Call me crazy

OK, there’s this song, it’s called Don’t Tell Me and it was written by Joe Henry, who, as you may know, has worked with Kristin Hersh in the past. It’s beautiful. Take a listen, and yes, this is Madonna performing this song on Letterman some years ago. Yes, Madonna. I don’t qualify as a Madonna “fan” by any means, but I love this performance. It’s unfortunate that Madonna massacred the shit out of this song when she recorded it and made it all dancy and just….crap. But that’s Madonna, she makes dance pop. Dance pop never feels right to me.

Anyway, my point to all this is that I happened to have been watching Letterman the night that Madonna performed this song. I loved the guitar sound, and really, the whole song. I have always been curious as to what this song would sound like if Kristin would perform it. I wonder what her take would be on it, how it would sound with her own flavor of beauty made by both her voice and by The Guitar That Love Built. Call me crazy.


Going back

There’s A LOT to be said for initial reactions to songs. It’s fun when they hit you immediately, full-on and strong. Sometimes they don’t and might take a while. It’s funny how they’re all different.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how you perceive songs years later, how that one song that hit you head on may not be the one that’s your lasting favorite. I think this happened to me with Deep Wilson. That was the one song I loved so much, even before The Grotto came out, I totally expected it to be my favorite song on that record. So pretty, so sad… So sad that my eldest daughter always made me turn it off. The violin makes her cry. Seriously.

Years later though, I’m not sure I can even pick a favorite off that album, I’m not sure I’d want to. Snake Oil? Arnica Montana? Vitamins V? Those 3 consistently fight for top billing.

Anyway, apparently, way back, Fortune did hit me immediately. I went back and found what I wrote about it back then. I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but I bet something was going on between September and January (school? holidays? more holidays?) that made me lose track of this fabulous song. It’s nice though, to “rediscover” it now, I think. And to be able to look back at it in the context of all the Speedbath songs. It DOES stand as one of my favorites, and deservedly so.

Another Hidden Gem

I feel that Krait and Mississippi Kite get all the love when it comes to the Speedbath songs. Each time I hear Krait I think it’s the best song I’ve ever heard. I mean, it just blows me away. Every time. Mississippi Kite too, it’s just as good as Krait, but as far as I’m concerned, Krait’s got something a little extra and it’s my favorite of the Speedbath songs.

This post isn’t about those heavy hitters.

It’s about Fortune. Fortune, which has forced itself on me a lot recently. Fortune, which, to make a baseball analogy (I don’t even like baseball all that much), is maybe the Dustin Pedroia of the Speedbath songs. Unexpectedly great for it’s size? One might look at Fortune next to Krait and Mississippi Kite and think, hmm, nah, nothing can match those guys. But you’d be wrong. Fortune just hit a fucking grand slam. (this is not a family blog)

Fortune is way more incredible than I ever realized. Why is this? I don’t know. I wonder what was going on in my life when this was posted. Probably something that made me busy and distracted, as life often does. I wonder if I wrote anything about it back then. Maybe, I’ll have to check.

I was listening to the live show recorded in York this past Spring when Fortune grabbed hold of my attention. It just feels right, right about now. I doubt I can do it justice by trying to put it into words. There’s a subtle intensity about it that I just love. I’m ALL about subtlety. Wonder Bread may not taste good but it sure sounds fantastic.

As an added bonus you can sing this to your child’s orthodontist: “And by the waaaaaayyyy, you cost a fortune….”

Like comforts from home

Music has always been a powerful driving force in my life. I’ve always focused on it & tuned in, despite the fact that I have little musical ability of my own. In grade school I was a mediocre clarinet player at best. After college I tried playing bass. I could be OK at it if I practiced, but the inherit ability is just not there. My talent lies in listening, perhaps. I always have music in my head. But unlike a musician, the music in my head is always someone else’s. I love the music. I feel it. I wish I could see it too, but that is for others as well…

Like mom’s favorite baked mac & cheese recipe, my favorite music is always what provides comfort, something familiar and cozy. I reach for music in times of need, it’s dependable like that. It could be a very happy time, a trying time, an exciting time, a sad time, or just because, and the music never lets me down.

So when it came for my Very Big Day: the day of my brown belt test in kenpo karate, I needed some familiar comfort to help calm my nerves. This was a big milestone, something I’ve worked toward for more than 3 years. At the same time it was just the beginning of my martial arts training. I can remember back as a white belt, looking to the upper ranks, and being so impressed at all they’ve learned and all they could do. How could I have finally made it to that point? A point that seemed so daunting when I was starting out on this journey. It was very significant and I didn’t take it lightly.

