Thursday, December 15, 2005

Then, Now, and Later...

"Though you're lonely, don't let that fool ya, nobody drinks alone..."
--- Keith Urban

I've always known country music had a penchant for writing songs about loss and death, but come on. This is getting ridiculous. They seem to be everywhere now. Or has it always been like this and I'm just now noticing? In any case, the ire of my first two sentences of this paragraph is in jest. It's actually been good for me to have songs to sing in my car going from here to there. The thing about country music, regardless of whether you listen to it all or if you are one of the millions of young people who have recently discovered Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and pretend that's all you've been listening to since birth, is what my fellow East Texan LeAnn Womack said at this years CMA's-- "If you listen to music that doesnÂ?t touch you or mean anything to you, listen to Country Music. We have songs that speak to you and songs that will touch you."

It really is about real life.

Below are my reviews for some songs that are out now.

1. Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today"
Kenny Chesney's childhood best friend died sometime in his late teens, and Chesney has made reference to it several times in his music and videos. I'm not a huge fan of his, but when he mentions this loss in song and in print I become a little more endeared to him. This song speaks of someone dying young and the pain that is felt by those left knowing the span of years should have been filled with new stories of their loved one.

Kyle died at 33, not 16, so a little of the wondering of "Who he'd be today," is irrelevant. He had kids, a career, a life, and a somewhat definite future. When asked in a recent interview "What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now," Kyle responded that he hopes he'd be pastor of UBC.

The thing that gets me every time I hear this song is not the main theme of the pain of wondering, but the pain of loss. The simple phrases "God knows how I miss you," and "knowing no one can take your place," are the words I verbalize daily.

2. Brooks and Dunn's "Believe."

This is really a song more about living than dying, but death is the lyrical impetus that moves you to the point. I don't really have much to say about this one, other than I like it a lot and it reminds me who I am, regardless of who I try to be (and not to be.) I've stopped looking for proof, I believe because I want to and because I've made a conscious choice to. (I wrote about this last year HERE.)

3. Gary Allan's "Best I Ever Had."

This song rattles my insides. It is by far the most deeply moving of all the songs I'm listening to right now. Gary Allan was always that guy that you knew his songs, but you had no idea who sang them. Before his "Tough All Over" album he was the singer that had the gritty voice and sang cute little ditties like "Nothing on but the Radio," and "Songs About Rain." And then last year his wifecommittedd suicide and left him a single father and a broken heart. Great artists take the whole of their lives and put it out there for people to feel, and Allan has done that here. Of course, I honestly wish this song wasn't so good, because of the pain that caused it, but I'm glad he recorded it. I imagine there was at least a small amount of whiskey in his system when he recorded this, and it is best listened to in the same manner.

Of course it feels weird singing "You're only the best I ever had" knowing he's speaking of his wife, but anyone wanting to personalize it knows it's not too far a stretch when singing it because, seriously, was there a better person in the world than Kyle?

"And it might take some time to patch me up inside
but I can't take it so I, I run away and hide
And I might find in time that you were always right
You're always right.
So you sailed away into a grey sky morning
Now, I'm here to stay, love can be so boring
Was it what you wanted?
Could it be I'm haunted?"

4. Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going."

Brad Paisley is the guy you knew in high school who everyone loved because he was so silly and witty, but no one really took seriously because they thought that was all there was to him. But the ones close to him knew different. If you weren't close to him, you are now in your thirties realizing that you missed his point. His simple, dry wit was trying to draw you into a deeper reality that says we are really here to know God in the most basic of ways, to learn to be with each other and to laugh at ourselves a little. If there ever was a Kyle Lake of country music, Brad Paisley is it.

When I hear the first few lines of this song, I'm initially repelled because I don't want to hear a Circus with Candy Corn version of heaven right now. There are other things about the song that makes mequeasyy, like Paisley's insistence that we not cry for him when he leaves. Come on Brad, I don't even know you but if you were to die I'd probably cry at least a little. It would not be healthy for your family not to cry at your passing.

But there are a couple of things that redeem the song. Like Kenny Chesney, Brad's lost a giant in his life, his grandfather. It was his granddad that bought him his first guitar and who gave him lessons and who is the reason he is who he is today. This is the first time this has been mentioned in one of his songs, and it is very heartfelt.

At the beginning, when you are about ready to give up on this song about heaven, something happens. Someone joins in harmony for the chorus and you realize Brad has enlisted one of the closest things we have to an angelic voice here on earth to help him out-- Dolly Parton. Dolly's presence takes me from being someone listening to a song to being a five year old kid again in a rural Baptist Church and actually FEELING for the first time that there is something beyond me and beyond all this I can touch and see.

I'm not sure what I think about heaven, which is what makes me hesitate with this song, but I love listening to it nevertheless. There are some wonderful phrases... "I'll leave my heart wide open, I will love and have no fear..." "all these questions I can't answer, so much work left to do..." "...I will shed the sins and struggles I have carried all these years..." and the one that makes me cry "...I will tell him how I've missed him, every minute since he left."

I was in a mood this morning and I watched the video for this, which made me break down. Check it out, I think you may enjoy it.


Here's to grieving well.

God, I miss him.

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