Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

An elderly lady told me this week that she still feels like a young girl in her mind; it’s just her body that’s slowing down. My grandpa used to tell me, “I feel strong in my mind. I want to go outside and build something or go fishing, but my body just won’t let me.” Apparently it also happens in our youth more subtly, as the Navy Commander warned a young Top Gun named Maverick, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” 

Listening to Springsteen this morning I caught a line I hadn’t really noticed before, 

“Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend
It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”

Even if we find salvation, enlightenment, athletic prowess, or just a life well-lived, our bodies will betray us in the end, if our minds don’t go first. It’s just the way of nature. None of us get out of this alive, well not clinically speaking anyway.

Call me a Christian, a mystic, a romantic or an eternal optimist, but I believe we can live and die alive to life and to every moment. Jesus said, “even though he die, yet shall he live.” Some believe that’s about the next life, but it’s definitely speaking about this life too. He said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” When Ram Dass talked about that verse, he said, “The trick is to die before you die, then you can really live.” To die to our selfishness, our small selves, our fragile egos, our isolation, our way. To die to our deception that old age, sickness, and death comes to everyone else but us. 

When we die in that way, then shall we live. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Rather than depress us, that simple truth wakes us up to the precious gift that life is, this day, this moment. 

Our bodies aren’t the enemy. We do what we can, when we can, and take care of them as best we can, but this is an awfully short ride in the big picture. Maybe it’s only a betrayal if you expected it to be otherwise. 

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band performing:

“If you can be lonely, you can be free.” ~ James Taylor

I was listening to Artist Confidential on the Sirius Coffeehouse channel yesterday which featured a one hour Q & A with and live acoustic performance by James Taylor. I’ve always enjoyed the smooth acoustic quality of his voice and his song writing style. It was a very personal interview and performance. The question was asked what advice would James have for new artists trying to make a career as a professional musician. James said that it used to be that there were a million people trying to get into the room, but now there are a million people in the room trying to be heard, due to the changes in recording industry and the internet.

He said that you have to learn to live as simply as you can with as little as possible while you’re trying to get started, specifically 1) avoid developing a major drug habit which consumes your life and talent, 2) put off having children until you’re ready for the responsibility of a parent, and 3) avoid getting yourself overloaded in debt. Then he went on to summarize by saying, “If you can be lonely, you can be free.”

I understand what he meant in the context of what he said, but it has huge implications beyond aspiring artists and to life as a whole.  There have often been times in life when obligations and expectations can be overwhelming and suffocate you. There are times when you just want to run away from them all and lighten the load on your shoulders, if even for a little while. The truth is that relationships carry responsibilities. They require effort, availability, and vulnerability, and when either of those essentials is lacking the relationship suffers. I suppose that statement could well be reversed to say, “You can be free, if you can be lonely.” 

I’ve always immensely enjoyed time alone, solitude and silence are nearly priceless in today’s culture, especially given the noise level, but after awhile silence can become deafening. Being a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend comes with responsibilities, none of which lend themselves to neglect for long. I suppose what I’m getting at is that this quote is as much a warning as a poignant observation. The freedom that you may long for, the grassy hills that look so green in the distance, is a barren lonely place that you get to only after paying a price. Instead, we should learn to cultivate our own space, our own person, and attain a measure of freedom within our circles of responibilities.

Last year I discovered Mindy Smith’s amazing Christmas album, My Holiday, and played it over and over until January. I loved it most for being fresh and original tracks sung by one of my favorite artists. I’m trying to find new songs or fresh intereprations for this Christmas season also. Here’s the playlist I’ve found so far that’s worth taking a listen to. Enjoy!

  • Celtic Woman – Christmas Album
  • “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “The Heartache Can Wait” by Brandi Carlile on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “All My Bells Are Ringing” by Lenka on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “Maybe Next Year (X-Mas Song)” by Meiko on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “Winter Wonderland” by Kate Havnevik on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “The Christmas Song” by Catherine Feeny on The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs
  • “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “And Winter Came” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “The Spirit of Christmas Past” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “Last Time By Moonlight” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “White Is In the Winter Night” by Enya on And Winter Came
  • “White Christmas” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “Grown-Up Christmas List” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “The Christmas Song” by Michael Bublé on Let It Snow!
  • “Some Children See Him” by James Taylor on James Taylor At Christmas
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter” by James Taylor on James Taylor At Christmas
  • “River” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “Song for a Winter’s Night” by Sarah McLachlan on Wintersong
  • “That’s What I Want for Christmas” by Jessie Baylin on That’s What I Want for Christmas
  • “Christmas Time Is Here” by Diana Krall on Christmas Songs
  • “Glorious” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Christmas In America” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Light a Light” by Melissa Etheridge on A New Thought for Christmas
  • “Mistletoe” by Colbie Caillat on Mistletoe – Single

