Thursday, March 22, 2012

Like an Old Friend (my review of 'The Raw Sessions')

One of the things I miss about my life in Portugal is the fact that I experienced a lot of really good music there. In big venues, little clubs, smoky bars, cozy pubs and church halls to boot, I had the pleasure of live music. Recorded music was a big part of the years there, too. Our home was set up in such a way that we could enjoy music all day long. The little stereo in our bedroom was even set to wake us to whatever cd we put in. We had our favorites and they made waking up a good thing.

For whatever reason, the house here hasn’t leant itself to this kind of daylong music, and live music is very limited, indeed. Cleaning off my desk today brought me face to face with a cd I’ve long wanted to give some time to. Seeing Brian Houston’s The Raw Sessions under a pile of annoying papers made me kind of sad. The fact that I’ve had it for so long and never reviewed it just points up how different my experience of music is here.

Well, no regrets! Let’s get to it…

Houston’s The Raw Sessions is a nicely stripped back offering of voice and guitar, with the occasional addition of keyboard, drums or banjo. Medals and Memories opens us with story that seems written in war-torn years gone by, yet it feels timely as conflicts continue all over this fragile little world of ours. Perhaps because my daughter and I have recently completed weeks of study covering the American Civil War, I see Blues and Greys as I listen to this sad little farewell song.

In a typical Houston turnaround, the next story Girl I Nearly Married makes me laugh. Yet in the midst of the joking around, there’s a sweet line that sobers me. Revealing a peek inside the shared world of post-cancer, he sings, “So tonight I lay my head down beside the lover that I choose. We talk in our language; ever since the sickness we’ve been real, real, real, real close…”

And from that light-hearted song, we make the natural progression into Race for Life.

“Somewhere down deep inside her lurks a ghost that terrifies her robbing her of hope and truth and peace. And it whispers threats of danger, stalks her like a hidden stranger, something she can sense but she can’t see. She sighs inside, she turns her head so he don’t see her when she cries. Hold on, girl, be strong girl. Don’t you know that you that you don’t walk this road alone? And fear rides you but hope drives you. This race for life’s the longest race you’ve ever run.”

OK, can you think of anyone else who is singing about what it feels like to have battled cancer and to live with the fear that it might return? This is real life, yet the music is soft and pretty, affirming that life is good in the midst of all its realities.

Your Side of the River is a tribute to adult kids still missing their parents who have passed. “I know now you believed in me; I hope now that I’ve earned it.” Dad is gone but Houston continues to learn from him.

Lay My Anger Down is a short song with a big message. “Well a man can be a father, a son or a friend. Yes, a man can be the shoulder that you cry on for defense. A man may leave his mother when he plays the lovin’ game, but a man should lay his anger down and own the pain. I have wandered, I have travelled, I have roamed this land. I’ve been to seek my fortune but returned with empty hands. I’ve sought release, expected peace but all of that can be in vain, if I can’t lay my anger down and own the pain.” Self-revealing and vulnerable, we learn much from Houston’s honesty.

The album continues with a nice cover of U2’s In a Little While, as well as a couple of more story songs. I’m always drawn to the songs of devotion, probably because I’ve been married nearly 30 years now. Some favorite lines include, but are not limited to…

“The road that we travelled is not straight or smooth, but in my head I’m still the teenage kid who fell in love with you…”

And the cute...

“My girl’s a sweetheart. My girl’s a prize. There’s no one but me in my girl’s eyes.”

Weaved through a Houston albums, you’ll always find declarations of the grace God has for us. I love the sense of warm welcome and promise of fun conveyed in Captain’s Table

“Tonight I’ll take my seat at the captain’s table where the band is playin’ sweet melodies. Yes, tonight I’ll take my seat at the captain’s table where everybody’s welcome and all the drink is free.”

And I especially love the promise of being known and named. Bye My Love says,

“At the closing of the day there’s a love that knows your name.”

Today I’m thankful for a chance to revisit a part of me that I’ve been missing—the girl who loves music created with good guitar and quality lyrics. Spending time with The Raw Sessions really was like being with an old friend.

No comments: