Thursday, July 19, 2012

A return to Renaissance music and Owain Phyfe

I have been listening to bluegrass in the car for most of the year. Jim rotates the CDs in the car and they are almost always bluegrass CDs (note: I am the one who drives the car 90 percent of the time, but he's the one who chooses the CDs, just so you know... and also to let you know, I didn't object because I want to be supportive and explore that direction especially since so many of our mutual friends are bluegrass fanatics). He did put a Solas CD (an Irish band) in the car for a short time, but that disappeared. When it was there, I found myself gravitating toward it the most.

Dominating the CD player was Tony Rice, Chris Thile, Alison Krauss and Claire Lynch (who I like a lot -- I particularly like her Woods of Sipsey -- but, let's face it: that song is NOT bluegrass like so many others of hers are). Anyway, I like bluegrass even if I was gravitating more towards songs in the CDs that are not in the genre. I felt I had finally been converted since I was fed a constant diet of it and did not change out the CD player for artists I am more naturally drawn to.

But something funny happens when you are on a constant diet of a particular kind of music: you stop remembering other kinds of music. Indeed, it defines what you listen to and what kind of person you are. For all intents and purposes, I was becoming a bluegrasser even if I could not perform or even jam effectively in the style. All that Jim and I talked about was bluegrass artists (when it came to music of any kind). It particularly dominated conversations when he joined a bluegrass band and was constantly going to bluegrass jams (while I stayed in the house most of this year disabled with various illnesses, medical problems and crises, my identity as a performer now virtually wiped out and in the past). Indeed, there was nothing else to talk about but bluegrass.

Then for a long trip, I suggested to Jim that I might like to break up our listening with something other than bluegrass. So I grabbed an Owain Phyfe CD on the way out. When the car player rotated around to the CD, I noticed a sharp contrast with the bluegrass CDs, something that caught me off guard. The first cut was "Maid in Bedlam" and almost immediately I started crying. Then the whole CD was choking me up. It seemed to touch a part of me that I had not felt for so long in listening to all of the bluegrass CDs: my emotions, my yearning for something old and timeless. Indeed, I felt like I was "home again", even if briefly.

This happened two weeks ago.

Today I found out that Owain is in the hospital. This brought up another round of emotions: life is so short; we are here for such a short period of time. He has made a lot of people happy with his music and there are so many people on facebook wishing him a speedy recovery. He truly found within himself a talented and loved troubadour after working for so many years in the auto industry. Indeed, he has an irresistible delivery for Renaissance music. And it is not just people who have seen him live or on the radio who he has touched; it is also people who walked by my house, people who are normally accustomed to hearing rap and hip hop (and maybe a little country and teen pop now and then too), who suddenly stopped in their tracks and asked, "Who is that? That's quite beautiful."

Normally, a series of crises will take anyone off track, especially if it concerns health. I have gotten used to being taken off track now, of having lost parts of myself, of being distracted by absurdly small projects, floundering around with different directions because I might very well be incapacitated again, and in trying to keep the status quo so that I can make a living off of what products I do have on hand. But in the back of my mind when I do feel well, I am asking: What do I do now? Where do I go? Am I still a Renaissance musician and singer? Does anyone miss me in that role? Do I belong to the genre that Owain Phyfe inhabits or something else? Is there something in me that I have not yet discovered? Is this my true calling or is it something else?

These are all hard questions to answer at this point. But they were all brought up in my mind when I listened with new ears to Owain Phyfe.  

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