We’ve all heard the saying that “Music calms the savage beast”. I haven’t been in the company of any beasts bordering on savagery lately, so I’ll just have to take it on faith. What I do know, however, is how music can inspire and soothe a sad and solitary soul. That has been the state of my own soul more times than not lately.
When I’m in one of these dark places, the last thing I want to do is go out and be around people. But that’s exactly what I need to do. Luckily for me and my morose mood, I decided to venture over to Berkeley a couple of nights ago to hear some music. Two musicians who I knew via Twitter were performing. Gretchen Peters is an award-winning singer-songwriter and a fellow “grammar geek”. I mentioned Gretchen back in this post. She has a new album out called Hello Cruel World. Accompanying her on the tour is Barry Walsh, an amazing pianist and songwriter and also Gretchen’s husband. Barry, too, has a new album out called, “Paradiso”.
Barry’s piano playing evokes such powerful emotions in me. Whether the songs are his compositions or his take on something by French composer Erik Satie, for example, Barry’s playing brings me to tears. The tears may be joyful or filled with sadness, but I’m definitely moved.
What sets Gretchen’s music apart from much of what we hear today is authenticity. She not only tells you a story but she uses her words beautifully to paint a scene, set a mood or describe a character. There are no clichés or gimmicks to be found. Take for example these lyrics:
There’s a man out here puts his head in the mouth of a crocodile.
Puts the whole thing in, takes it out and gives the crowd a great big smile.
“Woman on the Wheel”
The moon had a fight with the parking lot light
And slunk off to hide in the clouds.
I’m a ticking clock, a losing bet.
I’m a girl without a safety net.
I’m a cause for some concern.
“Hello Cruel World”
Hello Cruel World walks on the darker side when it comes to the mood it exudes. You may think that a dark collection of songs would be the last type of music to lift me out of my heavy fog. When I listen to Gretchen’s stories about regret or resolve, passion or pain, it provides exactly what’s been lacking in my life: connection. Certain lyrics resonate and make me feel less alone in my solitude or sorrow. When you add the benefit of sharing the experience with others, be they friends or strangers, the effect is like an elixir.
I know that one night out, or one CD isn’t a cure-all for life’s problems. But what it is a cure for is that sense of isolation that arises from the feeling that nobody else knows what you’re going through. A gifted artist can reach inside himself or herself and pull something out that reverberates with something within you. Gretchen and Barry do this for me and I want to thank them for that.
I urge you to check out both of their sites and if they’re coming to a town near you on their tour, make a point to see them in concert. At the very least, take a listen to some of their music. You will not be sorry.