If I were to go back and download the full album from any of these, it would definately be Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong, Enya’s And Winter Came, and Melissa Etheridge’s A New Thought for Christmas.

I haven’t blogged much about music lately. I have my favorites, favorite songs and albums and favorite artists too, but I love finding new stuff all the time. Thought I’d share what I’m shuffling lately. It’s just good stuff.

  • Kings of Leon is my new favorite band. I heard them on SNL a while back and just can’t get enough. Sex on Fire, Be Somebody, Use Somebody, Manhattan, and Revelry are my favs
  • Matt Nathanson is just good stuff. Come on Get Higher just won’t get out of my head
  • Amos Lee’s newest album Last Days at the Lodge is as good as any he’s put out and possibly grammy worthy in my opinion. Several of the tracks are getting national airplay but everyone of them are golden
  • John Mayer is a staple in my iPod. He’s got an amazing version of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ that is as good and fresh as the original
  • Matt Wertz released an acoustic version of one of my all time favorites, 5:19
  • Ray Lamontagne’s long awaited new album Gossip in the Grain is out this month and is as brilliant and pure a sound as any he’s put out there. It’s sensual, raspy, and bluesy
  • Marc Broussard’s new album Keep Comin’ Back is great. I wasn’t a big fan of the last album Save Our Soul. It was a departure from some of his most well known work, but I’ve got to support a Louisiana boy when I can. I haven’t heard all of the new album yet but it sounds great. His duet with Leann Rimes, When It’s Good, is just amazing. 
  • And of course, there will always be Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen, Will Hoge, and Mindy Smith spinning in my player

The funniest girl I ever knew
had hair as orange as Halloween
The bluest eyes that saw right through
all the b.s. in everything
She was an artist from the start
and she always sang from the bottom of her heart

And though her road was so long
she finally made her way back home
yeah she finally made her way back home

The loneliest kid I ever saw
owned an old man’s callused hands
sitting barefoot in front of an dime store
in a place some called the promised land
He had hollow sunken eyes
but he was smiling big like he’d won some kinda prize
He was ragged, he was rolling like a stone
in the dirty city streets that he called home
yeah the dirty city streets that he called home

Hobos, tramps and troubadours
don’t ride in boxcars like they did before
Seems like most of my heroes
just ain’t around no more

I know I’m lucky to sing my songs
and if you want to, you can sing along
We’ve been on this road so long
Won’t you help me find my way back home?
Help me find my way back home

– “Home” by Shawn Mullins from songlyrics.com

“Home” is the latest in a long list of songs that have resonated with me very personally. Shawn Mullins is a great singer/songwriter, and this song from his album Honeydew from Vanguard Records is a great example why. I’ve always been impressed by people who can paint pictures in your mind with nothing but their words or music. I realize that music, like books and all forms of art, speak differently to each of us. I like to write about all things that move me, books, movies, wine, and music especially.

I work on the road. I’m a traveling salesman so-to-speak. I pay the bills as a marketing rep in healthcare and travel a pretty large statewide sales territory and beyond. I get road weary quite often, but then again, when I’ve been home too long, I enjoy heading out. Miles have a way of really wearing you down but also a way of teaching you about life and yourself. There isn’t much about my job or my daily life that is as romantic as a troubadour riding a boxcar across America, but I like to think there are some similarities.

Mullins sings as one who’s seen the road. He knows people. He watches them, listens to them, learns from them. I like to think his eyes and mind are open when he describes the “funniest girl” and the “loneliest kid” he’s ever seen.

The orange-haired singer he croons about reminds me of many different free spirits and artistic types I’ve known. It’s pretty typical of those I know to go far from home, whether in body or in spirit. No matter how far any of us go we always carry a piece of home with us, whether we want to or not.

