Making my way back west along my Hug the Gulf tour. It’s beyond challenging to keep people’s attention on social media for more than a minute so I no longer post daily tour shots. It seems almost self-centered to think anyone is interested. When I do post photos I get comments that people are envious, jealous, with they had my life and how lucky I am. Those comments are like spiritual curses that return to the commenter and don’t really inspire me to post. What you output returns and continues to be present in your life. Nowhere in nature is their envy or jealousy except in the animal kingdom—and we should aspire to evolve. I don’t get social media because it’s not a virtual world I live in, but rather one of deep and real experiences with each conversation, experience, concert, interaction etc.
Driving along IH-10 what has struck me is how many rivers I cross. From the Rio Grande and Pecos near my homelands to the Brazos and Sabine now suffering catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas I’ve crossed historic and ancient waters. These waters have flowed from their headwaters down the countries back to other rivers, gulfs or oceans depending what side of the continental divide their flow. I’m aware of their original wildness and power. So many have used them for trade, life, migration, music, goods, freedom, war, peace that I am moved with each rattle of the bridges that span them. The rhythms of the rattle feel like a soundtrack and I want to stop and write songs.
Crossing the Mississippi I sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to honor the late musician Jeff Buckley who drowned in the river on the evening of May 29, 1997, Buckley's band flew in intending to join him in his Memphis studio to work on the newly written material. That same evening, Buckley went swimming in Wolf River Harbor, a slackwater channel of the Mississippi River, while wearing boots, all of his clothing, and singing the chorus of the song "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. A roadie of Buckley's band, Keith Foti, remained ashore. After moving the radio and a guitar out of reach of the wake from a passing tugboat, Foti looked up to see that Buckley was gone. Despite a determined rescue effort that night, Buckley remained missing. On June 4, his body was spotted by a tourist on a riverboat and was brought ashore.
The autopsy to clarify the cause of Buckley's death confirmed Buckley had taken no illegal drugs before his swim and a drug overdose was therefore ruled out as cause of death. In order to clarify the situation of his death, this statement was released from the Buckley estate:
Jeff Buckley's death was not "mysterious," related to drugs, alcohol, or suicide. We have a police report, a medical examiner's report, and an eye witness to prove that it was an accidental drowning, and that Mr. Buckley was in a good frame of mind prior to the accident.
Sometimes these rivers not only carry songs but sadness of past lives or the land. Crossing the Lake Charles bridge, the long Atchafalaya swamp hiway, skirting lake Pontchartrain, Mobile bay the rivers grow as they get closer to merging with the gulf. The blues and jazz lapping at the shores. Of course the Suwannee River
Bridge has the notes of the famous melody on its sign. I camped along the tannin colored Withlacoochee River for a few days enjoying the cypress and oak trees. The birds of Florida are amazing to me and hawks and Swallow-tailed Kites kept me company. I met good people right away who gathered around my campfire each night trading stories and me songs. Great way to recharge from the tour, which has been splendid.
When I come off a tour it is not an easy transition to make. The energy output, thousands of miles, so many stories and listening puts you in another place. Friends ask me if I had fun, did I make money, was it fun (I don’t know why they ask that so much)? But really what an artist wants to hear are these questions: “What were the audiences like? The Venues? What did they say? Were they moved? Did you touch people? Did they cry? Did they laugh?”
Besides the whole needing to make a living to continue doing this aspect of being a touring musician, what matters most if is if you are touching others with your music and stories. I had a friend who saw I was back in town and we met for breakfast. He asked about my tour and I thought he meant it. Soon we were talking about the drama in his life. Point is no one actually wants to hear about it. It’s a lonely realization that I’m certain other artists have adjusted to.
Driving gives you lots of time to reflect on these things. I had a sold-out concert in Leesburg, FL and was just overcome with gratitude at the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. As I moved through my set I felt that connection that I live for. It was real as are any of those times. We were on this journey together. No one left at the intermission gladly and I had a standing ovation. Sold-out or not each concert/gig is I offering something real and deep to folks and weather they close their eyes or sing along my sense of appreciation and humility keeps me from ever being about ego.
So like those rivers I cross, I am a channel through which the song and stories of all the musicians and storytellers before me flows. Each heartbreak, joy, love, loss pours out through my music offering some respite, like a gentle canoe ride, for just a time.
I’m in Houston on Sunday at the Unitarian Fellowship of Houston. Check my calendar for details. Here is the info from their website: Thank you again to each of you for showing up, helping, organizing, promoting, buying a CD, applauding, laughing, crying, singing and sharing your stories with me:
Upcoming Sunday Programs
May 29, 2016
Adult and Youth Education programs at 9:45am
Sunday Service at 11:00 am
“Native American Wisdom: ‘Corn Mother,’ honoring the labor of ancestors” — A program about the Penobscot creation story of “Corn Mother” and its relevance to the world we’ve inherited and the world we are manifesting and leaving to future generations. Randy will tell this story with Native Drums and Native Flutes. Rev. Randy Granger is a Native American musician, spiritual teacher and speaker from Las Cruces, NM. He brings his Mayan/Apache ancestry to his music and teachings. In addition to leading Spiritual Journeys to Acoma Sky City and Canyon de Chelly, he leads meditation groups, Ecstatic Dance and is a regular speaker at the Center for Spiritual Living in Las Cruces, NM.
Please stay for coffee and fellowship after the service.
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