Three From The Car

I got distracted yesterday, working on a song. Another member of the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and I are going to be performing one of my original songs sometime this month, so I spent yesterday working on notation, fine-tuning the lyrics and chords and continuing to sharpen my keyboard skills, which have been pretty much dormant since Mom moved out away from the house on Kilian Boulevard in 2004 and left my piano behind.

The keyboard setup here is pretty rudimentary: I have a full-size Fatar keyboard, which is pretty good, and I run it through an old Yamaha sequencer and into the stereo system. The piano sound is a bit tinny, and the sustain pedal doesn’t hold the tones as long as I’d like, but considering that I’d had no keyboard to play until I jerry-rigged things last week, I’m fine with it. Something a little more elegant would be nice down the road, as I think my musical involvement with the fellowship will continue.

Anyway, I spent a good share of yesterday’s time practicing the song that my musical partner – a long-time choir member at the fellowship – and I will be performing. I bought and downloaded a composition and notation program and got the sheet music printed. And I pulled my book of original lyrics – some of which have melodies – off the shelf and organized that. And when the Texas Gal came home a little later than normal because of some errands, I realized I’d made no plans for dinner. I’d gotten the kitchen cleaned and dishes done but had given no thought to a menu.

She wasn’t upset. She’s quite pleased that I’m getting involved in creating music again. It’s something that she’s been urging me to do at the Fellowship for some time. But that still didn’t put dinner on the table. So we decided on a fast food alternative, a Mexican place downtown, and I headed out into the cool evening. And that’s when things got even more fun.

As I headed down Lincoln Avenue toward the railroad crossing, I heard a record with a joyous piano solo coming from the car radio, which is almost always tuned to WXYG. (The only exception would be for sporting events – Twins baseball, Viking and Gopher football and so on.) As I listened to the piano, I thought, ‘Nice! Joy of Cooking!”  And I was right. The track was “Hush” from the group’s 1971 self-titled debut album.

As I crossed the railroad tracks and headed for Riverside Drive, the next track started, offering a mellow rolling electric piano introduction backed by strings and then flute. I knew I’d heard it before, but I cocked my head, waiting for the vocals. And then I heard a sweet female voice: “Come take a walk . . .” And I listened, mentally sorting possibilities as I headed across the Mississippi River. The track ended just before I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, and I thought to myself, “That’s Sweetwater, I bet.” I made a note to check the radio station’s website when I got home with a bag full of dinner, and I got out of the car as a dissonant and rough version of David Bowie’s “China Girl” was roaring out of the speaker.

Twenty minutes later, I got to the computer and pulled up the WXYG website. The song that followed Joy of Cooking was in fact by Sweetwater (“Yesssssss!” I hissed, pleased by my accuracy), a track unsurprisingly called “Come Take A Walk” from the group’s rather jumbled 1968 self-titled debut.

But that was when I got home. In between, as I was heading from downtown toward the river and home, came another pleasant few minutes. It began with an organ wash backed by mellow drums, with the sounds of either an acoustic guitar or a plucked violin then added in front. (I vote for the violin). And after that languid introduction, in came the voices of David and Linda LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day: “White bird in a golden cage, on a winter’s day . . . alone.”

I listened to “White Bird” – a track from yet another self-titled debut album, this one from 1969 – through downtown, across the river, along Riverside Drive, Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue and up our driveway. The six-minute track wasn’t quite finished as I pulled up to the house, but I didn’t want the burrito and the potato hot dish to get cold, so I let the LaFlammes finish without me and headed into the house with dinner.

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