Late September and mid-to-late October met in a convergence of long pursued goals for me. I moved to an area I’d coveted for years. Then the Red Sox made it to and through the post-season.
During this process, I cracked open a box marked “books” and was greeted with W.P. Kinsella’s The Thrill of the Grass. This is a collection of short stories set in professional Baseball, some in the Major Leagues and many in the Minor Leagues. Some of the stories even center around Baseball. But mostly, the characters bounce off the subject like a ground ball on a pock-marked infield before rolling into another area of life.
Thinking about this led to one more confluence of excitement: the Red Sox’ world series run to re-discovering The Thrill of the Grass to what was then the upcoming visit of Greg Brown to WUMB (Friday November 1st). Greg’s song Laughing River would have fit right in with The Thrill of the Grass. Getting to play Major League Baseball is such a classic dream. Like with all dreams, the work it takes to get there can run up against the ultimate question, “is it worth it?” As in the character of Laughing River who, after 20 years in the Minor Leagues and never making it to “The Show” (a nickname for the Major Leagues) decides he’s better off trading in his old bat for a fishing pole. Goodbye to paying dues, it’s time to enjoy doing nothing…just fishing, gardening, visiting friends, playing with the kids. Oh, if only we could reap a decent salary doing that, eh?
In the introduction to The Thrill of the Grass, Kinsella talks about where his stories came from. By the same token, where do some of our favorite songwriter’s get their songs—what creates them and their characters? Often we are so fortunate at WUMB to find out without directly asking artists. So many times they surprise us with details when they are in-studio.
Last month, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange added an interesting aspect to the impact Andrew’s extended hospitalization had on his songwriting. Images and metaphors from the many movies he watched while there weaved their way into the band’s current album, This Side of Jordan. How could being stuck in freeway traffic in Los Angeles become your album’s title track? It happened to Catie Curtis—she talked about it in a 2011 visit. If you heard Jim Lauderdale’s in-studio a few years back, you may have needed pain relief for your sides. The man basically made us laugh for 20 minutes telling stories of his life in music.
What surprises from artists await us this month? Sometimes we know weeks ahead of time that a particular artist is coming in. But it’s not exactly rare for WUMB in-studios to be confirmed only days apart. So it’s always good to check www.WUMB.org. See who will be coming in to perform and chat. Then listen in…and don’t be surprised if you hear something that isn’t listed in the web searches about them. Then again, sometimes we like being surprised.