Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Songs of Home

In my twenties I worked for a few years as a musician - nothing very glamorous, mainly just covers gigs to empty rooms or rooms of drunks. There were good moments. Once, a large gathering of soldiers who'd just lost a friend asked me to play And the band played Waltzing Matilda, and I don't think I'll ever forget how their singing almost wrenched the pub out of its foundations. On another occasion I played alongside (well, ahead of) Archie Roach, who'd been a hero of mine for years.

But generally this kind of jobbing musicianship was painful. You are incidental, and few musicians aim to be incidental. Some nights I did two shows in a row, especially on Fridays, when I'd get through an afternoon gig for the rowdy, early-finish office workers and then dash across town in a taxi for a four-hour stint at one of the Irish hotels, which at the time dominated the pub scene. It meant a well-paid night, but seven hours of singing on your own in smoky rooms was a quick way to kill your passion for music.

A quick way to get it back was listening to James Taylor on the drive home, or better still at 2am when I was trying to relax with a beer. And one song in particular, now available in several versions on Youtube, and which in one live recording comes with this introduction from Taylor: "I was homesick at the time. I didn't have a home, but that doesn't keep you from being homesick sometimes."

Just as it did in my twenties, this song makes me want to go to Carolina. Or, convinces me that Carolina is home.

And, here, another wonderful song of Carolina.