LOOK WHAT THE WIND BLEW IN
“If my car broke down, well then I’d run to where I find my freedom”
After the awakening feelings one encounters with the coming of spring, the pleasure that summer brings gives way to reflection once fall arrives. The crisp air and cool nights clear the head and bring me outdoors to enjoy nature once again after the oppression of a New York summer. As a city dweller that usually brings me to Central Park, with my camera in hand taking photographs of the changing season. But whether it is in Central Park or elsewhere, I find that one of my favorite subjects for photos over the years has been quite simply, trees. Sometimes they are in groups with the wind blowing through them, sometimes it is because of the interesting shapes and contortions the trees have, or different textures the tree bark will have. But often times I also take photographs of lone trees, standing apart from the others, and it has only been recently that I have thought about why, and as usual with me, it was aided by music and two songs in particular.
The person responsible for both of those songs is Chris Trapper. I feel in some ways as if I could have an entire blog devoted to his music alone. Since being introduced to his music about 10 years ago his songs have been a constant in my life, never far from the surface below all the other music I listen to. He is the rarity as an artist these days for his consistently strong and thought provoking material. When someone asks me which album they should get by him, my truthful answer is any of them. It does not matter since they are all equally good. When I began thinking about this edition of The Soundtrack Of A Photograph, I thought I wanted to only choose one of Chris’s songs, along with photographs of trees I have taken. But then it dawned on me that actually what this edition would be about would be the bookends that two different songs by him have provided me with. The introduction began innocently enough on a Sunday night at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut where my then girlfriend (now wife) and I were to see another band; Great Big Sea. It was a happy circumstance that we became fans of Chris Trapper that night as well.
“You open the door to my tired face and welcome me into your place. You understand how far I’ve come to where I find my freedom”
When Jennie and I started dating, we went through the usual ritual of sharing books, movies and music we liked individually with each other. Being seriously in to music I of course inflicted lots of things on her, most of which she thought was decent, but nothing I played for her really excited her. However it was when we watched a Great Big Sea live concert DVD that she was finally impressed. She liked their energy, as well as the songs. When Great Big Sea released their Something Beautiful album in 2004 we knew we would have to see them live. Being a bit of a dope at the time however, I missed the chance for us to see them here in New York. An alternative was called for, and the best I could do at short notice was a Sunday night show in New Haven. I actually had to work a full day at the store I was working in at the time in New Jersey and then drive back to the city, have the quickest of cat naps, then head up to New Haven, approximately two hours away. I remember we found the place ok, and were there in plenty of time for the show, which included an opening act called The Push Stars.
I had to admit to never having heard of them before. As a Great Big Sea fan I actually should have known them, since half of their previous album Sea Of No Cares had been written along with Chris Trapper, the singer/songwriter and guitarist of The Push Stars. There will be forthcoming blogs about the music of Great Big Sea so I will leave their story here for now. But on that night I was instantly endeared to The Push Stars from the start. When Chris said-‘Good evening, we are The Push Stars, and we are from New Haven……as of about 3 hours ago’ it was a joke obviously, but it was clever and it warmed me to them immediately. I really dislike bands that have no banter with their audience other than ‘thanks’ but with that subtle introduction I knew I would enjoy it. When you do not know a band in that type of situation, it is rare that you find yourself enjoying it that much. For one thing, as good as an opening band can be, lets face the reality-you paid for the headliner, you want the headliner. The Push Stars were an exception however.
They mostly played songs from their current album at the time, Paint The Town and one song in particular struck me as one of the most truthful relationship songs I had ever heard. The first end of the bookend was the song Freedom and I think it is so good because it cuts right to the heart of being in a relationship, coupled with the struggles of life, work, bills and all the other distractions one deals with. In the end those distractions mean nothing when you have someone to go to who makes you happy. Chris usually adapts a direct approach in his songwriting. Very little is hidden or mysterious but rather it is exposed and direct.
