Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finding a Prairie Home Companion

I feel like a lot of my posts recently have been reminiscent of my childhood. Baked goods, flowers, long life fears...these are the topics that blogs are made for! Well, to round off my week of thinking about growing up my parents came to visit this weekend. The drive is long, 9 hours from Pittsburgh to Nashville, but they made it in their big Honda Pilot with their spaniel Stargell as copilot.

The best part about road trips with the Cox Family is the music. We do these car trips a lot. The most common route when I was younger, was Pittsburgh to Portland, ME to take the ferry over to Nova Scotia each summer. When I was nine, my Dad had a Ford Taurus station wagon, silver with gray fabric seats. To this day, I can never hear a Traveling Wilbury's album without thinking of that drive through New England sitting in the backseat, thinking about who Tweeter and the Monkey-man really were...and why did they sound so cool?

Another staple to these drives, and really any weekend excursion, was NPR's weekly broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion. Wistful bluegrass songs, beautiful harmonies, perplexing stories of Guy Noir, and tongue and cheek radio drama was always a soundtrack to our Saturday evenings. There was just something so old fashioned and wonderful about sitting around a radio on a weekend night. Listening, laughing, and sometimes even rolling around in tears because it was just so funny.

Now that I am an adult PHC enthusiast, I realize how lucky I was to be exposed to this radio storytelling at such a young age. Thanks Mom and did good. In fact they did so good, that this trip to Nashville also included a live Prairie Home Companion broadcast at the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman is probably the most beautiful venue I have ever been to see music. It is if you will, the Carnegie Hall for folk music. And, perhaps it is because you sit in old wooden church pews but each time I go I feel like I am going to church, a church that praises music.

Needless to say Garrison Keeler and PHC was everything I wanted it to be. A mishmash of old time bluegrass with the new, we got to see a man who calls himself "Cowboy Jack" and then one of my favorite local legends The Dave Rawlings Machine (with Gillian Welsh and Ketch Secor). And, as the little "On Air" sign glowed on the stage left I thought of all the little girls and their families sitting around the kitchen table, or driving back from a friends house in the car, listening and laughing along.

As I watched my parents drive away today, I couldn't help but wonder what music they might listen to on the drive back to the 'burgh. Probably some Gospel, my Mom loves that on a Sunday, maybe some Old Crow Medicine Show to honor the kind of music they spent the weekend with, and maybe a little PHC too if a local NPR station is playing it. Because in the end, as good as it is live... there is just something so good about hearing it on the car radio.

1 comment:

  1. Nell, You're right. As we left I put Marty Stuart's Soul Chapel back on the CD player. Then we listened to a little Gillian Welch to bring back that PHC feeling. A beautiful ride back to Pittsburgh with all the blooming red buds and white dogwoods lining the road to Louisville and beyond. xoxo, Momma