Monday, August 16, 2004

Would You Rather Be Regular or Normal?

The most depressing thing of all is coming home after a ten hour work day during a 70 hour work week looking forward to watching the local first place baseball team take on the suddenly hot second place team only to find out that the local team is behind by six runs and it's only the third inning. That is of course unless you consider the ramifications of perpetually being in love with one who will never love you back.

Or maybe the most depressing thing is to hear the ache in Lucinda Williams' voice as she sings about longing during a great version of "Side of the Road" in front of the animals (some in cages, some closer in proximity) during a concert at the Minnesota Zoo.

Then again it's awfully depressing watching first hand your own softball game starting to show the creaks and ravages of growing old. You're a step older, and the drives you used to hit over outfielder heads now land safely in gloves and the grounders you used to beat out you now find yourself out by just a step. The glove is less steady and the arm less sure. And what's even more depressing is that you realize that you will one day (perhaps sooner than later) be unable to play the game anymore as much as you still love playing. There is a limit, hard as it is to accept, that playing a young person's game is not always going to be a place for a prematurely old man.

This year's softball season has been the most frustrating of all. Playing for a team that outscored its opposition during the season only to end up with more losses than wins can take its toll. Missing more games than you got to play was unfortunate to the extreme. Last weekend was the annual end of season double elimination tournament and for the first time ever your team lost its first two games making it a very quick day.

But just as sad was getting home and seeing a young cat familiarly watching the world from a bedroom window. His head is rested (oh so cutely) on his lone front paw as he takes it all in. When he sees you arrive home he calls out. He used to wander freely in the outdoors only to get caught in a trap and have the world that he knew and grew comfortable with, suddenly gone forever. As he hobbles around his house on his three remaining limbs he alternates between extremely affectionate and frustratingly untrusting.

But in the end (40 years later) it all is made a little less depressing when one comes home and plops on the best CD of the past couple of years, Shelby Lynne's heartwrenching Identity Crisis.

Lynne is at the age where it would be a twilight of a softball career but the beginning of an artistic career only her career hasn't exactly been of the overnight sensation variety. Just when you think you've had it rough try watching one parent murder another and then commit suicide right in front of your sister and you. That's bound to turn you into one hell of an artist or basket case or both.

After gaining Grammy notoriety for her "best new artist" (after years of trying) CD, This is Shelby Lynne, Lynne recorded a disappointing follow up, Love,Shelby that sounded like every other country performer ever born. But that's what made the ensuing Identity Crisis sound so fresh and inspiring. One gets the feeling it is the CD that Lynne has always wanted to make but was never able to because she either didn't sell enough to call her own shots or given some recognition she was made to do what she was told in order to really have some say in the matter.

Identity Crisis opens with the jazzy, soul soothing, and intuitive "Telephone" and never lets up from there. This isn't the blues, it's a color all its own. Go ahead and try listening to the cathartic climax on "Gotta Be Better" and then try and tell me that you don't understand things better in this unrelenting and unforgiving world. Depressing as it all can seem, nothing seems quite so bad after listening to someone like Shelby at her best.

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