Ribbon of Darkness

The idea for this blog has been on my mind, and my to-do list, for quite some time now. I don’t remember when I first started to think about songs that spoke to or alluded to depression but I do know it has been germinating for many years. I have been making playlists for as long as I can remember collecting music. First, it was mix tapes on cassette. I still have a few examples collecting dust someplace around the house. It evolved into mix-disc with the advent of CD which in turn became digital playlists, which is where we are now. Perhaps some day in the future we will be able to do neural implants and download directly to our memory banks but for now, we will be content with YouTube and iTunes. There will be two themes running through this blog: depression and not depression. Some songs are about depression, some are about healing; all of them have been a part of my journey.

  1. Ribbon of Darkness by Marty Robbin

    I picked this song for the title, not so much because it is a depressing song or even a song about depression but because of the excellent title: “Ribbon of Darkness”. It is the perfect description of the road that I walk many, many days. It has twists and turns. The ribbon of darkness goes up hills and down into valleys. It cuts through swamps and cuts through deep dark forests. I have bridges that cross valleys that seem bottomless. This highway circles mountains and occasionally scales peaks into crystal clear skies where we can see for miles and miles and can even see the direction forward. And then it winds its way down the other side and continues winding its way toward its destination, which is a story for another day.

    “Clouds are gathering over my head
    That chill the day and hide the sun
    That shroud the night when day is done
    Ribbon of darkness over me”

    There are days when I feel like my head is in a cloud, a very dark and angry cloud. Swirling, unsteady, ever changing, and full of rain. The rain can be good or bad. It can be a deluge that drowns everything, not good. Or it can be a spring shower that brings hope and new growth. It can be a cold and lonely place, that chills not only the day but also the night and deep to the soul. It can feel cold and lonely even on a sunny day with loved ones. The ribbon of darkness cuts through life events like a highway through a park. It gets us where we are going at the expense of some beautiful scenery. Ribbon of darkness over me, where once the world was young as spring, where flowers did bloom and birds would sing, a ribbon of darkness over me.

  2. Everybody Hurts by R.E.M

    When your day is long And the night, the night is yours alone When you’re sure you’ve had enough Of this life, well hang on

    Don’t let yourself go ‘Cause everybody cries And everybody hurts sometimes

    Sometimes everything is wrong Now it’s time to sing along When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on) If you feel like letting go (Hold on) If you think you’ve had too much Of this life, well hang on

    Everybody hurts Take comfort in your friends Everybody Hurts Don’t throw your hand, oh no

    Don’t throw your hand If you feel like you’re alone No, no, no, you are not alone

    If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

    Well, everybody hurts sometimes Everybody cries Everybody hurts sometimes And everybody hurts sometimes

    So hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on Everybody hurts

    The lyrics say enough, I don’t think I can add anything to them. Listen to them, not just the song, really listen to the words and what they say. Good stuff, thanks, R.E. M.

  3. Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

    Ah, look at all the lonely people
    Ah, look at all the lonely people

    Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
    Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
    Who is it for?

    [Chorus]
All the lonely people
    Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
    Where do they all belong?

    Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
    No one comes near. 
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
    What does he care?

    [Chorus]
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
    Nobody came
    Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
    No one was saved“

    In a previous chapter of my life, I was a pastor. Is this blog the words of a sermon that no one will hear? Do I care? Does anyone care? All the lonely people, where to they all belong? Where do I belong? Where do I feel like I belong? Who are the people that make me feel like I belong? On the surface, this song evokes desperation and loneliness but it gives me hope as well, I am not alone in my feeling of loneliness. There are other lonely people. There are Eleanor Rigby’s and Father Mckenzie’s all around us. Do I care? Yes, I do.

  4. Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd

    Not a song this time, a whole album.
    It has been well documented and spoken of many time that the founding member of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, was a deeply troubled person and that the other members of Pink Floyd drew inspiration from him. Some of the songs were very flattering such as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, from a different album are direct references to Syd Barrett.

    Incidentally, I think crazy in that song is a slang for cool, not insanity.
    Some of the songs from The Dark Side of the Moon:

    Speak to Me (Mason) 1:16 “I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands…”

    “I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like the most of us…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad…”

    I believe that I was mad long before I was formally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I have been buried in the darkness of life many times and always wrote it off as having the blues or a hangover or a side effect of whatever drug I was using at the time.

    Blaming it on the alcohol and drugs worked well until I sobered up. The darkness was still there. I was riding an emotional high after gaining sobriety and rediscovering my faith in God in 1989 but like all highs, it didn’t last. The first few years had a lot more high points than before but I could feel them eroding and the highs weren’t quite so high and the valleys started to get deeper and longer.

    ‘…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad.’

    So true, it is very hard to explain depression to someone who has never walked that road. It is very difficult to articulate what is happening in my head and there are times when a song or an album explains it better than I or any doctor or medical dictionary could. This is such an album. It speaks of what it is like to be mad (depressed) and it gives hope and joy because ‘everything under the sun is in tune.’ – Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon.

