¡Vivir Con Miedo Es Como Vivir a Medias!


Another post from the Rocket City Bloggers Year-Long Blogging Challenge: “This week we get quasi-philosophical…what is your favorite quote?”

As I’ve no doubt mentioned ad nauseum here, I’m not a fan of favorites. To everything there is a season, right?

But if I had to pick a favorite movie, I’d go with “Strictly Ballroom.” It’s a small indie flick, but it’s the first film by Baz Luhrmann, who went on to do the Leo DiCaprio “Romeo and Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge” and the new “The Great Gatsby.” I first saw it when I was in college, reviewing movies for The Daily Mississippian, and immediately fell in love with it.

It remains a favorite, and I’ve inflicted it on countless people over the years. It’s been interesting to me how my thoughts on it have changed, however, in the almost 20 years since I first watched it. The artistic reasons I appreciate it remain evergreen — the timing, Luhrmann’s brilliant use of music, the color, etc. The story reasons … well, the older I get, the more the main characters just strike me as impetuous kids than heroes. But, most importantly, the movie still remains fun, and as long as it does, I’ll keep watching it.

But that wasn’t the question, was it? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

So if I had to pick a favorite quote, which, again, I don’t want to have to do, I’ll go with one from my favorite movie.

“¡Vivir Con Miedo Es Como Vivir a Medias!”

Roughly, “A life lived in fear is like a life half lived.”

To be sure, part of my affection for it comes from the context: I like the movie, and I like the line in the movie. But, even so, it’s good stuff, you know? Not a bad thing to remember from time to time.

Possibly The Worst Book Tagline Ever?


Let me just note for the record, the tagline on the cover for Kevin O’Brien’s “Unspeakable reads “Words can’t describe what he does to his victims.”

Um …

Given that this book is nothing but words, that does mean the book can’t describe what happens in it?

“I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I can’t, so we’ll just have to skip ahead now.”

“And then, the killer did something. Let me just tell you, it was really bad. I can’t describe how bad, but, like, seriously, really bad.”

Who advertises that they’ve chosen to tell a story in a medium in which they’re incapable of telling it? Maybe next can we get an audiobook of mime?

OK, I’m done. Carry on.

Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral


The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.


Song Challenge Week 24 — A Song You Want Played At Your Funeral

Just this once, can I pick two?

First off, I want “I’ll Fly Away.” But, like, a really rollicking version of the song. I want people singing along and clapping their hands, and moving their feet. I want it to be the celebration it should be. I couldn’t find a version that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so instead here’s this.

And by and large, that’s the tone I would want for my funeral, upbeat and celebratory. But, if I could be indulged one somber moment, I also want the Scotty’s Magic Bagpipes version of Amazing Grace. ‘Cause that would just be awesome.

Song Challenge Week 23 — A Song You Want Played At Your Wedding


The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.


Song Challenge Week 23 — A Song You Want Played At Your Wedding

“Witness to Your Life,” Lori McKenna

Have you ever noticed that I really like hedging on these things? I mean, like, almost every single one I start by saying how there’s not really a real answer, but I’ll provide some sort of context in order to give some sort of response. How many times have I just said, “It’s this”?

So, anyway, a song to play at my wedding.

I had a wedding, once. The music was pretty traditional wedding-y music. I remember more the song that wasn’t played. Nicole really wanted to play Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One” (we got married all of 13 months after our first date. But it was a long 13 months, I guess) but I was deadset that there would be no country music played at my wedding. Oh, sure, she wanted the pop version of the song, but, dang it, Shania Twain’s a country singer, and it’s not going to happen.

In the last few years, I’ve been to concerts by Lady Antebellum a couple of times, Sugarland a couple of times, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, etc. etc. etc. But it was something then I wasn’t willing to budge on.

If I had it to do over again, I might handle it differently.

If I had it to do over again, I would handle a lot of things differently.

I’ve thought a few times since then I was going to have another wedding. There was the time we were going to have a Braveheart wedding at an outdoor mall. Or the time I was going to perform the service.

My favorite idea is still the one where I send out invitations asking people what they want to do in the wedding so that nobody was offended. The problem with that one is that it requires someone else who also wants that wedding.

So, getting back to hedging, the song kind of depends on the wedding, you know? I don’t know that the same music would fit all those weddings.

But to pick something to honor the request: Lori McKenna’s “Witness To Your Life”

It starts with a wedding — “Someone was crying and the bells ring” — and is still one of the most beautiful promises of partnership I’ve ever heard — “YOu should never have to be alone, someone will always call you home…

“… and I will be that witness to your life.”

Song Challenge Week 22 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Sad


The latest entry in my 30 Day Song Challenge weekly project.


Song Challenge Week 22 — A Song You Listen To When You’re Sad

“Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Will Hoge

A song I listen to when I’m sad? Well, what am I sad about?

Historically, this one is a very situational thing for me. If I’m sad, changes are I’m sad about something. And that something is frequently loss. And often in those moments, I can gravitate towards songs that speak to what it is I’m sad about losing.

