The Baseball Desert

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


One of the things I love about the offseason is that my favourite bloggers are writing not just about the Hot Stove and whether Armando Benitez is a good fit for the Giants, but also about a whole host of interesting subjects, from the steady decline in quality of Robert B. Parker's detective novels to the time they worked for the Coen brothers.

With that in mind, I figured today would be a good day to post something unrelated to baseball, since I finally received a couple of CDs I've been eagerly awaiting for the past week or so. The release of this one has been well-documented, so I'll leave the job of writing about it to the professionals, especially since I haven't yet had the time to sit down and listen to it properly. However, CD #2 went into the CD player in the living-room as soon as I got home and has been there ever since.

I don't know what it is about bluegrass that attracts me, but as an English guy living in France whose favourite sport is baseball, I've learned not to question the whys and wherefores, but rather just to enjoy things as they come. However, if I had to stand up in court of law and defend my love of bluegrass, I would probably build a case around the combination of a technically difficult musical genre and the expression of very clear and simple sentiment. Lyrically, a lot of the songs are country staples - songs about love and loss and heartbreak (although those themes obviously aren't confined to country music) - and melodically there are few surprises. There are some artists I listen to because their work is full of surprises - you never quite know what's waiting just around the corner, and I think that what makes bluegrass / country so attractive to me (outside of the fact that - just like baseball - you don't get much of it in Manchester or Paris) is the fact that it's the polar opposite of that: it's a musical form where you pretty much always know where you're going. I suppose it's a bit like choosing between Stravinsky and Mozart - one is constantly challenging, to the point of being almost inaccessible, the other is endlessly comforting, at the risk of being predictable.

There are exceptions to the rule (particularly "newgrass" artists) but generally bluegrass, partiularly in its Alison Krauss incarnation, plays that latter role for me, although it does so with a grace and technical prowess that make it nonetheless fascinating. A rock icon once said that a song of his ("a cross between Mozart and Bach - a kind of Mach") was "simple lines, intertwining", and that seems to sum things up pretty well. In a sense, it's an escape, because it takes a complicated mess of a world and boils it down to a essence that is pure of voice and simple of expression, but from time to time that's welcome relief.

So, this British redneck is off to enjoy the album one more time tonight - I'll catch y'all later...