Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Obsession Now: The Old 97's, "How Lovely All It Was"

Most people listen to the Old 97's because of lead singer and songwriter Rhett Miller. I like Miller well enough as a singer and he has certainly penned his share of terrific songs for the band. However, the guy whose contributions I anticipate most eagerly is bassist Murry Hammond. From "W. TX Teardrops", my introduction to his vocal stylings, right on through today, I always look for his gem of a song on each album. I'm grateful as hell that he, at least, keeps the alt-country spirit alive in the band.

In the case of The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2, that gem is "How Lovely All It Was". I first heard this album during a long drive a couple of years ago. When this track came on, I almost forgot I was driving. I found myself hitting the "back" button so often, I finally pulled over and set the track to repeat. It accompanied me for the last three or four hours of the trip.

As with many of his numbers, I'm not quite sure what exactly he's singing about: the lyrics are a little oblique, just as the song's title is. The atmosphere, though, is reflective and a bit mournful, which suits my recent mood to a T.

This is my best guess as to the lyrics that resonate most:

If I don't see you again this way tomorrow
And my body doesn't break under the sorrow I swallow
I'll see you one old tomorrow
By and by

...

We're movin' on: you know that we've got to, man
How lovely all it was, how lovely all it was
The sun moves up and on, and so must we, my friend
How lovely all it was, how lovely all it was

(The ending, with just Murry singing to an acoustic accompaniment, sounds like it could have been a studio outtake from his solo album.)

I'm currently wallowing in the past and while it's kind of refreshing to dig up these particular memories, at some point I'll have to move up and on. How fortunate that Murry will be there to remind me.

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