One Good Thing About Music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” ~Bob Marley

This has always been one of my favorite quotes; and I am proud to say that I regularly listen to Bob Marley’s hopeful–yet often melancholic–tunes.  Music is important in our yurt.  It is often playing or being played.  Music helps make chores easier, car rides more fun and naps more productive.  Evan plays the guitar and sings (he has been accused of having the voice of an angel, before.  It’s true). Evan and I have fairly frequent and playful arguments about our music preferences.  I have a feeling that Ava (and any other children that come along) will either be a total music snob or rebel and have atrocious music taste (atrocious according to me, of course!).

Ava and I are treated with live music multiple times per week!

Ava and I are treated with live music multiple times per week!

My love for music spans many genres and time periods, but I tend to turn to bluegrass, folk and classic rock.  On my computer’s iTunes, the bands with the highest number of plays are Elephant Revival, the Avett Brothers, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Rush (I think Rush is a result of Evan listening to music off of my computer!).  Raffi is quickly making his way up the yurt’s play charts, as well. I have been nannying for a couple of grade school girls over the last few months, so I’ve ended up listening to enough Taylor Swift to last a lifetime.  Elephant Revival has been my favorite for years (one of the leading ladies rocks the washboard!).  I listened to them for much of Ava’s very long labor, and I try to share them with anyone I can! There are some excellent free songs streaming from their website if you have time to give them a listen.

Elephant Revival is great campfire music.  This is a shot from a camping trip two weeks ago with good friends!

Elephant Revival is great campfire music. This is a shot from a camping trip two weeks ago with good friends!

When I first started farming, I had visions of what my future farm would look like.  One of the bonus amenities I pictured was large speakers with a reliable stream of tunage.  I imagine that I’ll have worldly, progressive farmhands working for me who bring music with them that will continue to open up our musical horizons.  We will craft the perfect playlists to listen to while doing the most common small-scale organic farming/gardening tasks: Stall mucking, transplanting, pea/spinach/tomato/other delicious produce harvesting, CSA packaging, and we must not forget the most common and necessary–weeding!

Now, I see that there are times when recorded music is overbearing and takes away from a task.  Sometimes the sound of a spade in the soil, birds flying over head, cattle mooing from the pasture, and the breeze whistling through a gap in the greenhouse door is the best music one can hear.  Furthermore, there are times when singing a tune can make the most monotonous work bearable.

The sounds of helpful kids shoveling April 21 snow is music to my ears!

The sounds of helpful kids shoveling April 21 snow is music to my ears!

I remember clearing an acre of land in Costa Rica eleven years ago.  There were eight of us in the crew and we cleared it using only hand tools (and machetes!  I need to get me one of those…).  It took the better part of two weeks!  We ended up singing many labor songs, often to the tune of “Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It’s off to work we go.”  We would create verse after verse, trying to give everyone a chance to add in whatever form of torture they were experiencing.  This reminds me of labor songs that must have kept many willing and unwilling farmhands sane while toiling away in the hot fields.  In the same vein, I think of people on chain gangs, rowers on huge ships and the other physical laborers singing and chanting together. Music, even in the worst and most trying of times, provides solidarity, escape and sometimes even JOY!

MORE April snow makes me turn to the music that makes me happiest: Led Zeppelin.

MORE April snow makes me turn to the music that makes me happiest: Led Zeppelin.

These days, I like to sing whenever the mood strikes me.  I make up songs about my animals (“Her name was Moki! Moki! Moki! Cooler than all the dogs…”), Ava (“Her name was Ava! Ava! Ava!/Silliest baby around”), Evan (“His name was Evan! Evan! Evan!”…do you see a theme here?), my students and the kids I take care of.  I’m not creative enough to craft an entirely new song, so I just parody tunes I know.  I’m a fairly terrible singer, but I’ve gotten to the point in life where I really don’t care what others think of inconsequential things like my singing voice.

I cannot help but sing songs about our furry friends

I cannot help but sing songs about our furry friends

When I was younger, I spent nearly every cent of disposable income I had on live music.  I would go to concerts, on average, three or four times per month.  Moving to more rural areas was hard at first.  What would I do with my free time? Now that I have a child, the idea of going to multiple concerts a month is kind of absurd, so it’s good I made that transition before Ava came along.  The music scene in Alaska isn’t that great, and most nationally known shows tend to sell out very quickly to people that aren’t even very big fans.  It’s such a luxury to see great live music that people will go to see just about anything!

Evan and I had the pleasure of seeing Moscow, Idaho’s own JOSH RITTER last Saturday.  It was a fabulous show in a new theater at the local community college.  One of the perks of music out here “in the valley” is that the venues are small so the shows are intimate.  The last time Josh Ritter played here (two years ago), he played in a local coffee shop with about fifty people!  How many people get to see fairly popular musicians in that kind of space?!

Josh Ritter at the Glenn Massay Theater in Palmer, Alaska.

Josh Ritter at the Glenn Massay Theater in Palmer, Alaska.

Josh doesn’t sing about farming, per se, but he is a modern folk singer that would appeal to any Farmgirl, I’m sure.  Some of his songs harken back to classic folk characters like Stagger Lee, but he also has crafted tunes about a woman falling in love with a mummy that has come back to life, men lamenting the problems in the world when their loves have gone to war, and some star crossed lovers who find love waiting to push a warhead button to start WWIII in a missile silo, among many other themes.  His voice is soothing and enveloping, his rhythm is flawed, and he definitely has some Farmboy charm. (Check out those two links, I think you’ll like his music a lot! He also did an NPR Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago check it out here, and another live NPR concert that is streaming here).

