Friday, March 18, 2011

City Folks Call Us Poor

Larry Sparks is the guy in the suit. That's the songwriter Michael Keith and his
poor old wife June.  
 America’s favorite bluegrass musician, Larry Sparks, put on a show at Nashville’s Station Inn last night and my husband Michael and I were there to see it. Four songs written by Michael and his songwriting partners are featured on Sparks’ newest album "Almost Home." Sitting in the audience, hanging with the songwriters and their wives, my handsome husband being pointed out by Larry as a writer of songs, is a thrill. Making a splash in Nashville is so fun. Nobody has to know that it has taken twenty years of rehearsals to get Michael’s music to this Nashville stage. But it’s true. It takes an immeasurable amount of hours, trials and errors, talent, hopes and dreams to create a simple country song with the power to tear open a room full of hearts and set an old wooden floor trembling with the beat of hundreds of tapping feet.
Michael realizing his dreams at the Station Inn.
    In another lifetime, way before he was mine,  Michael was a businessman with a dream of writing music. He once read that to realize his dream he should write it down on a slip of paper and keep it in his wallet so that whenever he opened it to pull out some of his hard-earned money he would be reminded of what he really wanted to do: write a song. Nashville is where songwriters mostly live, but Michael has another passion: Key West. So when he finally shucked that other life, he moved to Key West and vowed to never leave.  He writes here until he has enough ideas to hook up with his Nashville partners for a few days of intensive songwriting there. He hasn’t made a million bucks, but his efforts have enabled him to call himself a bona fide, you-can-hear-his-stuff on the radio, royalty check-receiving songwriter. And when someone asks me “what does your husband do?” I get to say “he’s a songwriter,” which doesn’t make a particularly big impression in Nashville until you add: “he’s got four songs on Larry Sparks’ new album.”
    A bluegrass band features acoustic instruments: mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitars and angelic harmonizing voices like you might think of hearing in Heaven. No drums. No synthesizers. Just microphones to make sure your hear the words to the songs that celebrate life’s plainer pleasures: the scent of honeysuckle, bluebirds on the mountain, sitting in a rocker on the porch. Love. Home. Mama. Papa. Barefoot babies. Twilight in the valley. The moon. The stars. The old dog sleeping by the door. Leaving home. Coming home. Wishing you were home when you're not. 
     After singing songs from the new album (the best part of the whole thing for me) Larry asked the crowd for requests. Several yelled out "City Folks Call Us Poor" -- obviously a Larry Sparks favorite. It's about country people enjoying watching the streaking colors of the sunset sky because they can't afford to buy "no fancy paintings."  They love moonlight shining on grassy meadows 'cause it looks like diamonds.  And people snack on "watermelon rinds Mama puts up in a jar." Like I said, a celebration of sweeter pleasures.
     The next morning, back in the big, fast real world of our ritzy Nashville hotel where a bottle of water costs $6 and using the Internet sets you back $10 a day, we packed and dressed for the trip home. Michael told me that his feet had been cold at the concert the night before. He's not used to wearing socks under his loafers and he hadn't brought any on the trip. He doesn't need them in Paradise. But at the fancy Tennessee hotel, when he sat at the check-out desk, I noticed his naked ankles got a few odd glances from the prissy staff.
   "You see that," I said. "These city folks are calling us poor."
Available wherever you buy your music.

1 comment:

  1. Hats off to you Miss June for this fine article...and a humble tip of the hat(holding hat in hand actually) to your songwriter husband. City Folks is a masterpiece in my little opinion. Larry Sparks brings it to life because he has the Larry Sparks style and voice - it seems to be made for him. It does for the hillbilly what Will Rogers did for the makes everyone want to be so!