Welcome to 2011. Let’s start it off with a lot of links.
I was talking with a coworker about The Raconteurs, and when I settled back into my cube-shaped universe, I flipped on the ol’ Pandora with Steady As She Goes as the jumping off point. I have a thing for raw, minimally produced albums. I also like albums that have tons of production but managed to maintain that rawness and feel like something that could have been recorded by one microphone in a dirt floor room in the Deep South or on a see-your-breath day in a corrogated metal shed outside a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Yet, you listen to it, and with your headphones in, you can hear the time and effort that went in to making it sound just that way. The care that was taken to make sure every texture, every buzzing guitar, all the pick noise on the mandolin, the timing of the “shuh” of the snares when the electric guitars kick in, they all work together to produce an atmosphere. In the case of blues and its many derivatives, they communicate the pain of love lost, the struggle of the working-class or poverty-trapped feel better than even a photograph could, despite the photo’s claim of 1,000 words.
Music, in general, communicates emotion in a wholly consuming way that, for me, is difficult to match with any other format.
Maybe it wasn’t intentional. Sometimes, it just happens. Robert Johnson, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf. They had actual experiences, actual pain. I think if you listen to them long enough, you start to feel like maybe you have gone through what they’ve gone through (or at least what they’re singing about). Their music, as simple as it seems in our world of Rush and Protest the Hero and many others yet manages to carry a weight that, to me, few others carry.
Then musicians whose childhoods were drenched in the cold, cold water of the blues manage to channel some of that actual experience, actual pain they feel like they’ve been through because of listening to Little Walter for so long despite not actually going through it. They take this pain they think they’ve felt and reinterpret it through their actual life. The trick is to make it out the other side sounding genuine and feeling genuine. With a little talent, you get an output that looks like The Rolling Stones or Blind Faith.
Which leads me to the point. I spend a lot of time copying. I copy other people. I take their ideas and apply them to my life. I wear my bass high because I saw a bass player at Purple Door with their bass on their chest, and I liked the way they moved. I use the tones I do because that what punk rockers I love use.
I lead small groups the way I do because I walked away from a small group Kevin Brungard led with life-long friends, and I want almost more than anything to give others a chance at that. I have the opinions I have about church because I’ve amalgamated the opinions of so many others.
I treat my wife the way I do because I watch men I admire and try to emulate them. I treat my daughter the way I do because I loved seeing Rob Hodous truly cherish and laugh with (and occasionally at) his kids. I truly cannot wrap my head around the dads I know that don’t have interest in being primary care giver for a time. I don’t get the dads that don’t view work as an interruption to the time they could be with their family, regardless of how much they love their job.
I feel the emotions I feel in the manner that I do because of Kurt Cobain, Zack de la Rocha, Eric Clapton, Jon Foreman, James Hetfield, John Lennon, Robert Johnson, Tim Armstrong, Ben Folds, Lemmy, Scott Weiland, Mike Ness, Tom Petty, Thom Yorke, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, Trent Reznor, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Joe Strummer, Bob Marley, Ryan Adams, Johnny Cash, Joel Houston, and, yes, Jack White (and many others).
And it begs the question. Who am I? What is me? Is there “me” or is there just this collection of things I’ve seen, I’ve heard and I’ve read?
Well, I’ll keep on keeping on…Steady as she goes.