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Posts Tagged ‘Woody Guthrie’

New Year’s is coming. I tried to write about being curled in the dark at the Solstice, but I left the post hanging in my draft file.

It’s raining, pouring. Now it rains in December, November, October. No doubt it will rain in January. There are lots of nights when the temps drop into the teens and single digits; and yes, there are snowstorms and cancellations and hazardous driving conditions. I’m curled in my cold house, layers of clothing as if I lived in a stone castle. When did I start to dress like an old person?

This should all be snow. I hate this rain every year now. We all know it’s wrong, at least those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s and remember a snowy winter and never saw rain from October ’til April.

Some of the curling inward this year is because I am still struggling with injury—sprains, strains, arthritis; an unknown and un-diagnosible protrusion on my L clavicle. I can’t move as well as I’d like so I curl up. I am not depressed though. I am cheerful and well-rested for the most part.

I’ve thought of writing a post chronicling all the cool things I was privileged to do this year and maybe I still will. The music, the dances, the museums. I am surrounded by art and culture and I get to go to the ocean a fair bit.

I am also thinking I will do a post about resolutions.

Here’s a Calder from the Cleveland Museum of Art which we visited on a rare Thanksgiving jaunt to Ohio.

Once when we were in New York, the kids were still very young, we saw a Calder in one of the rooms at whichever museum (MOMA? MMA?) and we blew on it. You are not allowed to make the Calder move by blowing on it and we were chided by the museum attendant. It was the definition of irony.

Such whimsy and fun:

IMG_0145

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In honor and preparation of the upcoming Wilco show in VT. Inspired by all things Top 10, including our 2010 Christmas card.

If I do nothing else right as a mother, taking my kids to 2 Wilco shows in one week should carry them to unknown places full of heart anyway. And the week after that? GOGOL BORDELLO BABY!!! I’m hoping Eugene’s pants are a bit looser than the last time we saw them.

1. Misunderstood (how long can Jeff hold an unresolved chord?) Here’s a recent live version, the opening number from a concert down in Alabammy this May

2. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

3. Handshake Drugs (best-ever version was pulled from the youtubes, copyright infringement being what it is)

4. Radio Cure*

5. Airline to Heaven

6. Passenger Side

7. Born Alone

8. One Sunday Morning

9. A Shot in the Arm (you might also like to look up the live version in which Tweedy dons the Gram Parsons tribute suit)

10. California Stars

*Radio Cure

Cheer up, honey, I hope you can
There is something wrong with me
My mind is filled with silvery stuff
Honey, kisses, clouds of fluff
Shoulders shrugging off

Cheer up, honey, I hope you can
There is something wrong wit h me
My mind is filled with radio cures
Electronic surgical words

Picking apples for kings and queens of things I have never seen
Oh, distance has no way of making love understandable

Cheer up, honey, I hope you can
There is something wrong with me
My mind is filled with silvery stars
Honey, kisses, clouds of love

Picking apples for the kings and queens of things I’ve never seen
Oh, distance has no way of making love understandable
Oh, distance has no way of making love understandable
Oh, distance has no way of making love understandable
Oh, distance the way of making love understandable
Oh, distance the way of making love understandable

Cheer up honey, I hope you can

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Somewhere in the middle of my morning, the universe gathered itself beautifully and came to me, the threshold of my breath.

I dropped Violet off at the soup kitchen downtown, so that she could volunteer there, at the behest of her friend.

We walked into the church, a room where I used to attend AA meetings, and into the kitchen. I was overcome when I looked at the industrial-size baking pan filled with fresh-scrubbed new potatoes, tiny red gems still wet from washing.

I teared up right away at those potatoes. Sometimes I am weak in the face of abundance and unbound hearts.

On the way out, I read a plaque on the wall about MLK, who was described as a “drum major for justice.” When I got into my car, I heard the new Jay Farrar song New Multitudes (the title track from a new collaboration album in the same vein as Mermaid Avenue, Vol I and II by Wilco and Billy Bragg), words by Woody Guthrie, to my great surprise, delight, and awe.

Sometimes I believe there is enough for all, that the world is good.

(props to Hubby over at Happy Valley News for his recent resonant post)

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We went to Crane Beach on Friday, which entailed about 2 hours, 15 minutes in the car each way (we stayed overnight). Not bad to get to an ocean beach (compared to 12-14 hours, one way, from Kent, Ohio where we used to live).

I’ve written about this before: kids in the car on road trips. Of course, they’ve graduated from singing songs at the top of their lungs to us playing CDs to them feeding songs through the car stereo via iPod. Not so much the radio on, but it all works, it’s fun, and it’s All-American.

Current Top Ten Road-Trip Songs (in almost no particular order):

ONE

This works especially well because we have to drive on “128 when it’s dark outside” to get to or home from any North Shore beaches. A classic.

TWO

“swear it had the power to repair itself”:

THREE

How can you go wrong with Lucinda covering Gram Parsons? We all belt along with Lucinda and we sound real good.

FOUR

You already know how I feel about Woody and Songs to Grow On. My dad used to sing this to me.

FIVE

This made my top ten Beatles’ songs on our Christmas card last year, so you know it had to make this top ten list, too. Hubby says it’s a bit obvious, but I told him baby, you can drive my beat up old mini-van and baby I love you

SIX

Who says you can’t dance and drive at the same time? Safer than texting!

SEVEN

The Man in Black. ‘Nuff said.

EIGHT

I sure can’t choose a favorite Hank Williams song, but I do have a 2-disc CD compilation that I play ad nauseum on car trips. Not a song about the road, but all of Hank Williams’ songs are road songs.

