November 16, 2011

Laura Veirs' Tumblebee, My Kids' Songwriting Skillz, and The Old, Weird America

Been listening to the new Laura Veirs CD Tumble Bee quite a bit.

Laura Veirs lives here, in the same town where I live, and occasionally I run into her. Once time I saw her at the supermarket. I came around the corner, and there she was, pushing a cart with her baby son, Tennessee, in it. I accidentally just went ahead and said her name out loud in a dreamy sort of way, "Oh.....Laura Veirs." And then we had a few somewhat awkward moments of conversation. "Catch and release, Poundstone." I told myself.

It's weird to run into someone you revere, whose music has had such a deep, long-term effect on your heart and mind and soul, at the grocery store. It would be like running into Bob Dylan at the gas station. (Or Tom Waits at the dump. Start watching at 1:40 or so.)

A week or so ago, I spotted Laura and her husband (and producer) Tucker Martine at a documentary (a really good one, Beyond This Place) at which Sufjan Stevens was performing live the soundtrack he'd written.

Then the next weekend, there was Tucker again at OMSI with Tennessee. My son and his son were playing at the same water station, so I mentioned how much we loved the new album, and Tucker and I got to talking a bit. I mentioned that I'd just gotten the Smithsonian Folkways Animal Folk Songs For Children at the library. (A couple of the songs that appear on that collection are also on Tumblebee.) He said he'd just gotten that collection for Laura for her birthday. (Which is apparently in October, just like mine - hey hey! I knew we were soul mates!) Then we talked about the documentary a bit. Then Tennessee made a break away from the water play holding pen, and that was that.

The next week, we went to Laura's in-store performance at Music Millenium, and got to talk to Tucker a bit more still. So it's like we are accidentally stalking them. (Henry had an amazing time at the show - he was like the drunk dude at a concert, singing loudly off-tune and clapping loudly off-time.)

I should be in more shock and awe at having these and other freaking amazing artists living in my town. But hey, trying to accept the riches and just be grateful for the crossing of paths in the grocery and at the science museum, etc.

ANYHOO. The Animal Folk Songs for Children CD is a treasure trove - equal parts crazy and wonderful. The oddest song on there according to me is "Snake Baked a Hoecake." (A hoecake is a corn cake baked on a hoe. Yes, the garden implement. My friend Laurie knew this right away.) The lyrics go like this:

"Snake baked a hoecake
And set the frog to watch it.
Frog went a' dozing,
The Lizard came and took it.
Bring back my hoecake
you long-tailed nanny-oh."

That's the end.

I mean seriously? This song has persisted for 100 years?

This led me to think about the songs my kids have recorded, which I have uploaded to Soundcloud, a really neat online audio file hosting/sharing site.

My favorite of the songs by far is "Our Greatest Friends." Sophie came up with this totally spontaneously. I have the kids sing into the "Voice Memo" on my iPhone when inspiration strikes them. I can no longer imagine a world in which this song does not exist. Perhaps it will eventually be just as beloved as "Snake Baked A Hoecake." I think it's got a better than middling chance.

(I am also now wanting to read Greil Marcus' The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, mentioned and recommended by Ben.)

P.S. Laura and Tucker, if you're reading this, despite my awe of the poetry, beauty, and deep-down wonderfulness of the work each of you do, I'm willing to set my intimidation aside and have you over to our house for tacos some time. Feel free to be in touch.

P.P.S. Coloring sheets from Tumble Bee are here for free download. You should get them. They are lovely. Also you should get the CD, obviously. And the fox shirt. Okay, I'm done.

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