When I hear about the “loneliest kid” sitting in front of the dime store, I can’t help but think of hundreds of kids I saw and met in the Philippines who lived in conditions that we aren’t allowed to subject our dogs to in the U.S. but had huge glowing smiles brightening their dirty faces and ragged clothes. From them we learn that home is not a 3 bedroom brick in the burbs and happiness is not a balance in our checkbook.

“Hobos, tramps, and troubadours don’t ride in boxcars like they did before.” In a strange way that many of us may not ever understand the road is home to all the characters Mullins sings about. This one line marks a bygone era of Americana that many may find hard to imagine. Security is the buzz of the decade, and we have yet to fully realize the price we have paid for even the illusion of it. We share an acute sense of loss that may be conveyed best by our poets.

“Most of my heroes just ain’t around no more.” Times, they are a changing… without a doubt. A huge part of that change and sense of loss is the failure of leadership we’ve seen in every part of our culture. Personally, I never had all that many heroes growing up. I loved movies and toys but never to the point of idolizing or believing in them. If I could say I had one hero in the first 20 years of my life, it would have to be my paternal grandfather. In recent years that man who was larger than life for me has become very human, frail, and flawed. I don’t judge. I love yet I grieve.

Going home then isn’t so much about going back to a place, though pilgrimages have been significant in our lives. Going home is more about going back to something we feel we’ve lost… to something we wish we had. It is an ideal worth believing in, but a trip we realize we can’t take alone. For that reason we’re invited to sing along… to take the trip together.

Satisfied
by Darden Smith / JD Martin

If I could love you like Elvis
Elvis back in ‘62
Hips on fire, full of desire
It wouldn’t be good enough for you
And if you could love me like Marilyn
In the Garden back in ‘63
Singing ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’
It wouldn’t be good enough for me

‘Cause that stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

A raindrop falls on the mountain
Slowly rolling to the sea
And it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream
And the difference in between

That other stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

I have a weakness for acoustic/folk songwriters. Recently I stumbled upon Darden Smith, just such a character from Texas nonetheless. There’s something about west Texas that has such a magic about it, but it may be from reading too many Robert James Waller books. This guy is good. I like the grit in his voice and the heart in his songs.

There’s a certain awkwardness in writing about music. It’s sort of like trying to describe art. It’s something you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate, nonetheless I’m going to take a shot at it from time to time when I hear songs or artists that make an impression on me. This particular song, “Satisfied,” really grabbed my attention. At first reading the lyrics about Elvis and Marilyn threw me, until I heard the song. (You can hear and download it on Darden’s myspace page.) I’ve listened to it a number of times now and can’t get it out of my head.

Sometimes love songs can be over the top, you know, sensational and dramatic. Many people often feel disheartened for never having felt that way about someone or for not having someone feel that way in return. At other times that feeling is elusive and fleeting. We find moments in our relationships where those sentiments resonate with us, but in between there’s life with bills, kids, work, and stuff. This song strikes me about married love or at least the nature of love over time.

This song talks about the simplicity of love, “lying with you in the dark,” and the maturity of love, “it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream and the difference in between.” Over time we come to know what love is by learning what it’s not, as much as what it is. It is a feeling, but much more than that it is a choice. Feelings are fickle and subject to circumstances. Real love transcends circumstances. I think this song captures that sentiment beautifully.

I think a lot of people aren’t “satisfied,” neither with love nor with life. Maybe it’s because we sit around waiting to feel satisfied, for all the stuff in our life to line up just right. That’s chasing after the wind. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” Philippians 4:11. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Being content or satisfied is something that you learn, although you may never master. The first step is to choose to be satisfied, to embrace every circumstance, every person, and every moment in your life for what they are and not for what you want them to be. If we spend our lives wanting to be in another place in another time down the road, we may or may not ever get there but will have wasted years and precious moments in between.

Hope you enjoy the song.

Wow! Leann Rimes has really come into her own. Her latest song “What I Cannot Change” shows the depth and maturity of her voice with rich and delicate reflections on life. Her voice is as tender as the lyrics are profound.

It is a tremendous step forward in life to recognize the truth that “all the rest is out of my hands.” We cannot fix everything, nor do I believe everything is meant to be fixed. Some things just are. The sooner we stop trying to resist the “divine flow” (to borrow from Chopra) and learn to embrace complexity, mystery, and wonder, we will find an enormous source of peace.

