VIBES: A Playlist For Your Drives

I remember when my parents told me about my new sister, an unplanned surprise, one that was supposedly arriving sometime over the summer of 1998. I was so excited to have another girl in the house. A friend I could protect, coach, and love.

Fast-forward seventeen years and six months since that first discussion. It’s me, my Mom, my twenty-year-old brother Henry, and my now seventeen year-old sister Kate at the kitchen table. We are eating fried chicken and potato salad. There’s also lemonade and strawberry shortcake and cool-whip and baked beans. My brother has returned from the summer camp where he now leads music and swim lessons with a full beard. He has taken an affinity towards wearing chino shorts with chambray bowties and loafers, yet still peppers college-age colloquialisms like ‘turnt up’,  ‘go hard,‘ and ‘whack A.F.’ into his everyday speech. My sister is at the head of the table with a new haircut I’m still getting used to. It makes her look like a dead-ringer for 1992- era Sinead O’Connor — specifically what she looked like on the cover of ‘Am I Not Your Girl?’  We discuss my sister’s eventual ability to vote for Hilary in 2016 and she opens our gifts — a pair of blue jeans. Black cut-off Levi’s shorts with that cute two-horse back patch. Lip gloss. Scented lotion.

At the end of the evening, I say goodbye.  I’m in the doorway heading out, but something makes me stop. I look at my Mom standing in the living room. I wait there at the precipice of the door, suddenly wanting her to say something that will comfort me –but comfort me from what? My own bittersweet memories of birthdays past, present, and future? My own fears of growing up?

I can’t place what exactly is causing me to feel the sting of time’s passage so sharply, so instead I just say, rather cheerfully — “Okay, Bye!! Love you!” and get in my truck, feeding a CD into the dash and playing it loud.

There’s something about birthdays. Another marker of a year’s plodding progress. And there’s something about every birthday that makes me miss my dad. Can he see that Henry has a beard? Would he like it?  Can he see that Katie has a shaved head? Was he watching while Mom painted the bedroom and the hallway? Would he like the person I am becoming?  Can he see my brother and sister and I — navigating as we can around early adulthood, sometimes fumbling, sometimes succeeding? I hope he can. I think he can. And the ways I commune with my Dad are in quiet moments like this — in my truck, driving home, listening to Emmylou and the CD’s I’ve made for myself that remind me of him.

I sometimes pretend like he’s there, listening along with me as we used to. I tell him how funny my brother is, and ask his opinion on my writing. As the music plays,  I tell him how awesome it was to see Tift Merrit play live out in the desert last fall, and when the CD switches to my favorite Andrew Combs single I excitedly ask ”Doesn’t the bridge on ‘Big Bad Love’ remind you of early John Pizzarelli?’  These little things are the things I miss sharing with him the most, and so the music becomes my meditation, my communion with him. I only cry a little bit — just for half-a-block. Then the tears stop. I sing along to ‘Tulsa Queen’ all the way home. Things feel better.

Listen to GO on Spotify

1. Tulsa Queen – Emmylou Harris
2. Nashville Blues – The Everly Brothers
3. Lost in the Light – Bahamas
4. New York – Cat Power
5. Wanted Man – Johnny Cash
6. Waymore’s Blue’s – Waylon Jennings
7. Drink Up and Be Somebody – Merle Haggard
8. Call Me the Breeze – JJ Cale
9. Freedom Highway – The Staple Singers
10. Maria – Lucinda Williams
11. Hard Scratch Pride – Whitey Morgan & The 78’s
12. Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson
13. Hey, Now I’m Movin – Kurt Vile
14. It’s Been A Long Time Coming – Delaney & Bonnie
15. Movin’ – Johnny Cash
16. Time to Bum Again – Waylon Jennings
17. Happy Woman Blues – Lucinda Williams
18. Traveling Alone – Tift Merritt
19. Dark End of the Street – Cat Power
20. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
21. Loretta – Townes Van Zandt
22. Tighten Up My Thang – Soul Children
23. Sweet Home – Pops Staples
24. Go Out on The Road – Hurray for the Riff Raff
25. Westbound Train – Robert Ellis
26. Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac
27. That’s All It Took – Gram Parsons
28. The Pick-Up – Conway Twitty
29. Heartbroken, In Disrepair – Dan Auerbach
30. Into Something (Can’t Shake Loose) – O.V. Wright
31. The Trip – Kim Fowley
32. I’d Love to Lay You Down – Conway Twitty
33. Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man – Conway Twitty
34. Chattahoochee – Alan Jackson
35. It’s Only Make Believe – Conway Twitty
36. Rollin’ Free – Johnny  Cash
37. Wild One – Nikki Lane
38. Hummed Low – Odessa Rose
39. Learning How to Live – Lucinda Williams
40. Killing the Blues – Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
41. To Live is To Fly – Townes Van Zandt
42. Drifted Apart – Tift Merrit
43. West – Lucinda Williams
44. Dearly Departed – Shakey Graves
45. Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line – Waylon Jennings
46. Security – Otis Redding
47. Workin’ Woman Blues – Valerie June
48. Feeling of Beauty – Tift Merrit
49. Runnin’ You Out of My Mind – Andrew Combs
50. Can’t Take You With Me – Bahamas
51. The Breeze / My Baby Cries – Bill Callahan
52. Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way – Waylon Jennings