Mandolin Rain

Some days a melancholy washes over me. Often it’s because something makes me think of Wife, the life we shared, life before she died.

I have a bit of music in my collection. There are a lot of favorite songs in that collection, many of them from years ago. Back then I couldn’t afford to buy music and would wish that I had a copy of the recording. Over the last decade or two, there was more money to buy music and I got over the reluctance to spend on something frivolous but meaningful.

The recording by Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Mandolin Rain, causes me to respond. For some reason, this song came up in my playlist today. I was taken back 20, 30 years ago and remembered hearing this song the first time. It caused an emotional response in me then and still does.

Listen to the mandolin rain
Listen to the music on the lake
Listen to my heart break every time she runs away
Listen to the banjo wind
A sad song drifting low
Listen to the tears roll
Down my face as she turns to go

She didn’t have a choice about leaving. She had to go. And there are times when the tears still flow.

Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon
Howling at the Moon

Many years ago, I had Kansas Leftoverture on vinyl. It was a favorite recording for a long time. The composition and arrangements were rich and almost classical, which was typical of Kansas at the time. They were also concept albums, meaning there was a theme or storyline that ran through the entire recording — by intent. That is, the writers composed the music with a theme or themes in mind and the writing reflected that.

One of the songs on Leftoverture seemed to stand out from the others. It was a kind of music break or interlude, much simpler in composition, quieter, and more reflective — Magnum Opus:

This foolish game, oh it’s still the same
The notes go dancin’ off in the air
And don’t you believe it’s true, the music is all for you
It’s really all we’ve got to share
Cause rockin’ and rollin’, it’s only howlin’ at the moon
It’s only howlin’ at the moon.

I was looking for a subject for my Project 365 capture a couple of days ago. I let the day get away from me. I sat at my temporary desk and thought for a few minutes, when I noticed my toy wolf.

If you’d like a bit of Kansas, enjoy Magnum Opus.

Yesterday’s Rain

Over the last few years, I gradually collected all of the Winter’s Solstice recordings produced by Windham Hills Records, which is now owned by Sony. I play these collections of songs from Windham Hills artists during the holiday season, along with some other favorite music that celebrates the season.

When I snagged a copy of Winter’s Solstice VI, I discovered the track Yesterday’s Rain written and recorded by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, a guitarist and composer of much skill. I was immediately drawn into the deep romantic vibe of this song.

When Wife died, this song somehow became deeply linked with my loss. I feel it every time I play this song. But, along with that deep sense of loss, of longing for what is now gone, there is also joy. There is joy in what we shared all those years. There is joy in remembering the season during which we celebrate the Christ’s birth. There is joy in remembering how Wife loved this season, loved finding the right gift (to the point of being obsessive-compulsive about it), and how she loved playing the Santa Claus role, even after all the kids had grown far past that myth.

It didn’t matter. We all loved her enthusiasm and excitement. It’s a good thing. The memories are good, if poignant. The song is an absolute gem.

Tennessee Ernie Ford

A Country ChristmasWhile working through my Christmas music collection, I heard a couple of songs by Tennessee Ernie Ford, an old-school country singer (and a crossover artist as well). I was reminded of his work in radio, recording, and television.

I loved his big voice and his style. I reading the Wikipedia article about him, I felt a major sense of nostalgia roll over me. I’m not so sure why I feel this way, but it often happens to me when I think about how things were when I was young. It seems things were simpler, less aggressive, less narcissistic. Entertainment was more wholesome and nothing like what we have today.

There was plenty of evil. But I don’t recall the celebration of violence and baseness that seems to prevail in entertainment today.

Perhaps I’m just filtering. But that’s how I feel.

Mason Proffit

Last Night I Had the Strangest DreamI know it’s not really the time to write about music that isn’t holiday-related, but when have I followed convention… not often (but sometimes).

Over the last couple of weeks I fleshed out my collection of Mason Proffit recordings. There are a couple I don’t have, but they are compilations or the double-album re-release of earlier work. So, I think I’m satisfied.

I’ve listened to these recordings a few times, mostly in between Christmas recordings. I can’t quite do a steady holiday-music diet. I need some variety to keep me interested.

Bareback RiderWhen I listened to the music in chronological order, the progression of their work was apparent. Their songwriting grew as they continued working. The musicianship was always first-rate, but I think John’s banjo and guitar work improved.

