In the fall of 1989 my brother Steve and I found ourselves in the lineup for the premiere of Roger & Me standing in front of Steven Page and Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies. The band was less than a year old at the time, and hadn’t yet broken, but somehow we knew who they were; as a result, I’ve always felt kind of like I went to high school with them. Even though I didn’t.
The band’s Odds Are escaped my attention when it was released in 2013, and so I’ve had the chance this week to treat it as the gift of a brand new song.
Struck by lightning, sounds pretty frightening
But you know the chances are so small
Stuck by a bee sting, nothing but a B-thing
Better chance you’re gonna buy it at the mall
But it’s a twenty-three-or-four-to-one
That you can fall in love by the end of this song
So get up, get up
Tell the bookie put a bet on “not a damn thing will go wrong”
It has all the hallmarks of a great BNL song: witty (but not too witty), tightly written, catchy hook. The kind of song it’s hard to get tired of.
Meanwhile, the great May Erlewine released a new concert video this week, recorded in September in Traverse City, Michigan. She opened the concert with these words:
It’s so nice to be here together, and I know that we’re different than before, and I’m happy to meet this one of you.
And it’s by some great hand, or by will, and by heart, that we made it here.
And I don’t know how we can talk about time, because it falls away with each word, and then it’s already gone.
And so the story it begins.
It belongs, and it lives in us.
Here we are.
I don’t know why I find those words so affecting, but I do; they bring tears to my eyes on each listening.
So I also made a record, and some T-shirts to go with it, with my friend Woody, and we got together and we wrote a bunch of songs, and the album was released during the pandemic, which was unfortunate but it was a nice lovely, album to put out there.
And when we were writing the songs I was very intentionally not in love, and you know, as a hopeless romantic, that’s a feat, and so I fall in love every day, all the time, but I was feeling like I needed a break, and so what better way to take a break, than to write a bunch of love songs, and so I kind of feel like with me and love it’s like I’ll be doing good, just minding my own business, doing my own thing, and then love shows up, and it’s just like that Dolly Parton song, you know that Dolly Parton song, it’s like this…
Being a hopeless romantic, and being “very intentionally not in love,” both are things I can identify with.
Listen to the concert: you will not regret it.
I don’t feel like I went to high school with the members of The Wailin’ Jennys, partly because they seem like they’re all a generation younger than me, and partly because they seem one of those rare bands that organically sprang out of nowhere, a band that I seem to have always been vaguely aware of, yet know nothing about. (As an example of this lack of knowledge: when we saw The Small Glories play in Victoria in 2018 I had no idea that one half of that duo, Cara Luft, is also one third of The Wailin’ Jennys).
Which is to say: also on repeat this week has been their Beautiful Dawn.
Teach me how to see when I close my eyes
Teach me to forgive and to apologize
Show me how to love in the darkest dark
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart
That’s a good song for a hopeless romantic.