Locating the Gratitude: When Music Finds Us

dearcompanion-smA few years ago, a congregant named Gilah, who has made appearances on the blog several times, gave me an album called “In the Cool of the Day” by Daniel Martin Moore. It is an eleven song masterpiece, offering some of the most inventive, yet respectful arrangements of hymns that should be in any bluegrass artist’s repertoire. If you can’t play the blue, you don’t get the grass.  I have listened to this album nearly every day for three years.

I believe music finds us. I believe this as a musician who is primarily a picker and a singer. It has sometimes taken me 20 years to really learn a song because I simply wasn’t there yet to do anything but imitate someone else’s version. As an aficionado, I believe music finds us. I had to get to Art Blakey though Theolonius Monk. It couldn’t have happened any other way. And I believe music finds us as a minister, as a follower of Jesus, as a servant of love. The purity of music, stripped away from the business that tries to co-opt and codify it, is akin to the first breath of oxygen we take extra-womb. It is new, exciting, frightening,  life-giving.

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. A lot. Music has to be part of the writing process, in no small part because of my tinnitus. And there is lots of music that will not work. But a few weeks ago I purchased DMM’s album Golden Age. I had the same reaction to it as I did to Sufjan Steven’s album Carrie and Lowell. It overtook my life. Granted, having bee-dee means that I pretty easily become obsessed with things. But this experience is different. You know, how albums become in your mind a representative of a time in your life? A song comes on, and you start to tell a story? Or you are with friends you’ve had for decades, and the mere singing of a songline gets everyone laughing and singing along? Those kinds of albums.

But only for yourself. Albums that have touched you so intimately that only you can really understand what it means.

Today, the blessing, the gift has been two-fold. All the amazing messages from all of you who are thinking of me as I mark the 15-year anniversary of my brother’s suicide. The second, the album “Dear Companion” by Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore.

Sollee is a cellist, as is my dear, dear friend Matt, who named his eldest son after me. So there is emotional connection already, and I’m clearly a fan of DMM. But this album has really helped me today. I can’t go any deeper than that right now–it has been a long day on an already taxing anniversary–but from the opening song, I’ve felt less lonely. Less displaced.

I’m seeing the blessings today, even amidst the pain. Only music has that instantaneous power.