Writer, singer, songwriter, guitar player

The connection between writing and music is one which has long intrigued me.

As a teenager I developed a love for the guitar which has remained constant for more than forty years. For me an acoustic  guitar is the closest instrument to the human voice, capable of radical dynamic shifts, mournful tones, foot-tapping rhythms and everything in between.  For a singer who accompanies himself on a guitar, the instrument becomes an extension of the performer’s voice, mood and personality.

Takamine guitar


What brought all this to mind was a trip I made this week to a new guitar shop in my home town.  It is a small shop in a  nondescript building, chock full of wonders.  My go-to guitar (pictured above) is a thirty-year-old Takamine classical acoustic electric cutaway.  It’s pickup is powered by a nine volt battery that must be inserted through the sound hole.  When the battery goes dead, a person must remove or loosen the strings in order to stick his hand inside the body of the guitar to replace it.

The last time I played a gig, I noticed I couldn’t send a signal to my amplifier, so I knew the battery was dead.  This presented an opportunity for  me to visit the  new guitar shop to buy some new strings and replace the dead battery.

Yesterday I picked the guitar up from the shop and brought it home, new shiny strings, new battery and all.  When I hooked it up to my Fender amplifier, I knew why I will always love guitars.

Fender Acoustasonic Junior Amp


The strings were a new brand to me, recommended by the proprietor of the shop as the ones he had come to favor after years of experimenting with classical guitar strings. They produced a sound that was bright, but also full.

Before I knew it, I was singing old songs.  Fire and Rain, Oh, Suzanna (an amateur’s version of James Taylor’s arrangement from Sweet Baby James), gospel songs like I’ll Fly Away, Angel Band (my father’s favorite song, by the way), Bob Dylan’s Girl From the North Country and Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, In the Early Morning Rain (Gordon Lightfoot is one of my all-time favs), songs by Hank (if you don’t know who Hank is, please go stand in the corner) like, Mansion on the Hill, I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love with You. 

And, of course, I had to play a couple of songs by the greatest singer songwriter of our day, the incomparable Guy Clark. The ones that popped out last night were Let Him Roll and Desperadoes Waiting for the Train.

When I look at that play list, I realize that the songs I have carried with me lo these many years tend to be story-telling songs, the type of music a person sings on the front porch when the light of day is fading and ghosts creep in the shadows, or strums in a straight-backed chair in the living room.  They are songs that transport the singer because while performing them he feels connected to the song-writer who gave them life.

That sense of connection to the song writer is what reinforces in  my  mind the close parallel between songs, short stories and novels.  When a reader really gets into a piece of writing, she walks through a door and enters an intimate place where she meets the soul of the author.  

Or at least it seems to me that it should be so.

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