I am currently listening to Josh Ritter’s The Animal Years, arguably the best record of Ritter’s career to date (and impossibly difficult to top, I would imagine). Each song is a poetic ode to some aspect of life, or spiritual life, or past lives. It’s funny that poetry in song is such an underrated part of the formation of America. Bob Dylan for example, is the poet-laureate of his generation, possibly even several generations. He said everything that anyone ever needed to, or wanted to hear with just some guitar chords and a gruff, untrained warble. Bob Dylan then, is American history. And other poets have followed suit since, and Josh Ritter is one of them. The song Thin Blue Flame is one of the best songs I have EVER heard, EVER. And it stands alone as an epic, but it is also a folk-ballad that SHINES with everything a song should have; powerful yet sometimes horrific imagery, romance, disillusionment, loss, sadness, defeat, triumph. In just under ten minutes, it is a song that evokes more than some BOOKS do. And songs like this don’t come into my life, or anyone else’s, often enough. In that song, there is a line, “the lake was a diamond in the valley’s hand”. I’m not even sure Carol Shields could ever write something so incredibly beautiful.
No matter where in the world I am, were, or will end up in my life, whether my life ends tomorrow or ninety years from now, there will be records, seemingly following me around on my journey through everything. Records will both pick me up and bring me down, they will be heard on high, they will be six feet underground, they will provide me with the food that my soul needs for essential, basic survival. They will remind me of my most cherished memories and they will guide me into the future, providing me with with wisdom and whirlwind romance, whispering to me sweetly, proving that the world isn’t a horrible place. They will be sweet to me, unconditionally so. They will be strong for me and weak for me when my strength and weakness fails. Records have the power to do all of these things and they are, I think, the most powerful things in the world.
Thank God for records. Their transformative power is the one constant in my life, and life in general, that I can always, always, always rely on. Without records, without music, without lyrics, my life, life around me, would be empty, would be nothing.