Rockfish CrossingBoth the songs and the recordings hold up to the test of time very well. As was common during the time, the bass is rolled-off a bit and doesn’t have the punch that modern recordings have. That’s probably more a reflection of the technology of the 1970s, but it might relate to production values. I don’t really know why, but the difference is noticeable. (And these aren’t the only recordings from the period on which I’ve noticed this.)

This is good work. My old friend Ben reminded me of Mason Proffit indirectly a couple of months ago. I’m glad he did and I’m pleased to have their work on my library. I love good music and this music reminds me of some great times with family and friends.

Movin’ Toward Happiness

Movin' Toward HappinessI wrote about them a few entries ago, but Mason Proffit was the band assembled by the Brothers Talbot back in the late 1960s. They put together a country-rock sound that was fundamental to a number of very successful bands that followed them.

The brothers became Christians and moved on to other projects, coming together for a couple of records and then departing to walk their individual paths. I like their music.

Movin’ Toward Happiness arrived this afternoon. I immediately put it in the computer to rip to flacs and MP3s. I will collect all of the Mason Proffit records, at least the main records. (I’m not sure the compilations/re-releases will work for me.) This is music I should have had decades ago.

There is a certain sadness that goes with this work. For one I remember all the times this music was part of my life not long after we were married. There’s poignancy there. Second, I’m reminded that things change, people grow, and nothing remains the same.

Young Son and I were remarking about the changes in our lives this evening. We miss Wife/Mom, but we move along trying to make a good life without her. I think none of us like it much, but it’s what we do. With practice, I think it will get better. We’ll keep after it.

Wanted

Mason Proffit WantedMany, many years ago I came across John Michael Talbot, a fine singer/songwriter, at a Christian conference in French Lick, Indiana. I found a few snapshots from that trip (grossly underexposed) last weekend. Talbot’s work as a Christian musician impressed me. The work was good. The music was good. It was a great combination.

I picked up his early recordings as I could afford them. We had little money in the 70s and at about $8 each, records were expensive. It wasn’t until the late 70s I even had something to play them on.

John Michael Talbot went on to become a Catholic monk and turned his musical focus to worship music. While good work, I thought he lost the punch of his early work. That’s OK — people grow and change and decide to leave things behind in the search for what is next for them.

I knew it, but never acted on the fact that John Michael and Terry Talbot formed an early country-rock band called Mason Proffit. That work was seminal to their work that followed and the work of many other musicians as well.

I’ve been backfilling my music collection with artists I enjoy but do not have their early work. I decided to pick up the Mason Proffit catalog, now that it’s been issued on CD. This is music from the late 60s and early 70s. It sounds like it. However, the work holds up. It’s good work.

Walking Over the Water

MercylandThis is one of the best songs from Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. The song works on many levels. It’s well worth the listen.

I find Kearney’s singing a bit difficult to parse, so I looked up the lyrics to this song. I caught the emotional content just fine without completely understanding the lyrics. The words make it that much more poignant.

My mood fell late yesterday afternoon. I woke this morning, as a friend might put it, just OK. As my morning wears on, I find myself really missing Wife. It was 10 months ago she died. I wake many mornings about 0500 and remember those last few hours, and especially those last few minutes. I’ll be haunted by that time the rest of my life.

Was that you walkin’ across the water? Was that you shining in the face of my Wife?

Walking Over the Water
Mat Kearney

I raised my glass toward heaven
On that night that she was born
Praised your name and gave you thanks
And I bought the house a round

She came like a thief of glory
Stole my pain and gave me life
These tears I thought were long, long gone
Fell like rivers from my eyes

Was that you walking over the water
When the sunlight that came pouring through the cracks
Was that you shining in the face my a daughter
Never thought you’d come again to take me back

Raised my eyes toward heaven
She was floatin’ down our stairs
Backpack and a bright red skirt
And a river of long black hair

He came like a thief of glory
And he stole her heart that day
Ever since she started crawlin’
I always knew she’d sail away

Was that you walking over the water
Well, I watched my baby slippin’ through the cracks
Walked the aisle and gave away my daughter
Never thought there’d come a day she would look back

Raised my fist toward heaven
From that dark forsaken road
Blue lights flashed on broken glass
The siren left me cold

He came like a thief of glory
All he left are fingerprints
Should I thank you, should I blame you
In a storm that won’t relent

Was that you walking over the water
While the ocean came pouring through the cracks
Was that you calling out Adam’s daughter
I never thought you’d come again to take her back
You always said you’d come again to take us back