    I listened to this album a lot over the years. I bought it in 1972 when it first came out, on eight track believe it or not, and over the years I probably bought 10 more copies. I never tired of listening to The Dark Side of the Moon. It spoke to me deep in my emotional well. It spoke to me of hope and of despair. It buoyed me when I was down and encouraged me when I was up.

    Brain Damage (Waters) 3:50
    The lunatic is on the grass.
    The lunatic is on the grass.
    Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
    Got to keep the loonies on the path.

    The lunatic is in the hall.
    The lunatics are in my hall.
    The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
    And every day the paper boy brings more.

    And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
    And if there is no room upon the hill
    And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    The lunatic is in my head.
    The lunatic is in my head
    You raise the blade, you make the change
    You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.
    You lock the door
    And throw away the key
    There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

    And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
    You shout and no one seems to hear.
    And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

    “I can’t think of anything to say except… I think it’s marvellous! HaHaHa!” And I think the lyrics to this song are marvellous and the music is insane in a beautiful way. ‘Rearrange me ’til I’m sane.’, ‘You shout and no one seems to hear.’,’I can’t think of anything to say.’ And I can’t think of anything to say except that this is a go-to album for me anytime of the day or night, happy or sad, sane or insane. A masterpiece of sonic psychiatry.

    Time; Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06
    “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

    Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

    So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
    Racing around to come up behind you again.
    The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
    Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

    Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
    Plans that either come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines
    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
    The time is gone, the song is over,
    Thought I’d something more to say.”

    Hanging on in quiet desperation, what a perfect line of poetic inspiration. Hanging on, that is the important part. Yes, sometimes there is desperation but I want to focus on hanging on. Hanging on to everything good, hanging on to hope, hanging on to faith, hanging to… Sometimes it is just enough to hang on, even if it is in quiet desperation. Some music just plain feels good. Some go to music for me: Supertramp, The Beatles, The Lost Dogs, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, The Call, Nick Cave, mewithoutYou, Pink Floyd, Portland Cello Project, any K-tel record pre 1985 or so except Disco, Oscar Peterson, Terry Scott Taylor, Sam Phillips, Tom Waits, … OK, so I like to listen to lots of music. I guess that kind of is the whole point of this blog. Music is good. Music makes me feel good. Listening to music when I am depressed helps ease the pain. Listening to music helps keep the darkness away. Sharing music with others is good too. I like playing and singing with others. I like listening to a great piece of music with someone else who appreciates it as much as I do. Music makes the world go round.

    Ribbon of Darkness

Corb Lund Concert Review

I don’t remember the first time I saw Corb Lund play live, must have been back about ’06 or ’07. It was in Churchill Square, or the Concrete Polygon as we like to call it. I think it was for the food festival, anyhow, I was working at Hope Mission at the time so Valerie and Joel met me there and we walked over to Churchill Square to catch his show. Some of my co-workers were already listening to his music and I knew they had good taste in music so I thought it prudent to hear what they were listening to and raving about so much.
My suspicions were confirmed, they did have good taste in music. Corb Lund and his band delivered a crowd-rousing show that left me wanting more. So I went to the store and bought two CD’s: Modern Pain and Five Dollar Bill.
The Music resonated with me. It spoke of things I was familiar with and we humans do like the familiar even when it is new.
I had been raised on country and western music. My Dad was a guitar player heavily influenced by Hank Williams and the Carter family with a little Flatt and Scruggs thrown in. In fact, I didn’t know there were other kinds of music until my teen years when I was introduced to rock and roll. Since then I have been on a life-long journey of new musical discoveries, everything from ABBA to Zappa but always retaining a love for country and western music.
Corb Lund was a breath of fresh country air in an era when most country and western music was barely discernible from pop music. Corb Lund knew his musical heritage and didn’t stray too far from the template.
On February 6th at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, henceforth know as the Jube, I was able to revisit the music of Mr Lund and it warmed my soul. His music has changed, not a lot, but it has matured and grown with him. His lyrics are the icing on the cake for me though. In his early albums I tapped my toes along to “We Used to Ride ’em”, and I really used to. I could relate. I used to ride ’em, not for very long, but I did. I was good for six seconds but that isn’t enough in a rodeo. I used to ride ’em though and Corb Lund gave me a song about it. And then “The Truck Got Stuck”, I was there. The only difference between a 4 wheel drive and a two wheel drive is that the 4 wheel drive gets stuck further in. I got stuck more times that I care to remember, even had the Hutterites pull me out once. I laughed as a flood of memories washed over me in tune to “The Truck Got Stuck”.
Corb Lund delighted me and many others that February evening with a well-rounded show of both golden oldies and new tunes. His backing band were amazing, being an envious guitar player wannabe I was particularly impressed by Grant Siemens. He blew me away with his guitar, mandolin and lap steel playing. Now I want a baritone guitar, thanks a lot Grant. Another highlight of the evening was a guest appearance by Geoff Berner singing “That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby”. A seriously hilarious song that resonated with me from the years that I worked in the inner city with the homeless, marginalised and wonderful people that live there. Mr Berner sang with The Hurtin’ Albertans backing him up and it was good. After the concert, Corb Lund was in the lobby signing and smiling but there was a road weariness evident in his face. He was polite and gracious but stopped short of being in the moment, I understand. It’s not an easy life and after working hard for an hour and a half he probably would have enjoyed a quiet room with a view instead of groupies and autograph hounds. I am in the latter bunch, an autograph seeker. He was polite enough to do two signatures for me and with a third on a record that I bought at the merch table, I left the Jube a happy man.
If The Corb Lund Band, The Hurtin’ Albertans or The Smalls ever play your town I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to hear them live. They are good on vinyl at thirty-three and a third but even better on a stage in your hometown (bonus if it’s Corb Lund’s hometown as well).