In college and thereafter, I couldn’t listen to 10,000 Maniacs’ “How You’ve Grown” without crying. I had a baby brother growing up that I rarely got to see living a state away, and that song drove home what I was missing — “Every time we say goodbye, you’re frozen in my mind as the child that you never will be again.” I came home each time to a different person than I left.

As my marriage fell apart, another 10,000 Maniacs song got played a lot (my music library was less diverse back in those days), “Jezebel” — “I’m not saying love’s a plaything; no, it’s a powerful word, inspired by a strong desire to bind myself to you.”

In the wake of the divorce, there was Lori McKenna’s “If You Ask” reminding me of all my shortcomings. And in the years since, in other situations, there’s been Rascal Flatts and Sugarland and more Lori McKenna.

And then, there are the songs that lift up instead of pulling down.

In younger days, it was as simple as singing to myself. “It is well with me soul.”

The first songs I listen to that came to mind, I actually just used a few entries back, “All Will Be Well,” by the Gabe Dixon Band.

So to avoid repeating it, I’ll go with another one that occupies a similar emotional landscape for me, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” by Will Hoge. (There’s an Eli Young Band cover that’s had more success, but I still prefer the way I first heard it.)

Hope isn’t always the road out of heartache. Sometimes it’s the road into heartache. But it’s still worth hoping.

Mourning And Night


So the Rocket City Bloggers are doing a Year Long Blogging Challenge, where there’s a prompt for each week of the year. Since I’ve been remiss in blogging lately, I missed the first three prompts, but I figured I would do something for this week’s: “What is your favorite joke/cartoon?”

If I had more time, this would have a long explanation about the history of the cartoon and an aside about the joys of collaboration. Instead, I’ll just say my friend Lain is brilliant and here’s a cartoon we did:

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Review — Lori McKenna, “Massachusetts”


lori mckenna massachusetts

Two years ago, singer/songwriter Lori McKenna released an album titled “Lorraine.” The title — her given name and that of the mother who died when she was young — captured the personal nature of the album. McKenna here was telling stories that were intimately her own, baring emotions that were clearly heartfelt.

The choice of title for McKenna’s latest release, “Massachusetts,” might seem a little more opaque at first; the album doesn’t make direct reference to the state. But in choosing to name her sixth full-length album after her home, McKenna is making a similar statement to the one made by “Lorraine” — if the last album were personal to Lori McKenna’s life, this one is deeply personal to Lori McKenna the artist.

“Massachusetts” is the work of a singer/songwriter at the height of her powers. Appropriately enough, in “Massachusetts,” McKenna is truly at home. The album is a celebration of who she is as an artist.

A prolific songwriter, McKenna is also a prodigious collaborator. Incredibly talented on her own, she loves the shared experience of writing with others who share her passion. With “Massachusetts,” she embraces that, including contributions from favorite writing partners.

After three “Nashville albums,” McKenna comes back home with the production of “Massachusetts,” as well, which was produced by long-time collaborator and fellow Massachusettsian Mark Erelli in a barn studio.

The result strikes a middle ground between her last two full-length albums. After the polished, major-label Nashville production of “Unglamorous,” the often beautifully sparse “Lorraine” highlighted McKenna’s distinctive voice. “Massachusetts” features arrangements that are richer and fuller than “Lorraine,” but still have a rawer edge than “Unglamorous.” The music here provides a complement to McKenna’s vocals while still allowing her voice to soar above them.

And, of course, McKenna is very much at home in the songs she’s written for this album. McKenna loves creating songs that make her listeners feel something — a task for which both her voice as a writer and her singing voice are ideally suited — and her favorite way of doing that is through gut-wrenching heartbreak.

“Massachusetts” showcases just how adept McKenna has become at doing that in a variety of ways. While both the opening track, “Salt,” and “Make Every Word Hurt” draw from the demise of a broken relationship, they evoke very different emotional landscapes — the plaintive heartache of “Make Every Word Hurt” is a far cry from the rousing pride of a woman leaving a man not “worth the good advice written on a dirty bathroom stall.”

Love and loss take a different form in “Susanna,” the tale of a widower making his way through the world when “there’s nothing down here for the left behind but a bed too big and too much time.” In McKenna’s hands, there’s a beauty even in the sadness, a sweetness in the sorrow.

Home does get a nod in “Smaller and Smaller,” a wistful tribute to a community whose spirit is diluted in the inevitable march of progress but not quenched; a story being played out in towns around the country.

There is light in the darkness, sometimes peering through the cracks and sometimes on full display. On those occasions when Lori McKenna writes a love song, it tends to be every ounce as raw and genuine as her sad songs. “How Romantic Is That” — which, like “Make Every Word Hurt” has sat on a shelf for years awaiting release — is one of the best examples of that, incredibly honest and incredibly touching.  And then there’s “Better With Time,” which offers a similarly unvarnished celebration of the joys of a shared journey of years together, the comfort that comes from the sort of familiarity that just seems to belong.

And ultimately that’s not an inapt metaphor for the album; wherever you’re from, at least some part of “Massachusetts” is going to feel like home.