As it happened I woke up with Gin in my head and as it happened I really needed something to keep me from freakingthehellout. I listened to the song and was focused mostly on it’s soothing rhythm. I listened to it several times through my morning, feeling it envelope me like grandma’s afghan, and all was good. I knew I was prepared, I just had to keep my mind from thinking too much. The music gave me something else to focus on, because I am my own worst enemy.

There were a few moments during my belt test when I had a few minutes to wait before I had to perform or defend myself. I didn’t have to listen hard to hear that Gin was with me during those 2 1/2 hours. I could focus on the song in my head, and it put me into a nice, calm zone. It was for the most part, effective. It was nice to have Gin there for me, and what struck me then was that I couldn’t hear the words. I know the words when I’m listening to them, but during my test I just couldn’t hear them as distinct words. I heard Kristin singing in my head but it was just sounds – that vocal instrument I’ve been hearing more and more of with these latest songs she’s writing. That’s another post for another day, but for now, I’ll just thank Gin for saving my ass.


My reaction to Kristin Hersh’s song Flooding was immediate and pretty intense. Some of them do that.

Kristin got on stage, and she opened with this new song- I had never heard it before. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the setlists of her recent UK shows, I had no idea she had been playing this out. I had helped her put together the setlist just minutes before and there was no mention of a new song. I was pretty surprised and a bit blindsided by it. That was pretty awesome.

I felt the song immediately, deeply. The song seemed pretty simple on the surface, but it was packed with such subtle power. It went to that sweet spot deep inside, where the essence of self lives. It was gorgeous, flowing. I kept thinking of it through the rest of Kristin’s set. Flooding had gone right in, but it left a little hole and I needed more. Like being only able to have one taste of a pie that turns out to be the best pie you’ve ever had.

The day after The Bell House show Kristin did a session for, which was posted up on their site about a week later. Flooding! I was so happy to be able to hear it again, to fill that little hollow space it had left.

My absolute favorite way to listen to music is in a pitch-black room, with headphones and completely stripped of all other sensory perception. There’s nothing else to look at, nothing to feel in the physical sense, nothing else to hear but the music for what it is. I haven’t done that in years, my life just doesn’t allow that freedom anymore.

Flooding made me do that. I closed my eyes, covered them and let it in. It’s what I had wanted since Brooklyn. More pie. I can’t even find any words to explain how it feels. Comfortable? Enveloping? Pure? Gorgeous, flowing velvet beauty? Whatever it feels it’s natural, like it belongs where it is. I’m not asking questions of it, though can’t help but wonder why this song is pulling me in so strong. It won’t let me go, it’s a little overwhelming.

Each time it ended I thought, “it’s over already?” And it made me listen again.

I said yes to the Flooding.


Back when I was listening to Coals the first time, I was really feeling the lead guitar, and struggling to find words to describe that feeling accurately. To define it to myself? I don’t know. I don’t know why I bother to try, because I just feel it inside in a deep, wordless way. After the song ended I read Kristin’s notes, calling the “diminutive lead guitar” her “favorite sound in the song”.

Yes. That’s all the description it needs, “diminutive lead guitar”. Just feel the rest.

post show high

Speaking of Kristin Hersh’s live show in Brooklyn last month, I dug out something I wrote a few days afterward when I had Sand stuck in my head. I had woken up with it there, as part of the extended “high” that always seems to happen after a show. It made me so happy, because I like it when my mind keeps the forces of nature at bay and keeps the songs there. Often, after I see Kristin play I drive home in silence. No radio, no talking, nothing. It’s because I want to keep the sounds in there, swirling around within my head. I want nothing to push them out and erase the feeling that lingers after seeing the songs come from their source. They’ve got added power that way.

It doesn’t matter that Sand wasn’t part of the set Kristin played that night, I think it settled in my head because I had been really feeling the first 4 CASH tracks of 2009 in the few weeks prior and it was Sand’s turn. And I heard the words. I kept focusing on “the perfect manifested heaven” and thought…… that’s what it’s like watching Kristin play live. A perfect manifested heaven. Out of context, yes, but I can make this association because I can; Creative Commons, right? 🙂 I love that the songs form these metaphors, which change and adapt as life moves along, they’re different for everyone with vastly different things going on in their lives, yet they yield such similar emotional responses. It’s fascinating. And very powerful too.