Yukon Blonde Concert Review

I enjoy seeing a band multiple times in different venues and different situations. Yukon Blonde is my most recent multi-view band. When I last saw them they were opening for Hey Rosetta! at the prestigious Francis Winspear Centre for Music, this time they were headlining the significantly less formal Starlite Room. The informal bar setting fitted the band’s songs of young love and desired girls nicely.
As much as I enjoy the musical stylings of Yukon Blonde, the portion of the evening I most anticipated came in the form of the opener, On An On. Hailing from Minneapolis, formed from the dissolved band Scattered Trees, their spacey Indie Rock sound captivated my ears since I first heard Give In. Their fantastic set contained a number of my favourite songs (setlist found below) and sounded almost exactly the same as their recordings. Despite the sound being slightly muddled at the beginning it was a very strong opening set.
Yukon Blonde took the stage shortly after 10 pm and quickly electrified the room. Their Indie yet still radio friendly songs are quickly recognisable and make it easy to join the hoard of fans belting out lyrics. Since this was a casual Saturday night concert I stuck around after the show to meet the band and attempt to snag a setlist and tour poster (I was successful). The band was very accommodating, inviting us backstage in an attempt to locate all five of their members and offering to sign my poster and setlist.
The concert had a certain unapologetic Canadian air to it. Not only does the band come from British Columbia and reference a territory in their name, but during the slight break between the main set and their encore performance of “Stairway,” the audience added, “please” to the standard chant of “one more song” in a bizarre display of politeness. As the concert also coincided Rebecca’s Birthday the band lead an uncoordinated audience in a rendition of Happy Birthday.
All in all it was a very good concert, having seen the headliner twice I would recommend seeing them for a lively Indie concert. If you get the chance also check out On An On as I thoroughly enjoy their music. Yukon Blonde is currently touring Canada with On An On.

Current Favourites

As a first post, I thought that it’d be fitting to give a brief overview of what I listen to. It turns out this is a much larger task than I initially predicted. With well over 400 albums in my iTunes library, a few hundred hard copies, and a few dozen concerts in my repertoire there’s a lot of music to choose from. I don’t tend to stick with one genre for very long though I do have a few preferred genres; Rock, Folk, and Jazz seem to be consistent favourites of mine with a decent amount of independent pop mixed in for good measure. My last attended concert was for the rock group Arkells and my next will be for Corb Lund in support of his new country album. My listening isn’t always erratic as I do have a few consistent favourites that I will likely always go back to. Radiation City, Billie Holiday, Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists top my most played lists as of right now. The below playlist contains some of my favourite songs at the moment. This list will probably be different by month.

Joel’s Favourites

Weathered Intro

Music and why it matters, that sounds like a good place to start. Music is a wide open topic and my taste in music is equally diverse. As I write this I am listening to a jazz playlist, earlier today I listened to Holst’s “The Planets” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. Yesterday (a good song), I had Bob Dylan and Mountain back to back. There is a lot of music that I like and it is hard to define what I like but when I like it I know it. I also know what I don’t like and the reason I know is that I’ve taken the time to listen to it as well. So why does this matter? Music is powerful. This isn’t simply my humble opinion, this has been observed, documented, studied, contextualised and had a profit wrung out of it over and over again. Music moves us to tears, puts a bounce in our step, brings back memories (mostly good) and so much more. I use music to relax, to calm my nerves and to cheer me up. I can put on mellow background music to help me focus on work or lively music to put energy in my routine, be it work or play. People use music to promote ideologies and people use music to herald victories. Music is ingrained in our lives, much of the time without us even being aware of it. Car horns are pitched as well as the chimes on microwave ovens. The birds sing in the trees and the Muzak invades our shopping trips. Music is everywhere and that means it matters. I grew up listening to my Dad play Hank Williams and I watched my son grow up while we played Hank Williams together. It’s in our family. It’s in our DNA. It’s literally everywhere and it matters. I love music. I love to listen to the intricacies of Oscar Peterson on piano. I love the craftsmanship of the Beatles. I love the passion of a hurtin’ cowboy song. I love the teamwork in an orchestra. I love music. And I want to share that love with others, hence the Weathered Music website and our dialogues on music. All kinds of music. What we are listening to now, what we have been moved by in the past. The songs that we play on guitar, the songs that we play with others and on other instruments. The concerts that we go to and the moments in our lives that are touched by music. While we may not agree on what we like or do not like in music we can agree that there is a lot of great music and we want to share our passion for music with you. Welcome to the musical world of Weathered Music.