Back to the Turntable
This morning after not using my turntable in 15 years I dusted it off, struggled to hook it up (the belt had come off)...and have been enjoying the heck out of listening to some old favorite recordings that just haven't made it onto CD yet (and likely never will). Too, the hands-on "labour" of taking an album carefully out of its dust cover, handling it by the edges, placing it on the turntable, cleaning it and carefully applying the needle...well, it still holds the old charm for me. There's a kind of excitement I feel as I go through that process hungry to hear the vinyl's musical offerings for the first time in all these years...call it anticipation. I got it.
At the moment I'm enjoying Harley Allen's "Across the Bluegridge Mountains," (Folkways Records FTS 31076). What a singer. Harley was one of the smart ones. He figured out a long time ago that the real way to make money in music is to write the great songs. He has. If you're not familiar with Harley Allen's writing you need to do your homework and check him out. But I regret that I don't hear Harley out on the road anymore. What a beautiful voice he has - he slides up and down the scale (mostly up) with the most delicate subtlety and casual finesse; it almost sounds lazy.
'Course he had a great teacher...his dad, Red Allen.
First time I heard Harley he was singing at the now-defunct Berkshire Mountain Bluegrass Festival with Red back 1984. Harley's a smart-ass with a vicious wit, make no mistake about it. He takes no prisoners. I'm sure glad to count him among my friends. Ran into him at IBMA last fall looking taller and thinner than ever. I was surprised he remembered me though I'm still short and plump like I was last time he came over to the house and thrilled us with his incredible voice. Those picking parties were fun...Harley trotted out his latest songs with casual aloofness and we sat there drop-jawed, mesmerized. How does such a wise guy write such heartfelt lyrics? I always felt mortally wounded after he sang one of those songs. I love that feeling in some sick way. If your singing doesn't hurt me I ain't gonna love you.
Now I'm onto the Allen Brothers, "Sweet Rumors." You haven't lived till you've heard these boys lay it down on "Storms Never Last," "When Someone Wants to Leave"...well, just sit down and LISTEN!
Here's to Harley - and to the renaissance of the Great Turntable, too. Long live vinyl and great singers to enjoy on it.