The Right Time

Music…My friends and family know how much it truly means to me. Those of you reading these posts have almost certainly surmised how important it is to me by this point as well. I think what it all comes down to is that music can be entirely frivolous, powerful, political, sad, thought provoking, challenging, fun, heartbreaking, and angry by equal turns. To me, every one of those ideas is a valid reason to listen. Not just to one artist or genre, but to anything and everything that  you like and feel a connection and respond to. Music takes me on a journey every time, and the destination is always new.

Other people might not entirely see it that way. They have little time or inclination to seek out new music and new performers. The subtle nuances of that Pink Floyd album may go unnoticed. The heartache and heartbreak of a George Jones ballad might be easily dismissed as maudlin. The mesmerizing singing of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone might pale in comparison to Taylor Swift. However YOU feel about any of the above to use them as examples is irrelevant. Not everyone wants to be a music historian. Not everyone wants to be able to tell you why they like the cover version better than the well established original. To use the standard phrase, they like what they like and that is all that matters. Fair enough.

Except when it isn’t. One observation I have made about music is how inevitably there are places and situations where music outside of your normal comfort zone just seems so fucking right for that particular time. Even if that song or genre of music is something you proclaim to loathe. So cue Journey coming on the stereo at a crowded bar and everyone singing Don’t Stop Believing. Or maybe it is anxiously waiting for the da da dah part to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Perhaps one might completely dislike anything called country music, but finds themselves singing along to Tammy Wynette on Stand By Your Man, or gleefully singing ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ along with Johnny Cash. Yes, there are even times when you are sitting in a bar that Piano Man by Billy Joel really resonates, even after hearing it for the 4763rd time.

What I am thinking about goes beyond the ‘guilty pleasure’ however. What I mean are those moments when music hits you, grabs you, moves you at precisely the right time, even when you don’t know much about the music. But you feel it…because its the right time. A celebratory classical music piece you hear at a wedding. A bagpipe tune played at a funeral. A sing along song that seems just right for a road trip down some back country roads. Maybe a lone accordion playing a romantic song as you walk hand in hand with someone special. Or a jazz standard as you sit and sip a cocktail imagining you were in a black and white film noir movie.

The opposite of that is when you actually know the song but it takes on a new meaning for you. It might be a song you have known for years until one day it  knocks you over senseless at a moment of vulnerability, or sadness in your life. Perhaps it comes on when you are driving and that one lyric makes you pause at how beautifully written it is and how fitting it seems for you.  So no matter whether you know the song or not, when something comes on at the right time you feel inspired and strengthened by the experience. This idea of ‘the right time’ is something I have thought about for years, but it really came to fruition yesterday when I was out for a run.

2 years ago at this time I was gradually building up  endurance and on the weekends was comfortably going for 5 or 6 miles, something I hadn’t done in years. Since then, I don’t know what has happened. Maybe something in my head, maybe the wrong kind of shoes, maybe excuses, excuses. I just have not felt as comfortable. But an item on the 50 Things @50 bucket list is to run a 5K, also something I have also not done in years. So I started back up again once things settled in my personal life. As the days and weeks have gone by, I am slowly feeling more comfortable again and headed towards that goal. Running, like any exercise is about pushing  as you tell yourself-come on..don’t stop now! One more mile…don’t stop until you pass that gas station…now you passed that gas station so keep going…keep pushing. That is how I challenge myself to go further. No big surprise I’m sure, but the music really helps do that for me too. And none more than this song by The Scissor Sisters.

Those piano chords start off with that  mid-tempo groove you know will lead to something more upbeat. You just have to wait for it to get there. And when it does, and that big bass beat comes in and the music becomes more insistent, I feel like The Flash instantly. My pace speeds up, I feel stronger, my form is perfect. I feel like I could run around the world and back again. All because a song came on at the right time and all was right with me, if only for those few moments of the song.

I liken it to moments in my photography at times. Sometimes I see something I know would make an interesting subject matter as a photo. Usually something I see or pass by regularly. But I know as a photographer it isn’t ‘the right time’ usually because of the lighting or other distractions in place. When the elements fall into place it all comes together. Case in point the photo I am using in this post. One thing or another defeated it for me until one day I was walking past and the elements all came together and I knew it was the ‘right time’.

What are some songs that come along at the right time for you?

Fire With Fire-Written By Scott Hoffman, Stuart Price, & Jason Sellards

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle







Photo Shuffle-Sitting On The Porch

I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard…I’m Gonna Sit On The Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar By Johnny Cash

Have A Seat

Have you ever noticed that in moments of stress and bad news people are often told,   “Better take a seat”? Or conversely with good news the same words are usually spoken. I am not exactly sure why that is. The knot that inevitably forms in the stomach feels the same regardless of the option. On the other side of that are those moments you feel you need to just have a seat somewhere and look out at the world around you. That might be looking out at the ocean while sipping a nice drink, enjoying the breeze to the sound of the waves crashing in a repetitive and calming pattern . Or maybe on a bench in the park people watching-families strolling by, dogs pulling their owners, bicycles whizzing by, seniors shuffling along, couples holding hands. Perhaps it is even just sitting on your own bit of space at home, contemplating the weather/politics/money/health/work or whatever happens to be on your mind.

