Looking At Love: A Musical Story

It was about 8:30 on a recent Saturday morn. Breakfast having slid down my throat 15 minutes earlier, I was in position on the living room sofa where I was thumbing through the newspaper, absentmindedly twirling the handful of hairs on my head into poor facsimiles of ionic columns, and listening to the radio. In other words, per usual, I wasn’t doing much. But that’s the way I often like it.

The radio station generating tunes in my house was WXPN, the stellar music provider from Philadelphia that has sparked me to compose any number of stories since my blog’s inception in April 2015. I’ve given XPN a ton of free publicity on these pages, but that’s a-ok. They deserve it.

WXPN likes to keep things mellow on much of Saturday and Sunday mornings. Appropriately, they named the show that airs during those hours Sleepy Hollow. You ain’t going to hear anything by Albert Ayler or Public Enemy or The Sex Pistols on the Hollow. James Taylor and Billie Holiday and Conor Oberst you will. Nice and easy does it, as Frank Sinatra once sang.

And that’s fine with me. And with my wife Sandy. We’re of the sort who like to ease slowly into the day. Sleepy Hollow is the proper conduit for such.

There I was, then, having constructed two unstable ionic columns and working on a third, when a lovely song caught my attention. A few numbers later another beauty made my eardrums sigh. And, it being my lucky day, a third tune, sweet as it could be, soon entered my living room. I’d never heard the songs before. Right away I suspected that I was going to write about them.

The songs in question are Cold As Canada, Time Will Tell and Love Had To Follow. Paul Kelly, Gregory Alan Isakov and Ron Renninger, respectively, are their composers and singers. I’ve given each song repeated listenings on YouTube since that fateful Saturday morning and have not lowered my estimations of their qualities. They are real good works of art.

I think these songs grabbed hold of me because of their sonic similarities. Each is spare in instrumentation, and each singer handles his words gently. Plenty often that formula results in sappy drivel, but not in the case of the Kelly, Isakov and Renninger opuses. And what I realized, after first hearing them, is that they concern themselves with the most powerful and basic of human emotions, and the one that I’d guesstimate about 75% of the non-instrumental songs ever written either touch upon or are fully consumed with.

Sisters and brothers, we’re talking about love.

Yeah, love. I’m not exactly issuing any news bulletins when I say that love can be as present as air, as elusive as a yeti or as slippery as a shapeshifter. It might be hot, it might be tepid, it might barely register a reading on the Celsius or Fahrenheit scales. What can you say? . . . Love’s usually complicated.

We get three differing discussions of love in my Sleepy Hollow songs. Cold As Canada, tender and sorrowful, an ideal vessel for Paul Kelly’s nasal, Dylanesque voice, is about a gal whose love for her guy has faded a whole lot. Unhappily cold, she’s leaving him, knowing that, as Kelly writes, there’s “no good way to say goodbye.” There isn’t.

Cold As Canada, which comes from Kelly’s 2012 album Spring And Fall, is a straightforward and humble work, its melody clean and pure. Kelly, a gent of 62 with a four-decades-long career in place, is a major star in his native Australia and can rock vigorously. But rock he doesn’t on this song or on quite a few others in his large oeuvre.

Now, I’m a sucker for a waltz, especially one with an unusually beguiling melody. Which means that Time Will Tell doesn’t want to give up occupancy in my brain. If there’s a lovelier, more wistful tune out there, I’d eat my hat if I owned one. And you know what? A few days ago I almost rolled off my bed when I heard Time Will Tell in a Subaru television ad. Huh? How did Subaru come across this song? Whatever, I’m glad that what I imagine are decent bucks have landed in Isakov’s pockets. It’s a struggle for most musicians to pay the rent.

What we have in Time Will Tell is a lyric open to interpretation. The words are seductive and vivid, but somewhat cloudy at the same time. Blowing the clouds away, however, I’ve decided that the story concerns a couple, two good folks who have been together for a long time and, as good folks sometimes do, are wondering if their common path is separating. It might be, but not too seriously. Their love is destined to get back on track. “Time will tell, she’ll see us through.”

Time Will Tell, from 2013’s The Weatherman album, is not dissimilar to much of Isakov’s output. He’s a folkie at heart, a mystical one who has attracted a lot of fans and has sold a lot of tickets. At 38, he’s two decades into his career and seems to have found a good, solid path to mosey down.

What, then, of Love Had To Follow? This is an easy one to decipher, even for the likes of me who couldn’t get the gist of Horton Hears A Who and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The song is all about love at first sight, a love that lasts forever. Really, it’s that simple. I promise.

Unlike Kelly and Isakov, I’d never heard of Renninger before the Hollow brought him my way. He’s one of those guys who has been around forever (his music career began in the mid-1960s) but has never come remotely close to becoming even a wisp of a household name. But he’s still at it. Love Had To Follow is found on The Man Who Became A Song, his album of one year ago. If I owned a hat, I’d tip it to Renninger’s perseverance and love of music.

Over the centuries, hundreds of thousands, probably several million good songs have been written about love. I imagine that hundreds more were composed while I penned this article. Love . . . it makes the world, and the music biz, go round.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article)

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40 thoughts on “Looking At Love: A Musical Story

  1. MELewis November 19, 2017 / 3:06 am

    I find we are so overwhelmed with music content in our Spotify world that it is difficult to pinpoint the things we actually want to listen to. Thanks for these perfect weekend morning discoveries!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. joyce hamilton November 19, 2017 / 8:02 am

    Time will tell was the only song l knew. Always enjoy the clicks !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alhenry November 19, 2017 / 10:46 am

    Ha-ha, we share an OCD with songs, lyrics, moods,emotions that borders either on the sublime or the lunatic. Totally hear you about easing slowly into the day–we cherish the same at our house. As for love songs with a punch to the viscera, IMO can’t beat Billie Holiday doing “All of Me.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 19, 2017 / 1:39 pm

      Hey there Tanja.
      These songs came to me by chance, you could say.
      There’s so much enjoyable music out there, it’s very amazing.
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Glen available November 19, 2017 / 2:12 pm

    As an Aussie, I can definitely attest to the fact that Paul Kelly is regarded as something approaching a singer/songwriter legend down here in Australia.

