Monday, September 6, 2010

Touchstone songs

A story, and a call for song suggestions:

Freshly back home from ALECC's Cape Breton sojourn, I took my daughter to see my extended family in Errington, whose wonderful farmer's market has been running continuously since 1973. It's a great story of ongoing community engagement, starting with an uneasy union between back-to-the-landers and longer-time locals, and now with pretty deep roots in the local food movement (and left politics generally, but like all political issues in British Columbia, it's a little more complicated than that!).

In Sydney, of course, we'd heard Ken Chisholm play for us during the socializing portion of the literary evening. One song he played was John Prine's "Paradise," a sing I've known since who knows when but haven't really recognized as important to me -- though of course it is. (Lyrics here if you don't know them: "Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, / Down by the Green River where Paradise lay...".)

In Errington, the Vancouver Island bluegrass duo Skagway (on Facebook, and on MySpace) was playing. In amongst their own tunes, like the great little tune "Fancy Blues," they played what else but Prine's "Paradise," in a slowed-down and stripped-down version.

Bookended across the country, in coal country and logging country, uptempo in Sydney and downtempo in Errington, "Paradise" worked its considerable magic on its audiences, and not just me but everyone else too. (Okay, not everyone in Sydney, because there was an awful lot of warm chatter going on, but the listeners were happy with it!)

And it got me to wondering: what other songs might be touchstones for us in the literature/environment community, shared without our really knowing it? Suggestions in the comments, please!

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