I have experienced all of the above situations of course, but as I have written about in other posts, the little balcony in our apartment now allows for lots of time for me to think about all sorts of things. It really helps to have that sort of space available to us. Now that the weather is getting nicer I look forward to being out there again. And occasionally I do what Johnny Cash sings about in this song-ponder things and strum my guitar (badly in my case!)

In an earlier post I wrote about buying the complete Columbia Records collection of Johnny Cash-all 62 albums in total, packaged in one convenient box. I knew I would return to his music at some point here because of that wealth of music. I’m just surprised it took this long for one to pop up in my Photo Shuffles! I like to think that everything I just wrote about is something Johnny himself pondered as he wrote the song. Those moments where you catch yourself daydreaming a little bit. Your mind drifting through a sea of ‘What If’s and ‘What would happen’ types of scenarios. As I continue to  absorb all the music that comes from such a large source, I remain amazed by the ideas the man had as a songwriter. As I have delved deeper into his catalog in the last few years I began realizing that many of his own song ideas seem to stem from those moments of just sitting down and watching the world go by around him. His music continues to  ring true for me on so many levels and I am glad it popped up again for a Photo Shuffle today!

Where do you like to have a seat to think about things?

I’m Gonna Sit On My Front Porch & Pick On My Old Guitar-Written By J. R. Cash

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The Scandinavian Cowboy


Hello and welcome to a new section of my blog! For those of you who have been reading my posts for awhile this is going to be a new topic, with the eventual aim of it becoming a book somewhere down the line. For those of you who may have landed here from a search or from another site, welcome to my music and photography blog! I hope you will have a look  around at some of my other posts.

I’m not quite sure who it was in Celtic music circles who first stumbled on the joys of Scandinavian folk music several years ago. Being an aficionado of that music I soon noticed that  alongside the more typical sets of jigs and reels soon came lots of polskas and waltzes originating from Scandinavia.  And why not? The traditional music originating from the Scandinavian countries is similar in structure and tone to Celtic  music. Eventually this led me to exploring the music from those countries specifically. Though there are some wonderful vocal groups and singers like Garmarna and Mari Boine, I became especially interested in the more instrumental heavy bands like Vasen, Harv, and Frigg. The tunes are by equal measure jaunty and atmospheric and the feel of that more isolated northern landscape comes across in them. I have not been to any of those countries yet myself, but one of the things I love about music is that it can capture the landscape and ‘feel’ of a place, even if you have never been there.

Gradually, as I started listening to more of the music, I felt there was something else familiar to me on some of the instrumental tunes. For some reason I could never quite place my finger on, certain tunes felt like something akin to American western music. As in lonesome prairies, and cowboys kind of western music. The kind of music that eventually became known as Country & Western or Western Swing, before the ‘western’ got dropped both in style and name eventually. Continue reading “The Scandinavian Cowboy”

Soundtrack Of A Photograph-The Vinyl Edition

Methodically searching through your collection you scan the titles, head tilted at an angle ever so slightly to be able to read the words on the spine until you find your desired choice. Carefully you pull it out and place it on a flat surface. With care and precision you carefully remove the inner contents. Once that is removed, you even more carefully remove the object contained within from the sleeve, fingers delicately positioned in such a way to prevent smudges. Upon removal you stretch your fingers out on both hands to grip the object, pausing to surreptitiously blow visible dust off either side. Finally the object may be placed on its spindle as you carefully align the center hole. Next comes the  not so technical decision about which switch to push (or pull, depending on type of machinery) that determines the rpm once the machine is on. Now the object is spinning, it’s distinctive label of varying colors, logo and artwork clearly visible moments before now a blur as the second crucial component of this machine comes swinging into place, momentarily pausing as if to say, did you make the right choice?





…the music you have so carefully chosen bursts forth from the distinct sound of a vinyl record. There really is nothing like the motion and sound of a record being played. The rotation of the turntable mesmerizing in its simplicity, the distinctive crackle as the needle sets down on the first grooves of the record and the anxious few seconds of waiting just before the music actually kicks in. For those with a steady eye and solid nerves, what today can be done easily with the click of a mouse or a fast forward button, you can skip to another song  by the raising of the arm and the careful lowering of it again onto the thick grooves that mark the breaks between songs. Failure to drop it in the correct place results in a jarring scraping sound and a serious risk of damaging something you spent good money for.

