Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wild, Wonderful and Just Fine with Me

The pace of things has been pretty high since I got back from Nashville and so I’m still unpacking a few of my IBMA experiences on top of still kind of settling back into my “normal” life in Northeast Ohio. Getting past what Pie referred to as that “WTF” feeling – she helped me realize that I go through that feeling every time I pull off the turnpike or pull out of the airport parking lot -- has been a little more challenging this year perhaps because the visit home did hit the sweet spot in so many ways.

I think my trip home, though, actually started while I was in Nashville, not only because I got to enjoy so much time with my sister and her family but also because the last show I saw on Saturday night took me entirely by surprise. The lineup for the weekend featured two performers who really are known as country stars – Vince Gill, and Kathy Mattea. I was kind of lukewarm about catching either show but felt I needed to just see what they were about. Gill was pretty terrific and a good showman, although his voice is not as bell-like as I remember. Ms. Mattea, on the other hand, absolutely shut it down for me. There was one more set on the lineup Saturday night, but there was no point because I had become totally enraptured in Mattea’s performance of songs from her new album, “Coal”.

Mattea is a Mountaineer, and although she has had sort of a pretty successful country career, she handed out each of the songs from “Coal” like little drops of chocolate-covered gold. From start to finish, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed not just the songs but her self-effacing delivery. She admitted that these songs really changed the way she thought about singing, not to mention her life, and I think for the audience they changed they way some folks, myself included, see her. Maybe they changed the way she sees herself.





That's part of what's been happening over the course of the last five or six years with me. My parents never talked about the Jamboree and we never went, even though the biggest stars in country and bluegrass music stopped through there. My guess is that one or both -- probably one, probably my Dad -- felt the music was beneath them and so it never made it to the Friday or Saturday night rotation on the stereo. But no matter, years later I found it anyway and really in the nick of time as I began to unpack myself after years of trying to please other people and pretend I was someone else. Part of that was realizing that just because I grew up in the country doesn't somehow make me "less" in any regard. On the contrary, if anything, it makes me "more." More of who I am. A classically trained singer and a bluegrass fan can indeed inhabit the same skin. Someone who enjoys a well-executed chamber piece and a good barnburner don't have to be different people. Someone who can have a chat with the general manager of a Group 1 orchestra and enjoy a 1 a.m. conversation with a bluegrass fest organizer would be the anxious to introduce them to each other. I no longer try to hide that teensy little bit of "twang" when it comes out in conversation with someone from Philadelphia or New York or LA. They don't seem to mind, so, why should I?



This tune kind of sums it up. Someday I hope I can get a crowd of down-home, closet Ohio Valleyans to join me in a few rounds. In the meantime, I sure get where Mattea is coming from when she sings this one called "Green Rolling Hills." Enjoy.

Green Rolling Hills

Oh, the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

My daddy said, don't ever be a miner
For a miner's grave is all you'll ever own
'Cause the hard times everywhere, I can't find a dime to spare
These are the worst times I've ever known.

But the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

--- Instrumental ---

So I'll move away into some crowded city
In some northern factory town you'll find me there
Though I'll leave the past behind I'll never change my mind
These troubled times are more than I can bear.

But the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

But someday I'll go back to West Virginia
To the green rolling hills I love so well
Yes, someday I'll go home and I know I'll right the wrong
These troubled times will follow me no more.

Yes, someday I'll go home and I know I'll right the wrong
These troubled times will follow me no more.

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