Wednesday, September 03, 2008

old blue chair

I've been rather surprised, shocked really, to find myself listening to a lot of Kenny Chesney lately. My appreciation for country music in general has grown since moving out this way (I blame the prevalence of trucks) and several times now the local country station has been my company through a long day of sewing. I think it is, in part at least, because country music plays into my love of long stories. But it's a habit I fought long and hard.

My last year of university I roomed with Melanie, an ardent country music fan. We came to an arrangement that she wouldn't play country music when I was home on the condition that on Sunday mornings she got to listen to both hours of American Country Countdown and I wasn't allowed to make a single peep, comment, or annoyed-sounding sigh. I listened and, grudgingly, by the end of the year agreed that not all country music was bad. My friend Bryan made me a CD of the handful of songs I actually started to like. He titled it The Only Good Country CD. It has a lot of Alabama and Colin Ray. I still have it in my car.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to JRFM and was caught off guard by the haunting echos of "Better as a Memory". I was really surprised to hear that it was a Kenny Chesney song -- I thought he was all tailgating and beer. A little Googling later and I found that several other songs I liked were also his - "Don't Blink" and "The Good Stuff". Intrigued I headed over to iTunes and feel into a little song called "Old Blue Chair". It's unhurried and introspective and speaks of the need to look at life slowly. I particularly like the acoustic version. I was hooked.

It got me thinking about a conversation I had with a friend recently about how I buy almost all my music a la carte from iTunes now and rarely buy an album. My friend likened it to only ever reading a chapter out of a book and never sitting down to enjoy the whole thing the way the artist intended. Albums are whole entities my friend said, they lose something when you slice them up. I wondered if maybe this song would be from an album I should enjoy as a whole. With little research I found the CD -- Be As You Are: Songs from an old blue chair. I picked up a copy at Wal-Mart for $10.

It turns out this is the Kenny Chesney album no one likes. It's the one his management begged him not to make -- there's an apology to them in the liner notes. Yesterday it was my soundtrack for the drive home and I have to say my friend was right -- there is something about listening to an entire album. Old Blue Chair is full of quiet, lilting, ballads that taste of the islands and sound like the sea. I can see how this isn't perhaps the music that fills stadiums (Chesney, it turns out, has sold more concert tickets that anyone for the past 4 or 5 years) but it's lovely.

There's a line in one of the songs that says, "I don't remember what I think". Sounds like a pretty nice place to be. I don't have a ticket to the islands just yet, or an old, blue chair on the beach but this is definitely music to dream to. And if I can just find the place to put it, I do have a genuine Caribbean hammock, which I'm pretty sure is the next best thing.

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