When we come head to head with what we cannot change, we have a choice to let it go, to forgive, or to love. Perhaps the latter is the hardest for most to understand. I think it’s wise of the songwriter to say “I will learn [to let go, to forgive, to love] what I cannot change.” It is not easy. It is a process, and one that we may not fully understand until we’ve been there and come out on the other side. It is possible to love what you cannot change, to embrace it, and to find beauty and truth in even the smallest of joys and heartaches. Read on »

I do an obscene amount of driving with my job. I typically travel 2-4 hours from home and make anywhere from 10-20 sales calls a day. So basically, I’m in and out of my car all day. I also waste a lot of time trying to find places. I finally got a GPS navigator this week. I don’t know why I ever tried to do this job without one before. I bought a TomTom One while it was on sale at Target this week.

I’m sure the more expensive models have extra bells and whistles, but the TomTom One does everything I need it to do and more. It’s ready to go right out of the box preloaded with maps of US, Canada, and Guam. There are multiple ways to find your destination with an easy to use touch screen menu. You can calculate the fastest, shortest, etc. route then you’re off with turn by turn voice directions from your choice of several personalities. What I really like is the Itinerary Planner, which allows you to input multiple destinations, sort them, then visit them one by one. It only takes a minute or two to key in a day’s worth of stops for me. The screen is plenty large enough for me and very bright. It is compact and lightweight and conveniently mounts on the windshield. It’s also powered by an internal rechargeable battery, allowing you to put the cord away if you like. You just have to remember to keep your eyes on the road.

SiriusMy iPod has helped me keep my sanity on long drives to and from towns that I work in. I get so tired of scanning radio stations for decent music. I had thought about getting satellite radio but never checked into it. My friend got Sirius not long ago and liked it. So when I saw everything you need in one box for $39.00, I joined the bandwagon.

I got the SIRIUS Stratus plug and play tuner. It’s really compact and easy to use. Installing it was a piece of cake. I opted against installing the FM trasmitter extension antenna. My radio picks up the signal fine without it, but I’m using a cassette adapter instead. I’ve been using a Monster FM transmitter with my iPod for over a year now, which works great, but while you’re traveling you have to change channels often as you go through one town after another. The cassette adapter puts out a much clearer and stronger audio feed than either the Monster or Sirius built-in FM transmitter.

The channel line up for Sirius is pretty strong. There’s plenty of music, sports, talk, and variety channels to pick from. It’s really convenient to browse by categories of channels rather than just having to flip through channels or look one up on a channel guide while you’re driving. The sound quality is really good. I’d like to get the home adapter kit, so I can pop it out when I get home and use it on the weekend. Once my kids find out about the kids channels I may never get it changed again when they’re around.

With these new gadgets to play with, I’m just wondering if my iPod might start feeling neglected.

Sundance Channel

One Punk Under GodHave I ever mentioned I love the Sundance Channel?  I’ve often found a few shows over the years that peaked my interest, but I started watching more regularly when “One Punk Under God” was on featuring Jay Bakker, the son of Jim & Tammy Faye.  I discovered this morning that the past episodes can be watched online now. How cool is that? I thoroughly enjoyed this show because I can relate so much more to where Jay is and the issues he’s wrestling with.

Live From Abbey RoadI found “Live from Abbey Road” last week, which is freakin’ awesome.  Thanks to my DVR I’ve been able to keep up with more of my favorite shows lately. I pressed play last night to see Amos Lee singing “Truth,” “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight,” and “Black River.” I’m not sure, but I may have been drooling. That is a fine wine for the ears. Wow!  They also had a cool jazz performance by Randy Crawford and Joe Sample. I am a music nut, and this show knows how to exploit my weaknesses.

John Safron vs. GodThe newest show I found on Sundance is “John Safron vs. God,” which is “an irreverent eight-part personal investigation into religions around the world.” Safron has apparently made a name for himself in Austrailia known best for “prankish documentaries.” Anyway, I watched it for the first time last night. I thought it was really funny. It’s far more satirical than anything else. I wouldn’t go looking for theological revelation here, but it gives an outside perspective on the religious.

If you haven’t seen Sundance yet, check it out. Comment on your favorites!

