Author: Alvira, Marco

True Confessions

I hate singing. That was awkward, wasn’t it? Yet somehow, it feels strangely soul cleansing, getting it out in the open like that. There just might be something to this Confession stuff.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love singers. This afternoon, I was enjoying listening to my daughter’s blues/rock/R&B band practice in the garage. She was just tearing it up on vocals. I loved every second of it. But still, I hate singing.

Any of you who have picked with me know I mean what I’m writing. I’ll find any excuse to call out an instrumental when it comes my turn in the circle. Good singers amaze me. Great singers will have me laying face down, prostrate in the dirt. However, as for me engaging in the act of singing, it leaves me with the sweats: Will I remember the lyrics? (In most cases not) Will I be on pitch ? (Yes, all 12 of them in the scale)? Will my tone be good? (Only if one enjoys the sound of a circular saw binding on a hard knot of wood). Yup, I really hate singing.

--My inner voice and common sense are pleading with me to stop this column here and now. Too late, I’m riding this car with failing breaks right to the cliff’s edge. —

I’ve really looked hard and long at what makes a good singer. There are the singers who are just obviously great: Patty Loveless and Rhonda Vincent have great pipes and range. Steve Gulley and Ricky Skaggs can hit notes only audible to canines. Eric Uglum can just flat out sing. Dailey and Vincent form to make one super human voice. Mac Wiseman…well, he’s just perfect with his everyman’s voice (but not every man can sing like that!). In listening to these artists and many others, I discovered one important fact: I have nothing in common with them.

It isn’t tone that makes a singer. Just a while ago, I was on Youtube comparing the different versions of Jimmy Brown the Newsboy. Lester Flatt sang out the side of his mouth and swallowed his vowels, yet I hung onto his every syllable. Norman Blake was nasally and almost off pitch, but he evoked tears from somewhere deep inside me. While starting this column, Del McCoury’s “Ashville Turnaround” came on the radio. Has a man ever sung though his nose more than Del? Man I love that song. I cranked it up on the speakers…as I do every time I hear him!

There are definitely intangible talents and skills that make great singing. Well, at least they are intangible to me, for they have remained far from my grasp. How does one explain the unbelievable talents of Hazel Dickens and Willie Nelson? Neither possesses the classically defined “great voice.” They often sing ahead or behind the beat. Their tone is sometimes akin to an old rusty gate hinge, but what a soulful hinge it is!

At last Spring Campout, Lloyd Butler raised that Uggs-booted foot of his in my direction and told me to lose that little red song binder I used to carry. Actually, I would intentionally leave it behind in the car as excuse not to sing. Lloyd had something to say about that too, but decorum won’t permit me to type it here. That jam was an epiphany for me: I had to learn song lyrics, and maybe even learn to sing. A year later, I can croak out about three-fourths of the lyrics to all the songs I’ve tried learning. I’ve learned that a strong voice doesn’t equate a loud voice (my wife told me that recently). My metronome seems to malfunction every time I commence to singing. I’ve heard that tone will come with finding my own voice; my voice is playing hide-n-seek. I just really hate singing.

Fortunately, our Association is blessed with fine voices: Cliff, the Zunigas, Rainy, Jeannie, Yosef—I could fill another 500 words just naming all the great singers. It occurs to me that we ought to capture all these wonderful songbirds on record/CD and sell it as a fundraiser. Nashville would have nothing on us…we’d sell a million. Just keep me away from the project…my voice is a record breaker. Did I mention that I hate singing?

Posted:  4/4/2010

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