NINE

Switchin it over to AM, searching for a truer sound/Can’t recall the call letters, steel guitar and settle down/Catching an all-night station, somewhere in Louisiana/ It sounds like 1963, but for now, it sounds like Heaven

TEN

Would any top ten music list be complete without a Wilco song? Well, no, but you’ll have to listen to “Passenger Side” on your own because I wasn’t too happy with the youtube versions. Instead, you get J. Richman and the Modern Lovers again. This is sans the intro which is half the reason the song is so good. Gotta find that intro by your lonesome, too.

ELEVEN

It goes to eleven? I tried to find the scene from Spinal Tap in which Michael McKean sings “All the Way Home,” but could not.

Postscript: I am well aware of the lack of females representin’ here. Chrissy Hynde “Middle of the Road” was a thought and Aretha is good music in (and out of) the car, forever and always. I love my Mahalia in the mini-van, Sweet Honey, too…you know I may need another top ten road-trip songs some day. I am an American after all.

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I am grateful for this day and that I have decided to push myself to give thanks each Thursday (more or less each Thursday and more or less thanks)

Glad that Hubby helped me fix yesterday’s poem’s formatting, which I had screwed up when left to my own devices, Mac and me. I needs my Mac Daddy.

How about lack of pretension and a sense of humility? It sounds pretentious to say it, but I love a lack of pretension. Innocence, the naif. Humility, humus, the dirt, the ground, the earth, what is lowly and below, what lacks ego. I am loving Jeff Tweedy’s old school lack of pretension, but also love knowing what a complicated person he seems to be.

Grateful for Woody Guthrie’s words channeled through Jeff Tweedy’s music and voice. I chose this version because it’s so like Woody. The studio version and the many live versions are often great (how can you fail with those lyrics and Tweedy’s voice?), but this is the most simple, humble, and lovely to me.

Woody had me already, for many years, and Wilco had me a bit, but this? It’s beautiful, so beautiful.

Here’s another. I always forget how plainly sexual Woody Guthrie’s words often are, but how in their simplicity, they are often much more –broad and encompassing, clear and honest; never missing. It’s the Garden of Eden, maybe without the shame, isn’t it?


“Remember The Mountain Bed”

Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves?
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds?
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves
Face, breast, hips, and thighs
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes

Rosin smells and turpentine smells from eucalyptus and pine
Bitter tastes of twigs we chewed where tangled wood vines twine
Trees held us in on all four sides so thick we could not see
I could not see any wrong in you, and you saw none in me

Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky
Your fingers played with grassy moss, as limber you did lie
Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air
Your feet played games with mountain roots as you lay thinking there

Below us the trees grew clumps of trees, raised families of trees, and they
As proud as we tossed their heads in the wind and flung good seeds away
The sun was hot and the sun was bright down in the valley below
Where people starved and hungry for life so empty come and go

There in the shade and hid from the sun we freed our minds and learned
Our greatest reason for being here, our bodies moved and burned
There on our mountain bed of leaves we learned life’s reason why
The people laugh and love and dream, they fight, they hate to die

The smell of your hair I know is still there, if most of our leaves are blown
Our words still ring in the brush and the trees where singing seeds are sown
Your shape and form is dim but plain, there on our mountain bed
I see my life was brightest where you laughed and laid your head…

I learned the reason why man must work and how to dream big dreams
To conquer time and space and fight the rivers and the seas
I stand here filled with my emptiness now and look at city and land
And I know why farms and cities are built by hot, warm, nervous hands

I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.

All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed, my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again

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Obviously, we’re not in the realm of sexiest songs any more (fear not, I have a few in my pocket for future use). However, if you count romance as sexy, then this one goes way up on the list. It’s sexy in its own way, including the lyrics that hint at domesticity (“tell me why I must keep working on”), in typical Woody fashion. Or maybe they hint at his lefty politics. I don’t care either way and then some. To me, Woody was a great poet and his Voice will always contain the pulse of something human and whole. It’s all fine with me.

I grew up listening to one half of Woody Guthrie’s album Songs to Grow On. I still have it, and sort of can’t bear to part with it. It’s an old 10″ record, the vinyl so thick and heavy you could practically chop ice with it; not like the flippy-floppy albums that came later, all bendy and pliable. Of course, it’s full of pocks and skips and scratches. Something my kids will never know about, that sound.

It was an album that apparently drove my mother crazy from overplay. But my dad got a kick out of it and he would sing the songs to me, and laugh.

When my girls were babies, I sang the same songs to them, too. Waking up, middle of the day, driving in the car, taking a bath, bedtime. Woody Guthrie was a real influence in my life. One of my heroes from way back to wee child-dom.

A CD came out of Songs to Grow On, with Arlo Guthrie and a slew of Woody’s clan singing along to the old, taped voice of Woody. But I didn’t really care for it and finally, the original recording of Songs to Grow On came out on disc. It was then that I realized that my 10″ record was only half of what Woody had recorded. I should have known since the cover stated right on the front “Vol. I.”

When my second daughter was born, I, for the second time, got into a severe depression. Mermaid Avenue came out the same year and we were all in love with California Stars, right away. You knew it was a classic, with a pedigree to boot. We can all be grateful that Tweedy (and Jay Bennett, not sure who did what) got a hold of it.

I was going to print the lyrics here, but thought the better of it because the music and the lyrics seem so well married (ah, I have come back to the 20-year anniversary after all).

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