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Saturday, September 22, 2001

If getting back to normal is a sign of being a good citizen, I did my part this morning by cussing out the other drivers, just like in the old days. After all, there's only so many times you can let the good feelings allow you to bite your tongue when someone doesn't signal before they turn. People who turn without signaling are, in my book, lower than ... well, they're not that low, but they're pretty low.

This act of citizenship occurred while I was on my way to the movies. The Rialto is showing Down from the Mountain, the concert film by the musical artists featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Somehow, when isolated from the meandering plot of the original film, the music seems even more sublime. The musicians, however, are shown in the backstage segments to be down-to-earth folks sustained by humor and humility.

Music drives the action of O Brother, and the kinds of music represented have lifted the spirits of generations of people who sometimes had little to hope for. Bluegrass sounds to me like the Great Depression, and although it's the most prominent style represented in Down from the Mountain, it's joined by a little blues and a little gospel to produce a concert that speaks soothingly to anyone in need of comfort.

Are you supposed to cry at a concert film? I wept, and laughed, and at times felt chills running through my body over the soaring high harmonies and simple poetry of this music, and the direct, honest performances.

This is what I believe music does best. It engages the emotions at a time when facts are overwhelming. It eases the burden of a grim reality by creating an atmosphere where burdens are shared. I listen to music because it connects me with people who have something to say about the way I feel.

And it doesn't even need words. A sustained note from John Hartford's fiddle or a chord from Chris Thomas King's guitar can speak eloquently.

In fact, when I drove away from the theater this afternoon, I couldn't find it in my heart to yell at the stupid drivers who kept getting in my way. It had been the most peaceful two hours I've spent in two weeks. I was wondering if there was any news, but instead I tuned the car radio to the acoustic music program Our Roots Are Showing, on KRCB-FM. (Then I came home and watched CNN for awhile.)

pussywillow in early fall

Ah, but what is the most memorable part of Down from the Mountain for me? It's Emmylou Harris backstage checking her wireless device for baseball scores. It would beep and she'd look at it and say, "Milwaukee has a man on second." Who knew that the woman with the angelic voice was a baseball fan?

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Latest recommendations:

Tamar, Visions and Revisions, September 21, Small Pleasures

Jessie, Blueberry Hill, September 21, Grace

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
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