The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
American 1992
The Black Crowes and George Drakoulias

1. Sting Me
2. Remedy
3. Thorn in My Pride
4. Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye
5. Sometimes Salvation
6. Hotel Illness
7. Black Moon Creeping
8. No Speak No Slave
9. My Morning Song
10. Time Will Tell

Bonus tracks:
11. Sting Me (slow)
12. 99 lbs.

Bad luck, blue eyes and goodbye to another year


To say I won’t miss 2016 is probably an accurate statement. There was some good in the past year met with a tremendous amount of bad, and the artificial construct of flipping a calendar to a new year and saying goodbye to the past is more than welcome.

And to celebrate, I spent a good chunk of today walking around listening to an album I’ve had for nearly 20 years.

I actually woke up without a hangover and feeling just about normal for the first time in years on a New Year’s Day. There was coffee in the morning and the usual game of “there’s nothing on TV” that happens on these quiet days. I listened to a little music on my headphones and scribbled a little bit in a notebook, then found myself with a blank slate in the afternoon.

So I went for a walk. It was a balmy 40 degrees with a clear sky, so I grabbed my coat and bag and set out for that main artery of Massachusetts Ave., just sort of strolling down through Cambridge for lack of a better way to spend the time.

After a few blocks and with the song running through my head, I decided to take my headphones out and pull up the Black Crowes’ “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye,” and let the sound transform from a very vivid memory to something living in the present. And with hardly any traffic or street noise to compete with, it merged nicely with the cold breeze and the slowly dimming sky.

I’ve lived with that record, The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion, for so long. In what can be a chaotic timeline with moves and friends coming and going, and with different bands and sounds bobbing up and slinking back away with the days and months, the Black Crowes’ second album is one of those that has been a constant since I was 17 or so.

“Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” isn’t usually the first song I’ll think of from that set, but it was today. The line, “Sometimes a memory / only sees what it wants to believe,” seemed to be ringing in my ears the loudest. But the ascending guitar riff that pumps through the chorus, between the words “eyes” and “goodbye,” was right there with it. It was getting colder, and I had my headphones outside a winter beanie now. The general classic feel shared with the best of Joe Cocker’s early work is there and it’s what I wanted to hear at that moment.

It warmed everything up and I let it keep running. Next was “Sometimes Salvation,” which becomes more and more the centerpiece of that record the more I hear it — that pained, soulful vocal soaring over such a determined track. I wound up on some little side street between Cambridge and Broadway when “Time Will Tell” came up that I’d never been on before. No street lights, just parked cars and tidy looking apartment buildings, the kind of street where hundreds of people probably spend more time than they realized in their day-to-day lives.

By the time their cover of Humble Pie’s “99 lbs.” came up, I was approaching the backside of Central Square, winding through one of the parking lots before coming back to Mass. Ave. And right there was a record store that was actually open past 5 p.m. on a Sunday, and on New Year’s Day no less. And Curtis Mayfield was cranking out of their speakers onto the sidewalk so, yes, I think it’s time to go in, flip through the bins and relax a little bit.

I wound up walking out with Dixie Chicken by Little Feat, and On Tour by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, which is a record I actually held in my hand shortly before Christmas before putting it back on the rack and deciding that, just this moment, maybe I didn’t need to be spending any more money on music. But today felt a little different. I took a winding, nonsensical route through Cambridge before winding up at a record store, and there it was for $9.99. It seemed like it needed a home.

And now I’m home, with two new records in tow. Currently, Delaney & Bonnie are playing up a storm, singing that they’re comin’ home too. From the South to London’s Royal Albert Hall, through a sunset and a walk across town with no real destination in mind. Nothing too drastic was accomplished but everything feels slightly calmer and just a little more peaceful. Goodbye to a stressful year, and as first days go, it hasn’t been a bad start.

Jan. 1, 2017

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