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Some day I’d like to take a walk with you.

February 23, 2009

In 2005, I made a cd for my friend Kate. I named the cd Palindromes because I thought the date I worked on it was the 1st of October. Turns out it was actually the 30th. I was only confused for a second, but when you’re armed with a permanent marker, a second is all you need. As I have to utter way too often in life, I blame the wine. I don’t believe I ever explained to Kate why the cd was named Palindromes, so she probably thought it had a much deeper meaning than it did. How foolish of me to reveal the man behind the curtain after all these years!

It had been my original plan to include only female singers on this cd, for I had only recently started to realize that I didn’t dislike them all. Selections included Mirah, Rilo Kiley, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleater-Kinney, and Azure Ray.

Ultimately, however, I couldn’t decide on enough songs to make a full cd, so I gave up and just put pretty songs on there, sung by either men or women. I made the cd on a Sunday afternoon, drinking that bottle of wine which made me lose 4 whole weeks of my life, while figuring out the critically important order of songs and writing up a little tidbit on each selection. I remember what I wrote about Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble” – that it was the last song to make the cut (though it was not the final track on the cd), and I still wasn’t even sure I was making the right decision in including it.

Well, as you can probably guess, or maybe you simply know, of course I made the right decision to include it. Within weeks, I was listening to that song on repeat, especially the opening lines of the second verse. Not just great words, but set to a great rhythm. (I wanted to use the word cadence there, but Wikipedia reminded me that cadence refers to the chords or rhythmic pattern that CONCLUDES a phrase.)

This little indulgent trip into the lost Sundays of years past was simply to say this: I saw Ray Lamontagne perform Saturday night. We headed down to Bristol to see his sold-out Colston Hall show. And he was better than I could have ever hoped.

Priscilla Ahn opened for him, and she was adorable. The place was packed, and she came on stage armed with just her voice and guitar (okay, she also had a vocal looping machine, harmonica, and kazoo), and she grabbed our attention quickly and easily. Her stories between the songs were adorable as well. A snippet: “All my life I’ve dreamed of living in a tree. So I wrote a song about it. It’s called…All My Life I’ve Dreamed of Living in a Tree.” See? Cute.

And the cover of her EP.
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See? Cute.

Before her last song, she gave the requisite appreciation speech, thanking us for allowing her to play for us and thanking Ray for including her on the tour and promising us that he would shortly come on out and “blow your minds.”

She did not lie. After a half hour of her simple but beautiful one-woman melodies, Ray’s band’s opening notes were almost jarring with their confidence and depth. I immediately looked at Michael and said, “He’s good.” Sometimes, that’s all you can say.

But now I have more to say. He opened the show with Michael’s favorite tune, “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a Shame).” I hold that song dear to my heart because it’s one of several amazing songs out there with my nephew’s name in it, which should make it easier for me to indoctrinate him with my taste in music – maybe once he’s past his teething stage.

Ray played for about an hour and a half, mostly with his band, but he did play two or three songs alone. Priscilla came out for a couple of numbers to sing a bit of back-up. Very minor parts, but she harmonized well, and solidarity between acts is always kind of touching.

Michael asked me my favorite moment of the night, but I couldn’t decide. I loved the way Ray sang, “in the pocket of my blue jeans,” during his rendition of “Jolene,” which he performed without the band. And I loved the slide into that last verse of “I Still Care for You.”

The hours grow
Heavy and hollow
And cruel as a grave

Any change in tempo that inspires me to use the word “slide” is usually my favorite part of that song. And the rule applies here as well.

So maybe it was one of those moments. Or maybe it was the way he closed the show with “Gossip in the Grain,” so that it was as if he were singing us a farewell lullaby, sending us off to face the cold night with a feeling of warmth and contentment.

Ah, it was all so pretty.

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