Putting this up on Thursday because it’s 4/26, a Mopar day. If you get it, cool – if not, it’s all good. Something to do with an engine, and that ties in with this week’s missive… on road music.
Road music to me is completely contextual. Where I’m driving has an influence, and what I’m driving most definitely has a defining say in what gets slipped into the deck and comes out the speakers. For example, there was a little right hand turn on the way back to Texas one time that took me up the delta in Mississippi on a blues pilgrimage to the crossroads. And I mean that plurally, as deep blues folk know there were, in fact, two – and the smaller, much creepier of the two was probably the actual location. So driving those painfully poor, still cotton fielded and sharecropper shacked roads through the birthplace of the blues, I listened to Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker and – one of my favorites – Jack Owens. It synced up perfectly with what I was seeing and smelling and feeling. They say in great wine you can taste the soil in which it came from.
Now, when you’re cruising some V8 1970s street machine, you gotta have that first Boston album, Meat Loaf Bat Out Of Hell, The Cars, and Aerosmith’s first greatest hits – the red one with the white wings logo. Put on some mirrored shades and you’ll probably even have big ol’ sideburns by the end of the day. A time machine needs that soundtrack and those combined make it an exponentially great moment. I remember driving at night under the stars on an empty and desolate area of an undisclosed interstate, at a rate many would take umbrage to, the road stretching out before me and a long, sculpted hood… basking in the glow of the gauges… window open, arm on the door, holding that pedal down to the sweet sounds of screaming American V8 through dual exhaust and “Double Vision” by Foreigner. Just slicing through the night. You had to be there. Wandering in the slow lane in a housetruck? That's a whole different vibe - meandering music. Live jams from The Dead, lots of Jazz from ‘Trane to the textural like In A Silent Way by Miles Davis. What’s a housetruck? Think of it as a hand crafted camper conversion of an old truck. Sort of an artsier approach to a tiny house on wheels before it was a thing. We’ll talk about this another time.
But long before I was Scott the short scale bass guy I was off somewhere in a van. Sometimes short times and sometimes seasons, it is a continuous thread in my life this dance with the road, this love affair with the highway – and its interwovenness with my life’s path of music. Even during this amazing ride of the past 14 years, this magic carpet called Birdsong which itself was conceived on a road trip, there has been a little time here and there for adventure. And over the past 30 years specific albums also have worked their way into the fabric of the whole road mythology for me and remain timeless companions when time turns into miles. Here are ten.
Grateful Dead American Beauty
Bob Seger Beautiful Loser
Jackson Browne Running On Empty
Gordon Lightfoot Gord’s Greatest
Richard Betts Highway Call
The Best of Mississippi John Hurt
Neil Young Tonight’s The Night
Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
I realize there’s not one there later than the 1970s, but what can I say; our time finds us, even if we’re a bit out of it. Or just out of it, as the case may be.
And speaking of time, and blues, and the road… I have to mention the passing yesterday of brother Merlin. I did not know him in person but he was held high by others I consider family. He was a local bluesman, guitar slinger, and philosopher of his own design. Much like the blues itself - simple, with influence, but one’s own spin – he was an inspiring and kind soul, an original and authentically steeped character prone to rambling posts of brazenly free form gramaticality not unlike a Jack Kerouak, all beginning with "The music is on" and going on about life and love and feeling the song of it all. But you knew what he was saying 'cause he spoke the truth - it was all about the music, spreading it and the good healing vibrations. May they carry him now as we carry him on. Thank you for the music, Merlin Luck. I dedicate this missive on road music and this moment with my friends to you sir. The music is on.
Play on, good people...
Listening to: The local jazz station I can pick up now - https://krtu.trinity.edu/