Quick warning – this post formatted really oddly and I can’t figure out how to fix it. You can read by scrawling the arrow at the bottom but if that’s too much work, no worries – I’ll catch you soon enough in the next post!
In the last two weeks, S. and I have seen four of our favorite artists in two different concerts. At the end of January, we traveled to Philadelphia for a long weekend inspired not by the stunning winter weather Philadelphia is famous for but rather for the coming together of two of our favorite artists, Patrick Sweany and Sonny Landreth. But I don’t want to talk about that concert until I talk about the more recent one we attended here in Pittsburgh, an acoustic gathering of John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett. For purposes of full discloser, Lyle Lovett is the odd man out, here – S. likes him quite a bit and I don’t mind popping in a cd of his now and then, but in the continuos soundtrack to our lives I don’t really think he belongs. John Hiatt, however, introduced us to Sonny Landreth and Sonny Landreth introduced us to Patrick Sweany, and as S. jokes someday Patrick Sweany will introduce us to another band and we will find ourselves in central Ohio, spending all of our vacation money to watch bands that will never cross Rolling Stone’s radar. So I’m not going to talk about Lyle Lovett here except to say he was very very good and very very funny and better than I could have hoped.
But John Hiatt? There. Are. No. Words. I still want to see him in a non-acoustic setting, because he didn’t really rock out the way I imagined he would, but his voice and his guitar playing were absolutely out of this world. And if you think as you are reading this that you haven’t heard John Hiatt, let me assure you, you have. Songs he’s written include “Have a Little Faith in Me,” “Are you Ready for a Thing Called Love” and “Memphis in the Meantime.” I don’t even remember the first time I recognized Hiatt as himself but I believe it was the year we lived in Wheeling, West Virginia and what he offered – what all three of these incredible musicians offer – to me – is the possibility of escape. I want to move into their music, to live there forever. For quite some time I considered Hiatt’s “Angel” my theme song although now, upon reviewing the lyrics, I’m not sure why:
They called you tookie in high school, you didn’t mind it too much Kind of nice to have a nickname, kind of like they thought about it You wish that it stuck with you, didn’t have to trade it in on Some crazy lover’s pet name, wind up hurtin’ so much It must have been the way he sings it, as though the song's narrator understands everything there is to know about love and hate and joy and disappointment. Each of Hiatt's songs come across like a novella, and when I listen to him I am inspired, as a writer, to pour everything - EVERYTHING - into my novel, as he does with his songs. Loneliness, loss, unbridled love, spiraling depression, new love, old love - it's all there. I've spent time on this blog already writing about the genius that is Sonny Landreth, and while I'm sure many of his songs will appear here throughout the years on Music Lyric Monday, I'm not going to write anymore about him today except to say anyone who can work in the word "reverie" into a song deserves high praise. Instead, I want to write briefly about Patrick Sweany. S. and I saw him for the first time a few years ago here in Pittsburgh and I think we both fell head over heels for his sound, which is seriously, honestly, not like anything else I've ever heard before. Um...okay. This is why I don't write for Rolling Stone, actually. It's hard to find the words that don't just gush uncritically, but then again, I am NOT a music critic and I guess if I want to gush, I can. What Patrick Sweany does, like Hiatt and Landreth, is create music I want to move into - I want to escape my perfectly fine life and hang out inside his songs. And if it doesn't, oh well. All three of these artists inspire me to write, to use my own creativity to create worlds where love, hate, joy, sadness, romance, sex, loss and loneliness exist, and while new musicians and bands continually join the ranks of the Ones I Love (most recently, The Hold Steady, James McMurtry and The Heartless Bastards, 2 of 3 of which are thanks to my cousin), these are the artists I most often pop in when I am at a loss in my writing process. They all remind me, in very different ways, about the emotions that inspire us to action. Listening to music is an inextricable part of my writing process and I really don't think I'd be spiraling towards the end of my novel and my self-imposed March deadline if I didn't have Hiatt crooning about crossing muddy waters, Landreth beckoning me to dance barefoot in a Louisiana bayou, or Sweany mooning over the curly haired girls who make him cry. What the best writing achieves, I think, is the ability for one to lose oneself in an entirely different world than the one they inhabit, and all three of these song writers achieve this. I fear they may be better writers than I will ever