I didn’t ever plan on signing up for Apple Music. Then Drag City uploaded their catalog and I couldn’t not. Bill Callahan? White Fence? Ty Segall? Silver Jews? Wand? All those iterations of Will-Oldham-the-musician?
I pay for Spotify but, you know, I couldn’t just know I could have access to all of that and not do it. I’ve mostly only been listening to Drag City’s Oldham-related releases, because once I start I just… don’t stop for awhile, but knowing the rest of the catalog’s there is comforting.
I first heard Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy when I was still (sort of) living in Shepherdstown, rarely going to classes, and waking up at 4am every morning because that was when my roommate went to the gym, because she was studying recreation and leisure and that’s what recreation and leisure majors did then, I guess. I was also spending all of my money on cd’s at Borders – the first bookstore bigger than a small shopping mall Waldenbooks I’d ever been in – and found, by pure luck, a copy of The Letting Go. I bought it for its cover image and its title (I cared about Emily Dickinson), and immediately I was bewildered. I was lonely and very depressed and felt in every way like a failure and The Letting Go was somehow just what I needed to hear.
I had to submit a 20 entry annotated bibliography with my completed thesis (haha, completed thesis! what a concept) in order to finish my MFA and right from the get-go that sounded like a nightmare. Like: I do not read poetry collections very often. Certainly not often enough to be able to come up with 20 to list as important enough influences on my work to feature on an annotated bibliography. “Annotated” meaning “here is a statement about what these poems have meant to my life.” You know. That variety of thing.
Onto the list went There is No-One What Will Take Care of You. And Arise Therefore. And The Letting Go.
(And enough books of prose that I’m sure my advisors were all “uhhh, you know you do poems, right?”)
I had actually just… stopped listening to all of it since I finished my degree. No good reason, really. Probably the same feelings that still keep me from picking up The Heart is a Lonely Hunter again (“I know I love this but it reminds me of how academia has hurt me real good!”).
Maybe I’ll get over that someday too.
I don’t know why I thought I could end this without mentioning this moment that happened at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, which was not even my favorite of the many good venues I’ve seen a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy show in, but –
This was maybe the best venue (Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky), and though one of these songs is #problematic, this was also a fine time:
If I don’t stop I’ll find a way to post the audio of a cover of Loudon Wainwright III’s “Screaming Issue” from a Mountain Stage taping, so.