Author: Campbell, Bruce

What song(s) make you shush people around you?
In the old Seinfeld show, there was an episode where Elaine Benes was dating a guy who loved the Eagles song “Desperado” so much that he would insist on being able to hear it in peace, stopping whatever he was doing to savor every note. Elaine took this to mean he was deep and sensitive.

Maybe I’m deep and sensitive too, because there are songs like that for me. Music has always moved me, and there were always some songs (and parts of songs) that I thought were so perfect that listening intently to them allowed me to get completely lost in the gestalt of the moment.

Generally, it’s not just the song itself, but a particular rendition that I find absolutely irresistible. But some songs, either through their melodies, their chord changes or their lyrics, are inherently transcendental to me. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” works for me on both levels. The Platters’ version is sublime, with a soaring lead vocal that completely complements the dramatic melody. And the cleverness of using smoke in the eyes in two – yes TWO! – metaphors in the same song is amazing. (For those of you keeping score at home, the song refers to lovers being blinded by the smoke of the flames of their love, AND their eyes crying from that smoke when the flame dies – wonderful stuff!).

The songs that affect us this way often change over the years, and it can be embarrassing to look back on the songs that really floated your boat way back when. Or maybe it isn’t embarrassing. Can we all agree that Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” is a masterpiece of performance and songwriting?

OK, OK, I know – this is a Bluegrass page and there are plenty of Bluegrass songs that can carry the same effect. The original version of Bill Monroe doing “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’?” is a song that I will stop what I’m doing to savor whenever it comes on. The hairs on my arms stand up when it hits that first chorus “Sweetheart of mine, can’t you hear me callin’?” Oh man, to me, that’s exactly what Bluegrass should sound like. Unless it’s Jimmy Martin doing “Sunny Side of the Mountain” – I just LOVE those whooping vocals Jimmy does!

I know of lot of folks that have some specific Ralph Stanley or Stanley Brothers songs in mind that absolutely make their day. Red Allen’s voice does that for me, too. He could sing the Yellow Pages and I’d love it. That touch of gravel in the voice, the twang and those wonderful whistling sibilants – I love it, and I try to sing it too. (I fail to nail it of course – there’s only one Red Allen).

This is what makes real music fans I think. When a song or a sound reaches you, and touches you so deeply, you can spend a lifetime trying to chase that feeling. It’s a worthwhile pursuit, I think.
Posted:  11/1/2007

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