    And Malcolm Young from ACDC – another Aussie connection there too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 19, 2017 / 2:34 pm

      Hello Glen.
      I’ve never seen Paul Kelly in concert. Turns out that a few months ago he played a 400-seat theater not too far from where I live (I’m in the Philadelphia suburbs). I wish I’d been paying attention and gone to that show.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sniderjerry November 19, 2017 / 7:55 pm

    Hi Neil – As a wise man or maybe it was a woman, I don’t know for sure, Anyway, I heard someone say and I agree – “No matter what the question is, love is the answer.” thanks for the tunes and great essay. All the best, Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ken Dowell November 19, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    I saw a Gregory Alan Isakov as a warm up act a few years ago. Have long since forgotten the headliner but have been listening to Isakov’s music
    ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 19, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Hello Ken.
      I’m going to try and catch him the next time he passes thru my area.

      See ya’ —

      Like

  7. Apple Hill Cottage November 19, 2017 / 9:19 pm

    Lovely songs — all. Except it’s a shame that a song sounds familiar because I’ve heard it on an advertisement… Subaru or not. You’re right though–I hope he got paid well. I’m a sucker for waltzes too. Thanks for sharing your finds.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. greenpete58 November 20, 2017 / 9:09 am

    Discovering new songs is one of life’s little joys. Don’t know the other two, but I may have heard Paul Kelly. “Cold as Canada” is a great title. Also great is your line “absentmindedly twirling the handful of hairs on my head into poor facsimiles of ionic columns.” That’s a keeper!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2017 / 10:06 am

      Morning, Pete.
      I’ll get those columns in better form one of these days!
      See ya’ —-

      Like

  9. Alyson November 21, 2017 / 8:11 am

    Hi Neil – Nice post. I ended up naming my blog after the Bacharach and David song Alfie which starts off with the line “What’s It All About?” – If you listen to the song all the way through they come to the conclusion that everything in life is ultimately down to that old chestnut “love”. Why so many songs are inspired by that very subject no doubt.

    Like the sound of your radio station – Over here we have a show called Sunday Love Songs which airs around getting up time. A great way to start the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2017 / 12:25 pm

      Hello there.
      You know, I think I’ve mentioned WXPN in 10 or more of my stories. You might want to give them a listen online. Very eclectic programming.
      Thanks for stopping by, Alyson. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2017 / 6:55 am

      Hi CB. On the radio, have you heard a syndicated live music show called Mountain Stage? Kelly was on it a week or two ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead November 22, 2017 / 12:46 pm

        i have a couple older cds, compilations of ‘Mountain Stage’. Didn’t know it was current. Will check around for sure. I watch ‘Bluegrass Underground’ which is very good. Thanks for that.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. andrewcferguson November 22, 2017 / 2:22 am

    Unfortunately still have to go to work to only had time to listen to ‘Cold as Canada’ so far, but – great spot, Neil! Dylanesque indeed, and I’m a sucker for a bit of subtle electric guitar, not to mention a moothie solo…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2017 / 6:58 am

      I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve read that the album on which Cold appears is very good.
      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Still the Lucky Few November 22, 2017 / 11:42 am

    “Cold as Canada” caught my eye as I read through your post. As usual, I loved it! But, Sheesh—we DO have summer here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2017 / 2:00 pm

      Hello Diane.
      I know — a few years ago I was in Montreal in July, and it was hot as blazes.
      Thanks for dropping by.
      Take care.

      Like

  12. Aunt Beulah November 22, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    I was unfamiliar with these songs, Neil, But now they have become mine as they are all what I like to listen to, though in Kelly’s song I mentally replace Canada to Craig Colorado. Thank you for bring both the artists and their songs to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Christy B November 27, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    Ah, the power of music. I was at a Pink Floyd tribute concert this past weekend and was caught up in it. Your post takes me back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. C C Cedras November 28, 2017 / 7:31 am

    Cold As Canada plays as I write this small thank you note. As always, you’ve found some wonderful pieces for us. All three resonate, but Time Will Tell and CAC really haunt — for me. I’ve heard TWT on the Subaru ad many times, but you don’t get the sweet guitar solo in the ad, and I was enchanted. I don’t know how many songs have caught my attention in commercials that I sleuthed around to download (thank you, Google), but it surprises me that I hadn’t yet bagged Time Will Tell. With your keen ear, I have it now. Thanks, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The Artist's Child November 30, 2017 / 6:12 am

    Three beautiful mellow songs. You really know how to pick the good ones. And you’re right. Paul Kelly is a legend here, especially in Melbourne. Great to hear “Cold as Canada” as it has been really hot here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 30, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Hello there. PK passed thru my area a few months ago. I missed the show but hope to see him one of these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Imelda December 8, 2017 / 10:20 pm

    I enjoyed listening to these songs, especially Cold as Canada and Time Will Tell. I think they have the more similar instrumentation and rhythm. They were perfect companions while I was doing my chores – the songs are not intrusive and they let me be. In a way, they seemed like old friends hanging out with me on a lazy afternoon. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 9, 2017 / 7:12 am

      Hello Imelda. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I like the way you describe the songs as being old friends.
      Take care —

      Neil S.

      Like

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