I need you, Show you what you mean to me each day baby So let me hold you, keep you safe and warm I'll be your sweetheart baby…"
Indeed, the men of LeVert are just getting started pledging their everything to the woman who makes it all too real, all too technicolor, all the throbbing and churning yearning welling up inside. While the come on is about making it forever, getting the papers and wanting her "to be my wife," it hits a little deeper and fleshier:
"I wanna hug and squeeze you, too, I wanna make sweet love to you Wanna be there when you're feeling low Never wanna let you go I'm just a man baby…"
So how does a 15-year old aural valentine end up on the radar? Well, it stems from a discussion in a bar -- where all the most important things end up getting churned in the fading hours of the day -- about the absence of the intersection of sex and real love in contemporary music. Either it's wicked nasty or a so-pure-it-puckers true love that's beyond virginal. Sure, Britney and Backstreet and N Sync work from the carnal bridge, but their sexuality is an empty promise -- a touchless man's bluff. For while they writhe and grind, it's motion without meaning. Even their ardent passions are more popsicles, hand-holding and two-dimensions -- because there's not been enough life lived to really know the battering that forces this sort of need to go subterranean. Being that the discussion came down in Nashville, someone cracked that the last time someone in country music got laid, let alone laid in a context that had sweetness or a twinge of meaning, it was "Strawberry Wine," a song about a young girl falling in love and making love for the first time. That song is 7 years old. And if country music once was a randy place to be, it has been sanitized for your protection and left with that little paper strip promising hygenics over the various smiling head covers littering Wal-Marts and Targets coast-to-coast. In the other genres, the trouble is the hardcore sexuality and utter misogyny that permeates rock and rap and metal. The ultimate skin covered receptacle, much of what is sought is about empty release -- and not the bigger, more fulfilling connections. And so it was that I argued for LeVert and "Casanova." Not just because of the lushness of a world class trio in harmonic phase -- or the sweetness of Gerald LeVert's muscular honey-dripping voice sweeping down, then quickly pulling up to scrape the rafters. No, the idea someone would humble themselves for love, for sex, for marriage -- and that they're willing to go long on the truth in the bargain… well, aside from promising the longform joyride eternally, that's some pretty strong and torrid stuff. Granted LeVert knew too well the confectionary aspect of what they do. Those big thick beats that are all rubber and featherbeds and rebounding for the three-pointer -- and the cotton candy melody rushes the blood to the head. But the case gets made beyond the smooth soul of the hit. Take an obscure rock/pop group called the Ghost Poets and put the song in their hands. They bring in acoustic guitars. Slow down the tempo. Heat up a drum machine. Cascade piano runs across the melody. And they deliver the vocals with a breathiness that suggests being so overwhelmed by the desire they're driven to the point of, well, perhaps confusion. In their hands, it's almost a sad song, an apology for what can't be delivered. If LeVert were set to bring it all back home and then some, the Ghost Poets offer a cherishment that will eternally elevate the object of desire to a treasure, a pinnacle of appreciation that will never again be recognized. "I may not be," they seem to say, "but no one else will see you as I do, either…" And yes, like LeVert -- though the lyric is suitably tamed down for a more AOR/AC axis -- they are promising a serious ride through the good groove. Smartly, the Poets have a woman wailing in the background as an aural touchstone. Satisfaction guaranteed is more than implied. These white boys aren't taking any chances. The commonality of real world hook-ups remains being able to see the sparkle in someone else -- and being able to transcend the mere mortality, the sheer humanity, the everyday humdrum fade-to-gray reality that faces us all. How can I show you how special I am, except by recognizing how special you are? By telling you in the straightest language I've got -- and by coming straight out about just what I wanna do in the name of the greater love. What's sexier than someone willing to stand naked in the boldest sense? Clothes never really made the man -- or the woman. But that brave soul who will own who they really are, without artifice, without defenses, without excuses, and say "Take me as I am. It's all I've got, but it's your's…," well that is truly the completest commitment. From there, anything else can be resolved -- or created. Satisfaction guaranteed. No wonder LeVert called their "Casanova"-containing recording The Big Throwdown. -- Holly Gleason
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“Oh, Cumberland”, Matraca Berg

There are songs that take you hostage, quietly and without notice. It always starts out with a hush, something that you almost don't notice - until you realize that you're on eternal repeat and the thought of getting off the tape loop is too painful to consider. For me, black Irish girl that I am, those songs tend to be weepers or slow burns. They're songs that with no fan fair climb under your tissue and move through your veins sereptiously. They become a part of your blood and they flow through you as a languorous life force. Sometimes they're songs of desire one wishes to be greater, but more often they're songs of regret, ache, loss - and they evoke a misery that blankets you in the sweetness that was, a simple thing so fulfilling even bathing in the loss is more satisfying than what may lie ahead. And so Matraca Berg gave me a demo of "Oh Cumberland." It is a benediction for a place and a time where it was barely moving, very humid, utterly fine. It is a song about being out there - and