Returning the Favor

Although I am a classically trained pianist and work as an organist and choir director, I have always been drawn to folk music. I love the virtuosity of concert pianists, the power of pipe organs, and the sweeping drama of opera, but, in my spare moments, I prefer the simple and authentic storytelling of acoustic artists. A “sometimes songwriter” myself, I love stumbling across new songs to listen to on repeat for weeks at a time. For instance, I remember first hearing Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” and being thoroughly captivated (and eerily intrigued) by its haunting lyrics and deceptively cheery G Major progression.

Earlier this month—just as the air started to crispen with the coming of autumn—I heard a song that made me laugh with delight: “Land of the Living,” by Roo Panes. So rarely do I come across a song that is at once nostalgic and joyful, that I could not help but listen again and again. While this song is far from new, it was new to me. Indeed, it contains something of eternal renewal, for its melody resonates with country mirth and its lyrics speak of an almost Narnian re-enchantment.

Roo’s other albums are also filled with this aged wisdom and childlike delight, a rare combination in a genre which can easily tend toward indulgent sorrow or sentimentality. As I listen to more of Roo’s music—including his new EP, Pacific, which was released earlier this year—I feel that we must have been raised on the same stories. His songs caught me in a peculiar season of life as I continue to miss the UK and yet look forward to new adventures. Although many of his albums been around for years, they seem to have found me just when I needed them most.

As a reader and listener, I enjoy a sense of creative kinship with the authors and singers who encourage and inspire me. As a writer and musician, though, I wish I could return the favor. It is wonderful to enjoy the work of great artists, but it can also feel like a one-sided conversation; although I am happy to listen and learn from the writers and musicians I admire, I cannot help but wonder what it would be like to respond with my own small voice and verses.

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