Going Home Again

Distant piano… slightly jazzy or bluesy… yet there are hymns and bar songs too. Lots of reverb; the pedal is getting a lot of use. Linford Detweiler's solo piano CD, I Don't Think There's No Need To Bring Nothin' is playing quietly as the evening sun slips into grey cloud again. I'm wondering how I come to be listening to this? If it's very different from the Eno 'ambient CDs I had on earlier? [Eno has taken to producing his own CDs and selling them through his website: check them out if you like his more minimal work] And wouldn't my mother like this? It's not very rock & roll, is it?

So, I'm getting old! I still like free jazz, electronica and the weirder end of rock, some drum & bass [is it still called that this month?], but I find myself also listening to quiet, tuneful music; sometimes the kind of stuff I used to moan about my mother playing when I was little, and then condemned as a teenager. Sometimes I play the actual stuff I used to moan about… Is it just nostalgia that now makes me like The Seekers' 'The Carnival Is Over'? And I mean like - it's full-throated angst gets to me every time. Don't give me any of that ironic cover version stuff that Nick Cave does, I want The Seekers' version. I remember my mum listening to their final concert on the radio, and taping it onto a little reel-to-reel recorder. The band were in tears on the radio, I scoffed loudly, my mother told me to shut up and carried on listening. Every so often she'd listen again. Now it's in my record collection.

And so are Flanders and Swann. Admit it, you know 'Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud' don't you? Everyone knows that one. But the real gems are elsewhere in the triple CD box set up on my shelf. There's a sad ode to the obscure railway stations that got shut down in the 60s railway closures; and a hilarious non-PC song that 'translates' Arabic sounding wails into a longwinded, shaggy dog type song about a caravan train in the desert. There are iguanas, gnus and wombats. A sloth that, well, is slothful. And, of course, the gasman who causes a week's work on his Monday call, the end result being a cyclical song that might never end.

But it does. Just like childhood. As I get older I accept more, admit to what I enjoy, sometimes choose to re-listen to those memories. I can't be bothered to push myself all the time. Time seems to have made so much pop music better, has worn away the critical vitriol I used to be proud of.

Linford's CD isn't, of course, anything to do with my childhood or my mum - I just thought she'd probably like it; it certainly isn't 'hip', 'radical' or 'experimental' in any way. Linford is the lead singer and main composer of Over The Rhine, an American indy-band who have been going for years. They self-produced several CDs, got signed to IRS, dropped by IRS, went back to producing their own CDs, and have now been picked up by Virgin. Their last CD Good Dog Bad Dog has been reissued with a slightly different running order and a new song replacing two old ones [unfortunately one of my favourites has been axed!]. It's a set of melancholic, intelligent, acoustic-based songs that touch on funk and jazz as much as rock. They are friends of, frequent support act to, and auxilary members of, The Cowboy Junkies, if that gives you a comparison. I find their music quite magical, their lyrics puzzling and complex, bemusing and inventive.

And Linford's CD? Produced originally as a CD insert into a book of photos by Michael Wilson [who designs their covers, and many other famous people's covers too], it's a half-hour excursion into half-heard tunes, dust spinning in sunlight; jazz-tinged memories; nostalgia and uncertainty. It strikes me as original yet totally unoriginal because of its associations. But there's nothing ironic or postmodern about it. It's simply a group of eleven solo piano pieces; take it or leave it. I love it, though it has pushed me deeper into my blue mood today.

And what brought that on? Well, I've got a poem under way [these things take ages to finish, so don't hold your breath] sparked off by the realisation that, on a visit to see my mum in her small and crowded West London house, I was wearing the black corduroys I kept when Dad died a few years ago; and was sleeping in my Mum's bed, as she moved to make room for my partner and I, with the baby next door. And outside the shops and pubs I knew had disappeared, the main road at the end of her road was more like a motorway, and everything was changing, me included. And I didn't want it to, I wanted everything to stay the same and, and, and…

But everything does change, though maybe music is one thing that doesn't. I cling to it, even when it comes with specific associations and events, scenes or images. Linford's new CD has none of those yet, but it lets me wander and work through my moroseness, suits the rain and grey clouds we've had all day.

©Rupert Loydell 2000