There is also a physical side to record listening in many ways. The multiple staged procedure for placing it on the turntable  I describe above can take a bit of time to accomplish for starters. When I was younger, and particularly if it was a great album, you would sit nearby, poised to grab the record once the first side finished so you could quickly turn it over to play the flip side. You also had to safeguard against the possibility of someone stomping through the room causing the record to skip.  A far cry from the ease of playability in today’s digital era for sure.

In the last several years there has been a massive resurgence both in the popularity, and demand for vinyl records and turntables after many years in the dark ages it seemed. Vinyl was a huge part of my life growing up. What started with perusing (and sometimes chiding) my father’s collection of 45’s and LP’s gradually grew into the period when you had a choice about the format you wished to listen to your music on, which was not exclusively vinyl. Yes, I am of the generation that can remember those wonderfully indestructible 8-Track tapes one could usually find strewn in the foot well of your friend’s car  and the marvelous ca-chunk sound they made when selecting program 1-4. Then came  the smaller and more portable cassette tapes, and the advent of boom boxes and the Walkman allowing for carrying your own music around with you for the first time.  But up until a certain stage of my life the vinyl record  was always the preferred choice. Continue reading “Soundtrack Of A Photograph-The Vinyl Edition”

Soundtrack Of A Photograph-Keep On Sailing

“There’s an omen in the sky today”

Keep on sailing. I have a dear friend who utilizes this phrase quite often. Without getting into her personal reasons for using the phrase it is a useful mantra to proclaim at times. You may never have experienced sailing before in real life, but the phrase lets you drift away on some imaginary calm sea in your mind. Which is a great place to visit  in this hectic life of ours. It also is the title of one of my favorite songs by Iain Matthews, about whom more in a minute.

I say it is useful because it seems in this often chaotic world we live in there is a desire to shut down at times, which is something I have written about before on these pages. But quite often we can’t. Work deadlines, news headlines, higher prices, longer commutes, technology saturation and all the other aggravations that seem to bombard us on a daily level seem to be increasingly hard to get away from now. Sure there are people that seem to thrive on that sort of life, but  I do not count myself as one of them.  But for me, the other side of that is that by the same token, I do not wish to live on some speck of an island in the ocean, or way out in the sticks surrounded by nothing but pure silence to ‘get away from it all’. Both are a nice place to visit for a short time but I could not do it for the long haul personally.

Which is why I seek so much solace in music. It hits every range on the emotional scale. Want to crack open a beer, kick back in the chair on a sunny day and chill? Listen to some reggae and feel the relaxation seep in. Want to work out some aggression at the gym? Throw on some metal or hard rock and thrash about. Having a lazy rainy day sort of moment? Throw on some jazz or something equally soothing and gaze out the window as the rain falls. I have done them all. But sometimes I need to find quick fixes. Fleeting moments where I need to know things are okay. Days when you feel the world closing in on you for one reason or another like those worst day of your life sort of days. You know the ones. Days when it is pouring down rain and you are running a few minutes late leaving for work, and the trash bag you are carrying out to the curb breaks and spills its contents everywhere as your umbrella gets sacrificed to a sudden gust of wind and the train car you are riding in is packed in so tight you can barely breath, and then when you get to work you find out everything you worked on the day before has to be redone. That sort of day.

“And I saw the thunder, it fell down on my way home”

So that is why quite often, when I am having those kind of days where the world is closing in on me, I reach for the Ipod and put some music on. There are several songs that can do the trick for me, but most recently when I have those sorts of days (don’t worry, they do not happen too often) Keep On Sailing has been my primary “go-to” song. The opening chords set a soothing sort of mood before those gentle country music licks kick in as Iain sings the opening lines. As a side note this song is interesting in that Iain recorded it on the Valley Hi album in 1973 and then re-recorded it a year later for the Some Days You Eat The Bear album, which is where this version comes from. No matter which version you prefer, it has that 70’s laid back country vibe that was so popular at that time with bands like the Eagles, Pure Prairie League, Poco and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. However fleeting the thoughts may have been, it was rumored that Matthews had been under consideration to join the Eagles and Steely Dan at various points. If you want a nice little history of Iain Matthews’ varied career, do check this link out-

Getting back to the song though, I think that gentle country vibe, the leisurely saxophone weaving in and out of the song together with the pureness of Iain Matthews’s voice are a perfect recipe for calm. Indeed by the first refrain of ‘Keep On Sailing’ I am usually feeling better, and by the end of the song all those things that may have set me off are long forgotten. I don’t know if it is just me, but I can replay lots of songs (not quite note for note, but pretty close to it) in my head. So usually when I hear that phrase, Keep On Sailing from someone else I can recapture the song and feel like I am sharing a little bit of what they are feeling. In those rare instances when I do not have access to music and am feeling a little closed in it is a useful tool to have. Keep On Sailing….

What are your own go-to songs in times of crisis/frustration/anger/sadness?


Keep On Sailing-Written By Iain Matthews

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