Now that I’m in my mid-life I find as I listen to an album of an artist I followed vehemently in the 90’s or 00’s I think, “What are they doing now?” Just as my creative practice is still going strong, isn’t theirs?
Some have faded and yet I have found a stalwart set of very good musician friends (whose work has inspired me for many years) still in the game if not perhaps making some of their best work; artists such as Over the Rhine, Jackson Brown, Buddy and Julie Miller, Patty Griffin and Emmy Lou Harris keep going strong.
Recently I began listening again to the album “Angel in the House” by the Story. Jonatha Brooke one of the artists in that duo broke out on her own soon after that album’s release in 1993 and I faithfully purchased her CDs in the subsequent years. Her songs stood sure footed with hard won lyrics, a sincere voice, and were embodied in a singer songwriter and jazz inspired creation that I found striking (Check out the album “Plumb”). Many of her songs I can still quote by heart.
I discovered in the last weeks that her most recent project was a one woman musical in which she recounts taking care of her mother through stages of dementia. I bought the CD “My Mother Has 4 Noses” initially (yes I still buy CDs) because I simply like her music, unaware that it was a musical. Listening to it, there were several songs, one of which “Time” I found arresting.
Reading the liner notes (those come with actual CDs you know) I discovered the song was written when she put her mother in hospice and Jonatha knew it was the end of her mothers life. Knowing the content now, her song struck an even greater cord in me for over seven years ago I followed my own mother down that same path. The song was like a punch in the gut. It was then when the album was playing recently in the kitchen when making dinner I stopped it when the song “Time” came on. I didn’t want to go where it would take me, as I began to remember that moment in my own life and my mothers with clarity. I gave myself a few minutes and then sat down, took a deep breath, pressed play, and let the song do its work.
I was awestruck when I found that the one clip on-line from the musical is the song “Time.” It packs a emotional chord even more so in her performance. Tolstoy in his essay “What is Art?” relates that good art is infectious in its clear transmission of emotion. Jonatha’s song does that in spades.