Monday, December 24, 2018

2018: The Year in Delight

2018 will not be a year I readily associate with “delight.”
The view from here.
News of Anthony's death was the equivalent of dropping an anchor through the floor of my little fishing boat. Other matters of concern followed, and I am agreeable to yacking about it person to person — drop me a line if you like. But we all know the deal: there are years when regaining balance requires focus on every single step. 2018 has been that sort of a year for a lot of people, I think.

Nevertheless 2018 was frequently delightful.

I reconnected with a beloved friend this summer — watching Dan Baird & Co. roll up their sleeves and get the job done was a happy bonus. The setlist from that night helps me with same.

My two favourite books this year were Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 by Ryan H. Walsh, and Julian Barnes' The Only Story.

Walsh's book received a lot of love from a wide variety of readers, and for very good reason. Walsh doesn't just evoke a particular scene — Boston in '68 is pretty peculiar, alright, but it's peculiar in ways that should seem familiar to anyone who watched the '60s gestate and take root in any city in North America. Next to Dream Time by Geoffrey O'Brien, Astral Weeks is the single best portrait of the '60s I have read.

Barnes' book didn't seem to get much coverage, but I loved it. I cannot improve on or in any way reinform Michael Czobit's lovely review of it, over here.

Musically, there were some new releases that caught me by the ears. Kate Dunton's TrioKAIT2 is pleasant; similarly, John Scofield's Combo 66. I have a lot of love for Automata I and II by Between The Buried & Me. Steven Wilson's Home Invasion rescued me — the live version of “The Raven That Refused To Sing” is especially moving, I think.

But most of 2018 was devoted to rediscovering old music. I was grateful for the 50th anniversary spit-and-polish of The Band's Music From Big Pink. But the stuff I queued up most frequently was by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Three Kings of Blues, Savoy Brown, etc.

First of all, it's music that seems to suit this particular moment for me. Secondly, I'm trying to pick up as many stylistic flourishes as I can, to bring my own playing up a notch — which my wife and kids assure me has indeed improved noticeably (no word from the neighbours yet, but that's probably a good thing).

I owe it all to this guy, and the guy who introduced me to him. Justin Sandercoe and his online tutorials have been the single most uplifting element to my existence this year — my heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to him.

And to you as well, for reading and even interacting with what I've got here. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and God bless in 2019.

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