Fall is Like a Country Music Song

3 Min read

Music and memory

Norman Blake, Colter Wall

Poetry for Emergencies

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I’m listening to Colter Wall, titles like Corralling the Blues, Sleeping on the Asphalt, and The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie.

I’m a late-comer to new music. You know, there’s so much music, from youth, from parents, from friends, from my husband, from his parents. From children. Then there’s music from the stage, from long-dead Europeans, and all the songs of our lives. Cradle to grave, the eras and the people we meet, the stars who sing, and the tunes of the times.

Songs inhabit a place in the psyche, deep down and further than we know to go. When I hear A Boy Named Sue, I see my dad’s hands, his fingers wrapped around the neck of his Martin guitar. The curl of his lip and his teeth. He didn’t have much of a voice, but he could remember verses and pick the melody and the riffs. Music runs deep.

Not a sound from the pavement / Has the moon lost her memory? lines I played in my youth of Andrew Lloyd Webber, a force even on the Kimball spinet.

If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady. Right back to my first dance with my husband, our wedding song.

Ellmenreich’s Spinning Song on the Model B and my children whirling and whirling in the nearly empty room of a new house, slowing and dropping to the ground at the end, then rising like zombies off the floor with a second, now third, now fourth ending.

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New England fall draws leaf peepers and poets. The broad-leaf trees, the rapture of summer, grown over narrow roads, street signs once unseen. They come for the brilliance and fire, yellows and golds, with embers brightest at the close.

And it’s a feelin I have known/ Since before I was grown. I’m howlin’, corralling the Blues. Colter Wall

Summer ends for the mighty oak and the humble hawthorn. And, the child remembers the seashore as the leaf slips by the window. Fall is the first lesson in loss.

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My father brought music into my life, country and bluegrass ditties like Under the Double Eagle and Wildwood Flower. End of summer stings because he died on a Wednesday in September, on my daughter’s birthday. A bittersweet day of joy and sorrow.

In a dusty basement box I found tunes he had recorded. Listening to them in the kitchen some time after he died, his voice surprised and soothed me as it boomed from the speakers. When he got to Norman Blake’s classic I stopped to check my ears. My father sang this version.

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D.o.D’s Walking Cane

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Hand me down my wallkin’ cane
Lord hand me down my walkin’ cane
Hand me down my wallkin’ cane
I’m a gonna leave on the morning train
My sins, they have overtaken me

. . .

Mylinh bought herself a car
Oh Mylinh bought herself a car
Mylinh bought herself a car,
But her car won’t go that far.

My sins, they have overtaken me

Mark, he got himself a boat
Ah Mark he got himself a boat
Mark he got himself a boat
But that boat won’t even float.

My sins, they have overtaken me

. . .

Well if I die in Tennessee
Lord if I die, in Tennessee
Boy if I die in Tennessee
Ship me back by C.O.D.,
My sins, they have overtaken me

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What?! I played it again and I played it again. And I laughed through the tears. Then I played it for my husband, Mark. Dear ol’ Dad–or D.o.D. as he would sign his letters–was gone from this world, but his music remains.

Fall is like a country music song.

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Follow this link to listen to Norman Blake on the guitar, singing Hand Me Down My Walking Cane

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FOOTNOTES

Music and poetry references

*A Boy Named Sue was a poem written by Shel Silverstein and put to song by Johnny Cash.

*Not a sound from the pavement / Has the moon lost her memory? is a line from the stage song, Memory, from the musical Cats. Lyrics adapted from T.S. Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night.

Half-past three,

The lamp sputtered,

The lamp muttered in the dark.

The lamp hummed:

‘Regard the moon,

La lune ne garde aucune rancune,

She winks a feeble eye,

She smiles into corners.

She smoothes the hair of the grass.

The moon has lost her memory.

Start of fifth stanza of T.S. Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night, last line used in Cats song.

*If I were a carpenter / And you were a lady / Would you marry me anyway? / Would you have my baby? is the first verse of If I Were a Carpenter, written by Tim Hardin, made popular by Bobby Darin.

*Here is the sheet music for The Spinning Song, a one-hit wonder for Albert Ellmenreich (1816-1905). I am not sure where I first learned of this simple composition for the piano, an intermediate level piece. Most likely I came across it during my children’s piano studies and the numerous volumes they played from. My father drove me to piano lessons weekly because he wanted me to learn to read music and play piano, something he did not get to do as a child. He played guitar and piano by ear. The catchy tune’s title refers to a spinning wheel, given the composer’s lifetime. I did the same as my father, in turn, taking my children to piano lessons weekly throughout their lives, and in spite of protests. Like the seasons, the people and stages of life come and go, but the music remains. Schools dropped music early from the curriculum, grade school on the recorder and middle school in the orchestra. When my children wished to dropped piano, I informed them that music was part of their studies and had they been successful in their petitions, they would have as easily dropped reading or mathematics.

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Oct 2, 2023

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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