I don’t think it’s humanly possible to hear Ray LaMontagne’s voice and not long for a rural, grainy, and yellowed landscape. Fifteen years ago, I loved listening to famous club djs of Chicago; it helped me imagine my adult life in a small apartment in the middle of a bustling city. Even when I got married, I bought furniture that made me feel urban—West Elm couches and geometrically-shaped wall pieces. I’d giggle when my dad would look out the window of our grey and white Chicago house and say, “I’d love to have a home on a small farm one day. I just want a couple sheep, a few cows, a few of this and a bit of that… just something simple.”
Now, I when I hear the old electronic songs, like my friend Mahnaz has coined, I’m not so easily moved by “the music without words.” I appreciate people like my brother who see the art, but now I need something intimately soulful; I need coarse edges to feel that lasting shine on the inside. Sometimes a girl just needs to hear a surprising harmonica (yes, I just said that), a lyric that despite its simplicity captures a lifetime of thought, or a sandpaper breath in a song that infinitely hits the soul.
I went to Ray’s concert last week with dear friends; his songs have been playing even louder in my house since, a normal effect of his music on me. A few rows in front of us, there was a line of girls who’d stand up to sway to the music; they didn’t care that rows and rows behind them could no longer see the stage. My friend leaned over and nostalgically said, “College girls…they are in a totally different world.” She hit the nail on the head. I wanted the girls to sit, and at the same time, I wanted them to stay standing—taking it in, enjoying where they were at any cost; being a bit selfish because they felt passionate.<
I have to wonder, what kind of music will Zade raise his glass to? What song will hit Layla’s core so much that she’d stand up and only care about herself as an audience? What will be the music that moves them, starts the ache in their heart, moves their souls, and makes them remember that life is good? What musician will remind them of human connection, allowing them to reduce so much static to its lowest terms?
Years ago after dinner, my grandfather put his hands in the air and said his usual “Shokreh Khodah,” thank God. While we drank tea and talked lightly about religion, he said, “You know, I think the real prophets of our time are the artists, the musicians, the poets…” I suppose this line will always stick with me. I think of it when I’m captivated by a song or when a chord strikes a memory.
In reality, I’m by no means a country girl. But, I want a porch now—even in a place where summer “air is thick with water.” I imagine myself somewhere near a bit of that rural that Ray inspires. I have fallen in love with an old memory of something I didn’t grow up in but feel kinship with now. I’m certain I’ll retain much of my past, just like I’m certain my daughter may want the bustle of a city one day and my son may feel that freedom is synonymous with city life—an itch so many of us had once.
But, like Tally and I say, “Knock on wood, Inshallah, and God willing the creek don’t rise,” I’ll get to relish in an imaginary-me looking out to the future with an open mind, inspired by the “prophets of our time,” while I press my bare feet to the grass and feel closer to the truths captured in those songs we seek, the lyrics that stamp our memories.