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Random Shuffle – Randy Travis, Ryan Adams, Curtis Mayfield, and Cat Stevens

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"Forever and Ever Amen" – Randy Travis
From Always and Forever
Download the MP3

I have an uncle, he's one of those uncles. He's never been married. He lived with his parents until they died. He frequents a local bar enough that when he arrives the crowd cheers him on Norm-like, etc. I make him sound pathetic there, and there is some of that to him, but really he is a very nice man and has always been a very good uncle.

As a kid, he would periodically take me and my cousins to various places. I can remember riding up to Tulsa to go to the zoo or we'd go see the local minor league baseball team in the summer. The best trips were when we'd ride up to Coffeyville, Kansas and see where the Dalton gang robbed some banks and died in a shoot-out. Hot stuff for a kid. My uncle would take us to these places, and tell us all kinds of stories there and back. I supposed he did this because he had no children of his own, and we became like surrogates.

We'd ride there in his little car and listen to the country music station. He'd often tell me that no matter where you went in this country you could always find a country and western station. Even in the smallest of places. In my 32 years of living, I have found this to be true. Randy Travis was my favorite, and I'd sing this song with all the conviction a 10 year old can muster.

I'm older now, of course, and so is he. We no longer go places together, and I suppose that's the way it is to be. I have nephews now, and though I no longer care for baseball, and zoos tend to make me uncomfortable I think that once it gets warm again, I'll have to take them out and perhaps listen to a little country music.

"The Hardest Part" – Ryan Adams
From Jacksonville City Nights
Download the MP3

On his very peculiar blog, Ryan Adams recently announced that he is quitting the Cardinals, and perhaps music. It seems he is ill, or diseased, or something (nothing comes easy on that blog) and it is keeping him from enjoying music. As it comes from Ryan Adams, who on his best days could never be what one called stable, there are still question marks hovering over the truthfulness of this. Likely as not he'll quit for awhile then announce a come back and make some startling, remarkable music.

In the wake of the announcement me and some friends have been pondering what this will actually mean, and how much we need Ryan's music. Need is the right word there. Man, I can't speak eloquently enough about what music means to me, nor so many others. I can say there have been many the night where I've laid on my old couch, earbuds plugged into my iPod and sat there in the dark weeping along to "Dear John" or "Two" or "Sylvia Plath."

Ryan turns my insides into weakness like no other artist around. His music sticks to my gut and stays. He has given me joy, and pissed me off, and broken me forever. It has been a long week where my own mortality has stared me in the face a little too closely. To see something that means so much to me coming to an end so soon, hurts. All lives must end, all music must stop playing. Here's to hoping he feels better, and finds there are some more songs inside him.

About Mat Brewster

  • Glen Boyd

    I feel your pain Mat. It’s been a couple of decades since I lost my own grandma (“nana”), but I remember all of it well — the awkwardness in that hospital room, and finally the loss itself.

    More recently, I got laid off (no, not from Blogcritics, but from the job that actually fed me and paid the bills), and yeah, it’s pretty bleak out there. I also feel the same optimism about Obama. I supported him in the election, and I still feel like he could be one of the great ones…potentially an FDR or a Kennedy.

    He does have a hell of a mess to clean up, and anybody who expects Christ-like miracles overnight is kidding themselves though. Still, I feel a lot better with him driving the boat than I would have if it was the other guy. And like you, I’m scared to death to think what happens once the severance package and the bank account (which was already damaged by another lay off last year) run dry. Scary shit.

    As for Ryan Adams, once he sobers up, detoxes, or whatever he has to do this time around, I’m sure he’ll be back. I mean the guy can’t go two weeks without making another new album, right?

    Great article.


  • Mat Brewster

    Thanks Glen. I have high hopes for Obama, but I realize there is only so much a president can do.

    I’m sure Ryan will be back at some point. I’m just glad he’s going to finish this tour since I have tickets. I just hope his “retiring” doesn’t mean the show will suck.

  • El Bicho

    well done