wishing for nothing more than the everlasting return to the place one feels most at home. "Oh Cumberland" rises like heat waves on forgotten blacktop under an August sun at the height of the day. Nothing's rolling because there's no energy to apply - and as those national steel guitar licks shimmer like the illusionary oil slicks that dot limitless ribbon that runs towards an endless horizon, her voice rises yearning and plaintive, keening for a vision that is recognized only too late. Too, there is just enough squeeze box to reflect the exhaling of despair for what is now gone, that place that can not be returned to. And while this is an elegy for a place, it is also an elegy for a state of mind, a state of soul - a moment when things were easier, enough was enough and the molasses-paced, sun-soaked laze of whatever offered a refuge that was never seen as that. Refuge from what? Boredom wasn't a word - and that state of suspended engagement, prolonged nothing wasn't a liability or a cause to be railed again. If knowledge meant needing more, then bolting brought unsettled truths - hungers never considered and now utterly consuming. I don't think it's the raging fires that burn us down. That urgency sets off a whole set of triggers and alarms that will ultimately bring rescue. It is the quiet storms that fail to elicit fear that creep up, that lull us into a paralysis of noncomprehension that bring us to our knees. Until it's too late, until we're swallowed whole, we don't even know how faded our heart has become and how far we've drifted from the shore and the core of basic comfort and desire. Yearning may be the most pungent of feelings - that thing from which we will not drop, but suffer in a way that is as complete a companion as our shadow. Though darkness provides a reprieve from our shadows, where it magnifies that which we miss. Indeed, the dark mocks our losses and elevates the anguish and the fever to a holy vigil that drives us to the breaking of the day, exhausted and more uncertain of our ability to get through. If the words make it clear - "lazy old river, not a lick of ambition/ you get to Kentucky, then you roll on home/ if you were a highway, you wouldn't go nowhere and I wouldn't be lost out here, all alone…" -- it is the melody that creeps into the atomic structure and provokes those emotions we keep in check. Restraint is critical to survival in these modern times, a stiff upper lip, a refusal to feel that which is messy - and most days, most moments, we maintain the strain with a stoicism we no longer recognize or need to acknowledge. It's what makes passion so thrilling - and loss devastating. Quietly coaxing the notes from the melody, "Oh Cumberland" rolls along sleepily, a glowing pillow that proffers comfort, but delivers the twinge that haunts long after the song has ended. The best melodies are like that, evoking and grieving and delivering the things we'd sweep by - and creating moments where the truth can be looked at like an eclipse through smoked glass. Of course there's spare beauty - and then there's that connection of singer and song. For Matraca Berg, an award-winning writer who's captured bittersweet moments like the loss of innocence in "Strawberry Wine" and the painful truth of time's ravages in "Back When We Were Beautiful," a declaraction of freedom from archetypes in "That Kind of Girl" and the need to escape the first hand dealt for a dream and a three card draw in "Wrong Side of Memphis," the opportunities to make those larger unions defy her best-defined role - and that also informs her commitment to this song. Matraca Berg is an artist without an audience - a tragedy and a truth that is all of our loss. For when she inhabits a song, it is more than a cloth to be worn, but a glimmer that makes us all wiser, stronger, deeper. Indeed, it lets us dream without fear of disappointment or reprisals - just a weightlessness that lets us drift without time or worry. Barely breathed, tentatively embraced, when the girl who spent her baby years in Nashville's creative center closes her eyes to ponder the reality and the memory of the river that flowed through her life, it is the bruised wings of an angel that can't quite get home. She is a pious keeper of the visions and the sounds of quiet stillness - "I am a faithful son/ No matter where I run/ I hear you calling me" - just as she knows the truth of where she is now: "Fire in the asphalt/ L. A. freeway/ Santa Ana windstorm, come blow me away/ This rearview mirror could use some adjustment/ Some other reflection, some other place…" There is no other place, however, just the sound in her mind. It doesn't mock, doesn't belittle, doesn't even mean to torture. There is rest for a fevered brow, the promise of innocence lost but never quite gone. If she is sadder, but wiser, she still reaches out and back, refusing to relinquish what was in the name of something ultimately less. On those nights when the lost moments circle one's head like a halo of jewels and promises, it is songs like these that serve as a two lane of deliverance. Suggest what was in a way that settles like skin, covering the nerves and the muscles and fibres, they create a return without the angst that distorts a pure longing. Writing about songs that no one has heard, by the way, is the most frustrating of all. Too literal and that which is suggested is smothered; too obtuse and the eventual point of arrival is lost in the flood. Hopefully somewhere between is where you are now… maybe not thinking of this song that you don't know, but one just like it - one that offers you a moment and a journey to a time and a place where you were so much less and so much more. As I e-mailed Matraca, realizing I'd been taken prisoner and left for the heap of melancholy the song had reduced me to, "god, it's made me cry last night and this morning. Don't know what i'm yearning for exactly, but there must be something… "Begs the question, though: do we shed our tears for what we've lost? or what we've become?"
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