Clearing webs from the hovel*

Last week I attended an outdoor concert. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed live music until that fist chord came over the speakers and a hush went over the crowd.

It was the Indigo Girls (, who I’ve seen live before – although it was years ago.  Like me, they’ve aged a little. Which made everything all that much more comfortable. The Indigo Girls songwriting and performances are a rich style of storytelling that feels a bit like having drinks with an old friend. Both in hearing stories you’ve heard before and in having a few new ones to share.

The duo sang familiar tunes like *Hammer and Nail (1990) which focuses on not being overwhelmed with everything wrong with the world but rolling up your sleeves and getting to work and Shame on You (1997) which criticizes attitudes about ‘illegal immigration’. One source says the song was inspired in part by a documentary ‘Displaced in the New South’ – I can’t vouch for that, but watched parts of the film and it’s a plausible connection.

They also performed songs from their new album that was released in 2020. An album I had somehow missed, but have spent the last few days catching up on. One of the songs I found particularly interesting and relevant to this blog – The song is ‘Shit Kickin’ (let’s be honest, the title is catchy as well). It touches on family history and delving into the past while advising you to be honest about it.  

Granddaddy was a preacher
Built that church from the sign to the steeple
I didn't know him except by his journaling hand
If you can find him you can love him
But girl you gotta be honest about him
You'll be fightin' them weeds for the rest of your days

Another one they performed from their new album was ‘When We Were Writers’, which feels like the bit where they are telling their origin story. In it, I heard how going down memory lane is all good and well, but that there’s still a fire that burns inside and this life isn’t over yet.

I sometimes find their discussions and write-ups about their music to be nearly as impactful as the music itself. They had this to say about their latest album:

Look Long considers the tremendous potential of ordinary life and suggests the possibility that an honest survey of one’s past and present, unburdened by judgement, can give shape to something new – the promise of a way forward.”

The opening set was performed by Lucy Wainwright Roche ( Her performance was interspersed with commentary and tidbits – small stories about her family or her dog. I enjoyed her music and she has an incredible voice. 

The video below is not from the concert I attended, but Lucy Wainwright Roche has been touring with the Indigo Girls before – here she’s performing one of my favorite IG songs with them.

Overall a wonderful evening spent outdoors on a lawn chair. It reminded me to slow down, breathe, and listen. And enjoy the music.

Stories and Songcraft

Music and stories are two of my ecclectic hobbies. Because they can often share the same mental space, I freely admit that I still make mix-tapes and build stories around songs in my head.  It’s since migrated to playlists on Spotify, but as it’s something I’ve done since I can remember, I doubt I’ll quit any time soon.  It’s led to some interesting video editing hobbies and introduced me to some good friends. 

While I don’t come from a traditionally musical sort of family, music has always been a part of my life. My mother was fond of John Denver (to put it mildly) and other folk artists like Joan Baez – so that musical style was very influential to me. I was encouraged to learn to play both the piano and guitar and although I was never very proficient at either, the study gave me an appreciation for music.

I am a fan of many musical genres, but have a special fondness for the what is today called ‘Americana’1. Overall it’s a combination of folk and rock that feels soulful to me in ways that modern country doesn’t. 

Every now and then I come across a song that resonates in a way that is hard to articulate. That’s what happened in 2008 when I first heard ‘The Story’ performed by Brandi Carlile.  As both her music has grown and as I’ve grown, my favorite Brandi Carlile song has shifted with time, but ‘The Story’ holds a place in my heart for being the first. This site is loosely named after a phrase from the song. 

Yes, I chose the web site name from a phrase in a song.  

I spent some time considering the choice, worrying that it would seem cliche or cringe-worthy.  And then I spent some time unpacking why I internalized this concept that musical inspiration was hokey (that’s possibly another post entirely).  

It wasn’t until this past month when I listened to her audiobook, Broken Horses, that I realized ‘The Story’ was actually written by bandmate Phil Hanseroth2. While Brandi Carlile may not have written the lyrics for ‘The Story’, her voice is the one to tell it. And no one is an island, etc. etc. 

One industry insider 3 put it like this: “Brandi, Tim and Phil have the natural ability to put into words the emotions we all feel, but find difficult to articulate. Their writing and Brandi’s music and voice are intimate and raw. Their talents will stand the test of time…”

I agree.

In addition to heartfelt and cathartic music, Brandi Carlile has used her voice to raise awareness for humanitarian efforts, like War Child International and actively works to elevate women in the music industry. 

She’s also a fan (and a friend) of Dolly Parton, and listening to them sing together just makes my heart glad.

  1. (I acknowledge that, like other areas of the entertainment industry, the genre has had issues with diversity and representation)
  2. (Phil Hanseroth)
  3. (Troy Tomlinson, chairman and CEO of UMPG Nashville)