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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On anniversaries

On occasion, i've made reference here to past times in which "music mattered." That's a pretty subjective statement, and probably overbroad as well. But what i'm getting at by that statement is a reference to days in which i'd run out to the record store the week one of my favorite bands released a new one, and play it 40 or 50 times over the next several days, deciphering lyrics, figuring out which direction they were headed, and seeing if they could help me find meaning in the world.

I can tell you when i stopped doing that.

I'd been a DJ/News Director at a university radio station through 1984; my first daughter was born in 85, and i moved to California in early 86. And that's when i lost touch with the music scene, and lost the time to keep up with it. Not to say that dispatches from the front didn't make it into my range. Without any difficulty, i can name 3 or 4 dozen artists whose careers didn't begin until 1985 or so who co-exist in my iTunes folder with REM, Dylan, and Muddy Waters. While i enjoy the music, with only a couple of exceptions, it's not as laden with personal meaning as the music of my younger days.

As it happens, two of those artists are celebrating milestones at the close of this year. We'll be wishing Billy Bragg a happy 50th birthday later in December.

Twenty years ago last week, though, a bunch of musicians hauled their instruments, songs, a single microphone and a DAT recorder into the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, Canada, and walked out 12 or so hours later with what remains one of the best ways to spend an hour of your life. The dictionary defines the verb record as "To set down for preservation in writing or other permanent form." And fortunately, the Trinity Session was so recorded, and the record of that evening remains available still. The choice to cover Lou Reed's Sweet Jane opened the door to a particular audience, of course; but covers of Walking After Midnight, Working on a Building, and Dreaming my Dreams With You, opened others which, perhaps not unsurprisingly, different audiences chose not to enter. Their loss, i suppose. Still, that foundation in a certain type of roots music, and the ability to find the common humanity shared by Lou Reed and Hank Williams is why this music does still matter, at least to me.

Cowboy Junkies remain a vital band, touring regularly and releasing an album every other year or so. Margot is the most personable (and beautiful) singer in the world. They've taken the risky step of revisiting that early album (their second, actually, although their first album remains pretty obscure to this day) by re-recording all of the songs back in the same church. Trinity Revisited is available for purchase at the Junk Store (No, i don't get a cut if you click on the link).



  • I was fortunate enough to see the Cowboy Junkies at the Montreal jazz festival this past July. It was probably the highlight of almost a week's worth of most impressive concerts.

    By Blogger Ray, at 2:33 PM  

  • This album has been a favorite for years. I've owned it on vinyl, casette and CD. The Cowboy Junkies toured both Durham and Charlotte this year. Great concert at the McGlohan Theatre in Charlotte (also an old church building).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:32 PM  

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