Fire Destroys Johnny Cash’s Lake House in Hendersonville, TN

I was saddened to learn this morning that the famous and much beloved home of Johnny & June Carter Cash burned yesterday. I don’t know if everyone could appreciate it, but it would be the equivalent of Graceland burning down a couple years after Elvis died. The house held a lot of wonderful memories for Johnny & June and played a prominent role in the movie Walk the Line and music video for Hurt. In that same music video there were gripping shots of the House of Cash museum in disrepair contrasted with Johnny’s aging body. I wondered how Johnny would have reacted to the news today. I suppose although devastated he would recognize it as part of the cycle of life and death. Whether bodies or our homes they are only temporary residences that will soon be empty.

Bay St. Louis, MS

I’m working down in Slidell for a few weeks and staying in Bay St. Louis, MS. I spent the day Monday driving down and listening to a few audiobooks I had, Book of Secrets by Deepak Chopra and Meditation for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil and Jon Kabat-Zinn. I was feeling pretty contemplative, and, though I was very tired, I wandered down to the shoreline just before sunset. I threw on a jacket and walked the beach listening to Enya on my iPod till the light faded away. If only everyday could end so sublimely.

This has to be one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen. I’m a huge John Mayer fan but Corrine Bailey Rae and John Legend are brilliant! I always love John Mayer best when he’s live. Seeing him do tribute songs to other artists or join others on stage is always magical. Hope you enjoy!

I’ve been reading The Man Called Cash, the authorized biography of Johnny Cash by Steve Turner, and have been enjoying it immensely. I read that he was criticized for spending so much time with prisoners. He responded that he thought there were three different kinds of Christians: “there’s preaching Christians, church-playing Christians, and there’s practicing Christians. I’m trying very hard to be a practicing Christian.” May we all keep trying.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you will know that I’ve been like a kid in the candy store the last year and a half learning to live life all over again. I’ve been through self-admitted detox to break my addiction to vocational Christianity and have begun the journey to truly know Christ and to know myself. My family is well and happy. I wish I could freeze time and keep my two boys at 4 and 1.5 years old forever, if not for the joy of watching them grow up. I’m in love with my wife who is still my best friend after 13 years. My business is finally turning a corner, and 2006 is looking to be my best year yet. I’m in love with life and am pursuing my passions.

Before you think I’m in a state of disillusioned euphoria, let me tell you that I have never been more in touch with reality. My mood vacillates almost as much as the balance in my checkbook. All things considered life is good, very good, and for that reason death is beginning to sting. Watching my kids grow up and the seasons change makes time seem to race on by. Who knows how many more years God will allow me. Forty, if I’m lucky. 1976 didn’t used to seem that long ago. My grandparents are getting older, and their health is failing. My grandfather was invincible when we were growing up, and now he seems very human. My grandmother has alzheimers and doesn’t even know her own husband or her own children anymore.

I read the Bible differently these days. I try to read it for what it really says, not for what I want it to say, or for what others have told me it says. [This is the point in the movie where you may want to change channels for a bit or risk getting really messed up theologically.] I’m not so sure anymore what I believe about heaven and hell. If both are real, something tells me people won’t be divided up so nice and neatly as we’ve been led to believe. If Jesus told us anything about it, He said that there will be a lot of surprises for many people. Some days I default to the nice Sunday School version of life that allows you to sleep in peace knowing that you’re an insider and have nothing to worry about. Some days I think that the blood of Christ covers every sin and no one is turned away. Some days I wonder if we just don’t die like every other creature and cease to be, simply return to the earth from which we came. No matter, death still stings.

I fell in love with the music of Johnny Cash some time last year, especially his later recordings. Johnny Cash was a man in touch with death and pain. He was able to vocalize what we think and feel about death like no other. You cannot listen to his music and not come face to face with your own mortality, which, I believe, is the key to truly enjoying life. The stark reality of death makes life more precious.

I don’t think we should live in fear of death but nor should we surrender to it. I’ve seen many terminally ill people over the years who cling to every last breath they can muster long after their body has given out. There is something in the human spirit that fights against death and clings to life. I’m not afraid to die, but not because I know exactly what happens after death. I’m not afraid to die, because I know God and trust Him to do with me what He will. Until my time comes, and it will, I will celebrate life and enjoy every day I’m given. One day, I will fight the good fight then lay this body down and rest in Him.

Saturday, March 11, the Alexandria Zoo will be hosting Celtic Music Night from 6-10pm. Admission is $5. See the flyer here.