I had been lost without it. I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t know why let it slip my grasp.
I had spent months playing nothing at all, listening to nothing at all, writing nothing at all. I suppose work had a lot to do with it. We have been extremely busy: busy and short handed. After work, I didn’t have enough left to do anything but sleep, if I could, and not enough energy to even get a guitar out of the case.
Then, Piper and I had to rehearse for the concert at The Link Centre in Tupelo in August, in which we literally chewed up the scenery. I was so fortunate that it was a singer/songwriter night and Piper and I worked up a list of more than thirty of my songs that are in regular performance rotation. Thirty was far too many songs to play in a one hour show, so I let Piper edit the list and pick out the songs. She did a good job. We were on the mark and the audience really enjoyed it.
Then, the Monroe Mandolin Camp came up in September, and for five days I was immersed in music I love in a beautiful place, surrounded by stellar musicians. I am so pleased to be on the staff of this wonderful music camp where people come from all over the world to learn more about their instrument and the music of the great Bill Monroe.
Then, an old friend, Charlie O Flannery, dropped in last Sunday for an intended brief visit as he was passing through back to Nashville from Abita Springs in Louisiana, where he had played with some friends at the Abita Springs Opry. The short visit turned into hours as Charlie and I got to playing some tunes. We played and played, and then Piper showed up and we played and sang. One tune led to another and before you know it, Charlie said that he’d likely just have to drive back home and go straight to work, which worked for us when we were in our twenties, but not so much now.
Since August, I have re-taken to listening to music. I seemed to have given that up, too. But, having started back, the more I listen, the more I want to listen. Music gives you something no other medium can. It does not occupy all your senses like TV or movies, but stimulates the ones you aren’t actively using so that you create your own images in your mind…and those images seldom have anything to do with CLL, or swollen lymph nodes, or medicines that seem less effective, or side effects, or general symptoms, or dark places and dark thoughts, or insurance headaches, medical bills, trips to doctors, increasingly high white blood cell counts, the dates and types of future treatments . . .
Music only takes that away.
So does writing. But the typical summer malaise forestalls writing, though the summer malaise is over now, since it is well into fall with our first cool snap. So I’m writing this with nothing to write about, nothing but a desire to write something.
The next thing I write will likely be a review of my friend Ray Bierl’s new solo album. I’ll wait until I come back from my trip to Houston next week to write it, as I will listen to it all the way out there and all the way back.
I am thankful for this medium. I am thankful for all my blessings. I am thankful for readers. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for the gift of music that has been given to me. And, as I listen to Bob Dylan cranked up on my studio monitors as I write this, I am thankful for the gift of music others have received. That gift serves me in remarkable ways.
All my tiredness, angst, and stress have disappeared into the ether as Bob sings a completely revised and rearranged 2016 version of “Tangled up in Blue”, which is a song I love but never dared to do in public, though I have done it in private for 40 years. I like this new version. I may give it a whirl. It may be coming soon to a venue near you.
Bob is a breath of fresh air. He changes his songs at will, making them take on a new life, speaking to new generations. I think he is one of the most important creative artists ever to walk this earth. I am thankful for him.
And Bill Monroe. And Duane Allman. And Leon Russell. And Lowell George. And Mac MacAnally. And Margie Sullivan. And Kenny Baker. And Marty Stuart. And The Moody Blues. And Skip James. And Bukka White. And Butch Robins. And Uncle Dave Macon. And Roy Acuff. And Flatt & Scruggs. And Ed Dye. And all the musicians who have so joyously inspired me as we played music together, sometimes moving from a simple joy to a sublimation that transports us to a different, ethereal plane for a spell, returning to earth having had the vessel that contains us re-molded by masterful hands so that we never re-claim the shape of our former selves, which are just shadows of the real selves we seek to become. A bit of polish here and there, a rough edge or two smoothed out. A dusty corner swept. Some clutter removed. Spiders and cockroaches chased out into the daylight, seeming much smaller in the light than the darkness. And I hate sentence fragments but sometimes they work well as a literary device.
Thank you music, and right now, thank you, Bob, as I thump the upright bass along with your 2016 Yokohama, Japan, concert, courtesy of YouTube. I am grooving on the music, not giving a second thought about ruxolitinib. A vacation, as it were. Perhaps a respite or a sabbatical. A moment that expands into an eternity as long as you are in its midst. Everyone needs that from time to time. I am thankful that it is taking me along for a ride right now.
Turn off your TV. Listen to some music. Get out a guitar. If you don’t have one, see about getting one, soon. If you don’t, then at least listen to an entire album, or preferably, a recorded live concert that is designed to take you on a journey.
You might pack an overnight bag in expectation.
©2018 Mississippi Chris Sharp
PS – Those big band era tunes, and the reworked versions of old songs like “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Blowing In The Wind” are fabulous. The poetry never changes, just the delivery style to suit the current delivery vessel. I’m sold.
Here’s a link to this wonderful concert if you like Bob Dylan and you’re of a mind – –