The banks of the road are white. Not in a fluffy and pristine way; but even with its secondhand, sun-shriveled look, the snow excites me. I am a Texan, after all.
We are driving home from Albuquerque, where the WMA Convention and Awards took place.
Rather, Daddy is driving, while the upright bass, my new Taylor guitar and I are sharing seat space. I just barely claimed the shotgun spot.
Daddy has his headphones in with the ball game broadcast, and I am getting my first listen of Randy and Hannah Huston's new CD, via the car stereo.
It is close to dusk, and I have a lighthearted feeling that I can't quite identify. The award win really hasn’t sunk in yet, though the notion of it hovers.
It doesn’t often get to happen that he’s along on a trip, so I’m grateful Daddy is with me. Even without conversation, there’s something very comforting in knowing he’s there and doing such daddy-like activities as listening to basketball and driving. Nothing much has changed since I was little, in that department.
I love the CD. Randy has a songwriting style that hits me at my core... perfectly timed and phrased lyric, full of reality and depth. Impeccable cowboy humor. They are a cowboy’s words straight from a cowboy, as only Randy can string them together.
As each new song line puts me more in awe, I wistfully realize that, had I been writing the same song, I could have never come up with such clever lines.
But I’m grateful for knowing people who do what I can’t, for that’s what inspires me (and, on certain days causes me want to quit on the spot).
With a blissfully silenced cell phone, I ponder.
Music is fascinating. Versatile at affecting people, expert at dabbling with emotions – my own musical hunger is so varied, even within one genre.
Dave Stamey's songwriting style is different than Randy’s, but it’s just as captivating and real. His lyric, voice quality and guitar work combination gives me goosebumps.
Sons of the San Joaquin are their own kind of stellar; they, too, affect me profoundly, with their deep voices, head swimming harmony, arrangements, and the stories Jack Hannah tells with his own brand of songwriting.
Then there is Bob Wills, The Time Jumpers, Carolyn Martin. Western Swing done right – it perforates me as deeply as anything could.
Not the lyrics so much, but the in-the-pocket, swinging Sound – is there even a word for it?
The twin fiddle lick and the solid rhythm section, pulsing with life; the band working as a unit, and the masterful, exhilarating chord movements; it makes my whole body tingle with delight.
And here I describe merely the listening side of it.
As all these thoughts meander through my brain, and Randy's CD continues to accompany them, I grin at the endless blurred flatness passing by.
I grin because this music feeds my heart and soul.
A waltz comes on, Hannah's voice. A waltz I have recorded and sang myself over the last couple years, with her permission: Guardian Angel.
My older gelding, first horse, and best friend for much of my life, passed away this year. He taught me so much. He was really the starting point for discovering my two biggest life passions.
Still, I've continued singing the song at gigs, in auto mode I guess.
But hearing someone else sing it...
I start to sob, quietly. Daddy is oblivious, headphones still in, focused on the road. I have my peace to be heartbroken, so I don't smother it. The sun takes its cue and surrenders, providing the perfect environment for tears.
Fast forward, and I’m home. December is a much slower gig month - no out of town shows - which is timely.
I love to gig. But there’s never enough to be said for time at home and in the saddle. One does not appreciate it half so much until they’ve been using travel sized toiletries for a good chunk of the year.
I take Velvet out and down the road, past the neighbor’s fenceline, putting her through gait transitions – slow jog, extended trot, back to jogging. She needs this as much as I do.
The neighbor’s horses see her from across the pasture and come at us full tilt, bucking and whinnying rudely. They slow up just in time to snort and throw their noses over the top fence wire.
Velvet’s attention swerves their direction, but I place my leg gently behind her shoulder to keep her from veering, and she listens.
I have a flashback to her as a young filly -- she greenbroke, me pretending I wasn’t.
At that time she would have (and many times did) fight the reins from my hands and jerk me toward the fence to sniff noses with her pals and have her customary mare snit.
Today my reins are loose, and she is attentive and soft. It’s the little things that bring delight.
There is no such thing as boredom in my life. Gigs can be as versatile and varied as music can.
One private gig last week was…unusual, for western music.
Highland Park, Dallas. Each single house takes up the size of a cow pasture, practically.
I get to be the bass player; Rich O'Brien and Devon Dawson make up the rest of the evening's trio.
(Imagine hauling an instrument larger than yourself through a marble mansion, maneuvering it around crystal wine glass table settings, and not looking where you're going because your eyes are bugging out.) We are hired for acoustic background music.
It’s true, an appreciative and attentive audience is the prayer and prize of every performer – myself included – but once in awhile it’s definite fun to simply play music, not a show. And so we do.
We’re set up on the fire lit back porch, which gazes out at a swimming pool and full sized putting green. This is a backyard of the sort where they’ve probably even paid the fire ants to pack up and leave.
I play the better part of the evening on songs I’ve never heard, and I love it. Devon and Rich are a storehouse like you wouldn’t believe: old songs, cowboy songs, 1940s tunes, broadway tunes, songs by groups and singers I’ve never heard of but feel like I should have. The guests never notice the difference.
Devon names a key, Rich counts it, and off we go.
At the risk of sounding like a grandmother…they just plain don’t write songs nowadays like they used to. Especially some of the exquisite melody and chord progressions.
It's not needed, so I sing minimally during the evening. Although, chiming in harmony during “Blue Canadian Rockies” is slightly addicting.
Now and again I wish I was holding a guitar.
Rich says, “You could play a half diminished in that spot,” as Devon searches for the somewhat unfamiliar chord on her fretboard.
I want to learn too.
What fun is playing a half diminished (aka a minor 7thb5) on the bass?
Not as fun as on the guitar, I can tell you that.
The days march on as the gigs do. A cat purrs, asleep, on my lap, and I’m finding it difficult to type and pet at the same time.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. ‘Tis the season to fire up the wood stove (even if it’s just 50 degrees outside - see sentence #3) and gather loved ones, of which I have too many to count.
I am indeed blessed. Happy Thanksgiving.