There’s this song on the new Little Big Town album that’s a cross between "Crystal" and "Landslide". I discovered it how you find all great songs. When I wasn’t looking for it.
I was reading newspapers and magazines way past midnight on Felice’s dining room table. She was asleep. I haven’t gone to bed at the same time as my significant other since law school…and that relationship didn’t work out. I need that extra time, to cool down, to be alone, to catch up, to get my bearings in this world. And I get my bearings by reading.
I was catching up in the "Wall Street Journal" on pumpkin boating. Yup, growing giant orange globes, hollowing them out and even putting motors on the back, crossing icy waters, in this case far up north in Canada. And this song playing on my Nano matched the late night vibe perfectly, I had to play it again.
Used to be the music got me through my loneliness. Oh, I haven’t flown solo my whole life. Maybe I just don’t trust people to be there for me. That’s why I like contained environments so much. Like summer camp. Where people can get to know me over a period of time, the real me. And can’t abandon me.
Do you worry you might just say one thing, act one way and the rest of the world might disappear? I do. It inhibits me. I like to be my fully-realized self. I like to crack jokes. As well as be compassionate. And it’s these moments when I’m my real self that I triumph. But as one grows older those cohesive moments begin to evaporate. Or maybe it’s that I’m just not a joiner. As for working for the company… Not only do you lose your job, the whole company disappears. And too many mass gatherings are based on compromise. I’m not long on compromise. I don’t want everybody to be happy, I’ve got no problem with everybody being happy, but I pray at the altar of excellence. Too often making sure no feathers are ruffled results in a less than gratifying product, or experience. So I live in my own little world, in search of greatness. Not always finding it, not always creating it.
And I don’t know if it’s this Internet era or my age, but I can no longer make sense of the world. There used to be a list, a Top Forty, a structure. Now everything’s chaotic. I can’t take it all in. I end up rejecting so much. Because I don’t have enough time to get into it and understand it. And too often what’s being sold to me is constructed by those same build by committee folks, and I’m disappointed, and I swear off their wares for good. But I’m still hungry.
This leaves me in silence too often. The cacophony is deafening. I need a respite. But I’m desirous of fulfillment. And when I get a lead, when I find something, I DEVOUR IT! I want EVERY track that band has ever done. I only want to listen to them until I can listen no more. I don’t think the album has a future, but dedication to acts does. You have to get someone to buy into your culture. Once they’re hooked, they’ll buy everything you’ve got.
Not that it’s about money. It’s about the FEELING!
When I first inserted the new Little Big Town album in my CD player, I didn’t get it. The first track wasn’t a killer. Remember that old vinyl rule? That the first track on each side had to slay you? Maybe the rule doesn’t apply in the CD world, where you can program whatever you want. But I think you should worry less about pacing than quality. Just stack all your best tracks at the top. Sure, a song might flow better slotted at 8, but is anybody going to GET THERE?
The next song was the single, which isn’t burning up the chart, but I really like, "I’m With The Band".
The track after that, "That’s Where I’ll Be", blew my mind. It was what everybody buying the new Eagles album is going to expect. Something from "Greatest Hits Vol. I", not "II".
And really, the best song on the album comes next, "Evangeline". But I caught that on random, sitting in front of my PowerBook in my Nashville hotel room.
I always listen on random. Which, I know, undercuts my track listing argument above, but I’ve got to be able to contradict myself. I’m human, I’m not a robot. And I almost never listen to CDs. It’s just that I wanted to EXPERIENCE Little Big Town’s album "A Place To Land".
And the more I played the tracks, the more I liked the album. I came to realize the opener, "Fine Line", was a winner. My favorite kept switching. The album was unfolding. This is the experience you love, that you always e-mail me about. But it requires that you love the act, that you give their record a chance and that it’s good.
And "A Place To Land" IS good. The same way "Rumours" was good after the first Fleetwood Mac Buckingham/Nicks album. Even though the first one was better. Because something can only be new once, it can only be fresh once, you can only be surprised once. Then you’re along for the ride.
"A Place To Land" is not a surprise. It’s a step, it represents growth. The band has arrived, now where do they go? They’re established, it’s less about making an impression and more about making a fully-realized statement.
I was bitten by "Over My Head" first, on that Fleetwood Mac album of yore. And I love it. But not as much as I love "Crystal". Because I always trust my first initial feeling. "Crystal" is made for me. Listening alone, lost in an apartment in the avenues of Salt Lake. With thousands of dollars worth of ski equipment, but not a dollar in my pocket. Emotions, feelings, but no direction. I had to listen to "Crystal" and the rest of the songs on that album over and over to tide me over until I could see that I had to apply to law school, to get out.
And I wanted to drop out of law school. But love got me sidetracked, kept me from going back to Utah. Not that I knew what I was doing. I just listened to the records and I was able to move forward.
"To Know Love" has got good lyrics, but it’s the sound that hooked me. What do you do when you have more questions than answers? What do you do when life is as scrambled as a Brillo pad?
What I do is read. Try to get a grip. Knowledge is power.
But it’s also fulfillment.
Now I can take my music everywhere I go. I never travel without it. My Nano held my classics, and the tracks newly added to my iTunes library. It was my mezuzah. My baseball glove. My old Lange Banshees. It was something I could count on. It’s something I do count on.
It’s beautiful, but it’s what’s inside that counts. And what’s inside is treasure.
You won’t be able to buy this album until November. It might not be your kind of music. The odds of "To Know Love" being spun on the radio are almost nonexistent. But "To Know Love" counts.
So, when you get the opportunity. If you’re sometimes lonely like me. If you’re putting up a brave face, but conflicted within. Play it.
Don’t play it if you like those comeback Fleetwood Mac albums, like "Tango In The Night", you know, with "Little Lies".
Don’t play it if you have to fall in love with the player.
Play it if you want someone to drape a blanket over your shoulders, let you know that it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be all right.