Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pssst: More than just a memory

Our connections to music are usually obvious. We share songs and CDs and conversations about our favorite -- and not-so-favorite -- artists, and if we get to know each other well enough we gain a good understanding of each other's sensibilities.

But we should never be too pushy. Back when my niece Lori was singing in Wisconsin road houses with the Bear Creek Band, I remember handing her a tape (that's how long ago it was) of Kim Richey and strongly encouraging her to do some listening. Whenever I listened to Richey I could visualize Lori on the stage doing "Those Words We Said.'' Truth is, she had the pipes to sing a song like that.

I don't even remember if Bear Creek eventually added Kim Richey to their playlist. But I do recall, years later, Lori and I going to see Richey at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. It was a warm-up show for a new tour and Richey was, shall we say, a bit rusty. There was new music, a new look, and the show just didn't deliver what we were expecting. But it doesn't -- it shouldn't -- diminish our impressions of an artist we really appreciate.

Flash ahead to last week. I received a letter from my son Zach, who most of you know by now is in Navy boot camp. It was great to hear from him, to get a glimpse of what his structured life is like, and to read some of his written thoughts. You wonder, besides the physical and mental punishment (the Navy wouldn't call it that), what these recruits really go through. Unable to read a newspaper or know what's going on outside their training command. Unable to watch television, listen to music, pick up a guitar or have a minute to do anything that isn't dictated to him.

Zach's letter was very personal and touching, and nothing he would want me to share with you here. Except maybe this: Of all the things he was recalling to keep his sanity, one thing he mentioned was a voice that had somehow attached itself to some of those memories. A voice he probably heard for the first time when he was 10 years old.

Sometimes, I'm reminded, the music connections are not so obvious. And now I'm pretty sure the next time Zach and I are tooling down some highway together we won't have to ask each other what's going in the player. Kim Richey will already be in there.

Friends, we give you Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout No. 11.

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