Besides being Birthday Month, the start of October always seems to prompt an odd change in me and my listening habits.
In general terms, I’m all over the place musically, with a few obvious focuses — hippie music, reggae, jazz and occasional forays into the other stuff that occupies my iPod. But when this time of year rolls around, there’s something that clicks in my brain, forcing me to seek out tremolo, fuzzy reverb, pedal steel guitars and sad, dark lyrics.
My tolerance for country music is generally pretty low, and I’m not really talking about country music here. It’s something else, that “genre” called Americana, No Depression, Alt-Country … I don’t really know what it should be called, or even how to define it all that well, but I know that having Cowboy Junkies or the Jayhawks or Wilco playing in my car while I’m driving between home and work seems like the right thing to do.
I don’t know why this happens. I always feel a touch of melancholy around my birthday; maybe that’s a reason. The cool weather, a burst of color from the trees I drive by — followed by the inevitable decay — that could be part of the deal as well. The songs just feel right.
And I haven’t misspoke when I’m talking about a feeling. It’s tangible; something turns sweetly somewhere inside when the pedal steel on the Junkies’ “To Love is to Bury” swells at the beginning of the song or when I’m listening to the harmonies on Blue Rodeo’s “Me & Baz.”
It’ll fade again later this month, or maybe in early November; it always does. But while it persists this year, I’ll be ready. I’m in the middle of compiling an October Mix for the iPod. It’s at three hours at the moment — and could go longer — so I’m not going to give you all the details. Here’s a sample, beyond what I’ve already listed:
- “California Stars,” Billy Bragg and Wilco
- “Moon & Tree,” Blue Rodeo
- “I Did it All For You,” Cowboy Junkies
- “Settled Down Like Rain,” Jayhawks
- “Right In Time,” Lucinda Williams
- “Fade Into You,” Mazzy Star
- “Drunkard’s Prayer,” Over The Rhine
- “Cold Roses,” Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
- “Medicine Hat,” Son Volt
- “Whiskey Bottle,” Uncle Tupelo
- “Via Chicago,” Wilco
That’s just a portion, but fairly representative. No real straightforward country songs, but the spirit is similar. It’s a little sad, a little dark, and although this is my favorite time of the year, it’s a little like what I feel as October begins.