The joy of a great song is the connection you find in your own life and Freedom resonated deeply with both of us, precisely because we were experiencing what he describes in the song. Those frustrations of working a job you can’t stand that become tempered once Friday comes around. The weariness of everyday life grinding you down so much that you can’t wait to be together again with the one person who can make it all ok. I am sure most every couple can relate in some ways, but as I mentioned in my previous blog entry, sometimes the best songs make you truly believe they had been written about you alone. It is almost 10 years since that night in New Haven, yet I can still vividly recall that song, and the hush of the audience from the opening chords as we soaked it all in. Remember what I said about the Push Stars being an exception to the opening act rule? That song alone proved how that was possible.
“Sitting alone in my room on a Saturday night, somebodies plans fell through, the story of my life”
Together Jennie and I have enjoyed the Paint The Town album for years since, and it always accompanies us on road trips. We even played Freedom at our wedding. Chris was now working as a solo performer and one thing or another got in our way of seeing him perform live again, but some time back we finally managed to see him, and caught up with a number of his solo albums. One of those, Til The Last Leaf Falls has the song that is the other end of the bookend for me. Ironically the cover of the album is that of a solitary tree. The song Look What The Wind Blew in brings me back to a more lonely place in my life before I knew Jennie. I only wish I had Chris Trapper and his songs during that time to help me feel like I was not so alone. The loneliness I felt was not in any way unique, but still it is tough when other than family you feel alone and without friends to have fun with. For me it was always a sense of social awkwardness that prevented me from having lots of friends and I had a feeling of being on the outside looking in. I did not view myself as a loner though, but rather as someone whose heart was not into doing the sometimes dumb things one is supposed to do in their youth.
For me when I was younger often times on days off I would get in the car and go for long drives up the Palisades Parkway or 9W into the Hudson Valley to places though just a few miles north from where I was living felt more like the country and helped clear the mind. There are a lot of state parks and small cozy towns up that way and I enjoyed getting out through the winding roads amidst the trees and the rolling hills, with the Hudson River often alongside me. With the stereo on and beautiful landscape around me I did not have any regrets or loneliness. Those were the years that I was really diving into music in a big way, and the music became my companion instead. With the outside world shut off and no other distractions music became a good friend, though obviously something more was needed.
When I heard Chris’s song Look What The Wind Blew In again recently one line in particular struck me, and the concept of that song together with my photographs of trees was born. Sometimes a particular lyric can be heard, yet not felt until the right moment, when all of a sudden it hits you and you suddenly understand. His line “If you live to regret, and you cannot forget, you find out you don’t get far” in that song brought back some of those uncomfortable memories of loneliness, but just when I had that brief flicker of emotion in remembering those times, just when I thought I would depressingly relive some of those days, I remembered how all of that had vanished once Jennie came into my life and I had “Freedom.”
The music remained a constant of course, but now it was something shared between the two of us, and when we both genuinely like something, it is a shared bond between us. One line of one song becomes a shared memory, much in the same way a photograph does. When that line really sunk in it reminded me of those photographs I take sometimes of lone trees standing by themselves. How it looks like they are poised to be part of the group nearby, but stand off alone instead. When I was lonely that seemed sad to me. Now that I am older and have someone special it actually seems refreshing. To stand alone apart from the others and be unique, to rise above everything and refuse to fall in line with everyone else is admirable. That is what Chris Trapper does in his beautifully crafted songs. That is what I try to do with my photography. That is what I am trying to do with this blog, which as I continue seems to becoming more and more therapeutic to my soul and clearing the muddle that exists in my mind sometimes. Now I do not regret those days because I do not think I would be writing this right now if I had not experienced it that way. It is nice to have bookends for your emotions.
This Friday Jennie and I will be going to yet another Chris Trapper show here in New York. Chris spends the better part of the year crossing the country back and forth, playing to appreciative crowds everywhere. This time he is promoting his latest album Technicolor, and I look forward to hearing the new songs along with his huge back catalog. I urge you, wherever you are here in the US (or now on occasion in the UK) to go when next he comes to your area. In between the emotional roller coasters his songs provide, might I add that he also writes some of the funniest songs I have ever heard as well! There are songwriters, and then there are people like Chris who truly belong in a different class. I promise you will not be disappointed.
All lyrics by Chris Trapper
All photographs by Robert Doyle
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