Another music opportunity in our community!  Ava's first orchestra?

Another music opportunity in our community! Ava’s first orchestra?

Do you have any Farmgirl gems?  A new season is upon us and some new music is in order!  I will start my farming gig next week, and some new (new-to-me classics definitely count!) music to share with my co-farmers would be great!

I just had to share this sweet photo.  Our good friends Bix and Emma left Alaska last week, and this is Bix walking with Ava for the last time in a long time.  Sad Face.  Perhaps I should parody a song for this moment.

I just had to share this sweet photo. Our good friends Bix and Emma left Alaska last week, and this is “Uncle” Bix walking with Ava for the last time in a long time. Sad Face. Perhaps I should parody a song for this moment.

Until Next time,

Sending you peace, love and beautiful harmonies,

Alex, The Rural Farmgirl

Leave a comment 10 Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Oh my goodness! Thanks for sharing Elephant Revival (I’ve never heard of them). As soon as I clicked on the link and saw the picture, I knew by looking at the instruments that I was going to love them. Listened to a quick sample and yes, I am ready to buy, download a CD!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Nancy–YES! I’m so, SO happy you enjoy them. I’ve listened to both “These Changing Skies” and “Break in the Clouds” too many times to count! Soundtrack of my last four years. It feels so good to get lost in beauty.

  2. edith says:

    We love Old Crow Medicine Show whilst weeding! New Orleans Jazz, bluegrass, French classical, we’ve got it covered! Thanks for sharing ! Love the amber teething necklace btw!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Oh yeah, OCMS is good for those energy suckers! I’ve recently been getting more into New Orleans Jazz. We visited a few years ago and loved it.

  3. susana says:

    Music has been my life since I can remember. Sang when I was four years old. My mother thought it was cute and for the next thirteen years its all my sister and I did. It was a way of occupying ourselves. Little did we know it would occupy us our whole life. A day without music would be hell. I foray I never lose my ability to sing/and hear.
    We were fortunate to have a lot of neighbors and aquaitances that either sang or player an instrument. Wed get a free concert all the time. But sometimes it can get verwheming too. Some peoples music could be your torture. Lol.
    We have one neighbor whose gone on to be quite a singer…country music…J.B Aaron….we know him by the name Josh. Just put His name in a browser to find where he’s at now. He’s come a long way since he first came into our lives….he was going around town selling watches….and of course my husband bought one. He reminded me of my son….a go getter. He’s going places in the music world. Where as my sister and I just dang in New York, Pa, and/Ohio, as far as my mother could get us singing gigs, but when my sister got married, our duet broke up.I had a hard time singing alone…. I would just sing in a choirs. It felt weird to sing all alone. Once in a while I would sing a solo, but I would always picked the song. I never had the desire to make money at singing, as it always felt too demanding. Its not a life I some choose. Living out of a suitcase was never a life I wanted. But give me a song I like, and I’d sing. You kind a learn it from being around people who sing. My mother ….she had a beautiful vocal range. She sang like an angel, and I never appreciated her voice until she passed I cry when I sing her songs she loved. Teach your baby all the best and she will never forget you!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Oh, Susana! Thanks for sharing. I SO wish I could sing well, but like I said, it doesn’t keep me from singing a happy tune (although it could be torturous to some–sorry to those who have been tortured by me! haha). I bet your voice is angelic. I will have to check out J.B. Aaron. A day without music would be hell, you are right on with that statement. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and encouragement! Keep on singing!

  4. Gail says:

    Love your article, and love that Evan is carrying on. The music appreciation came from his parents, but not the talent. I can’t wait to see Ava rocking and singing in person!
    A new haunting “farming” song I have been hearing on our sirius radio the last few weeks is “Next Year People” by Colin Hay. An Australian singer, former Men at Work member. It is about the dust bowl. I thought it was about an Aussie drought until I fell on to his explanation. He saw a PBS special on the “Dirty 30’s”, which I know I have seen, also. “Next year everything will come good, the rains they will fall and we’ll dance on the hood….”
    Now, if the wind would stop blowing and the rains come soon to our dry prairie……….

    We LoVe you guys, Gail

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Gail! Where did Evan get his vocal chords? I also cannot wait to see Ava singing with a little guitar or playing the bass–female bass players are so awesome. I love Colin Hay’s music, but haven’t heard anything new of his for several years, I will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip! Love you!

  5. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for sharing Elephant Revival. I went to their website and my husband and I listened to the songs they have streaming there. Oh my word!!! My new favorite! :-) They are fantastic. I’m going to order a CD. Do you have a favorite you’d recommend? I was thinking about their newest one – Changing Skies.

    I play the piano and give my little grand-daughters lessons, but I’m not actually a very good pianist because I have no talent so it requires a whole lot of effort on my part to play! My husband is learning to play the banjo and he’s getting quite good and I love listening to him.

    This blog post was fun – I really enjoyed it and thanks again for sharing Elephant Revival!

    – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, as always, Dori! My two favorite Elephant Revival albums are These Changing Skies and Break in the Clouds. These Changing Skies is the one that I listened to while in Labor with Ava–“Grace of a Woman” got me through some tough moments! I’m so happy to turn wonderful people onto their soul feeding music. I’m sure your grand-daughters think you are the best piano player around, despite your modesty. I, too, love the banjo, and I’ve dabbled here and there, but I’ve never gotten very good. I should start practicing again! I was a pretty good flutist at one point in time, but I’ve lost the facial muscles for any prolonged playing these days. So glad you enjoy Elephant Revival!

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