First Published at http://www.rootsmusic.ca/
Hopeless pair that we are, it's the day after St. Valentine's, and my old college buddy, Paul C., and I are stagging it once again. We have been bailed upon by our wives, both of whom refuse to sit in a pub with us and Lynn Miles.
Paul's affliction/addiction is considerably worse than mine, to the point that his grown children refer to Lynn as "The future Mrs. C*****". His wife, a fan of Miss Celine Dion, sees no future in pretending to condone the melancholy rapture that overtakes her husband for a week prior to, and a week after Miles' local appearances. My own Kim, a great music fan who concedes that Lynn "sounds like a very special person," has an alternating "I'm too tired / it's too cold" reaction all day that culminates in a last-minute "I'm sure you'll enjoy it more without me," which provides just the right balance of guilt and condescension for a clean getaway for both of us.
I had already spent a week drenching the house in the aural perfume of Downpour, Lynn's most recent album, along with Unravel, Slightly Haunted and Fall For Beauty, as I prepped for her appearance on Corby's Orbit. The interview and live performance, with Canada's chief curator of unsatisfactory love relationships, would be taking place not only on a full moon, but on Valentine's Day. I was strapping myself to the mast of the music.
And every morning, I simply didn't call Paul. I told myself it was for his own good.
The show went well, we got along. Couple tunes. Couple laughs. She played her epic free spirit anthem, 'My Road'." I said "It's sort of my road too." Afterwards, we talked about how difficult it is to sell actual records. I had been trying to find a hard copy of Downpour at Christmas to give to a recently divorced friend. Lynn smiled, "It's a good divorce record." I felt we had connected.
I didn't hear from Paul.
Winterfolk weekend was smashing, as always. Saw good old friends and heard the songs that matter so much. I was reaching over a crowd to take a picture of the stage at Terri-O's when a voice behind me said, "Need a boost?"
"What did you have in mind?" I replied. Paul. I didn't even have to look.
"I'm sorry I won't be home tonight to listen to your interview with Lynn," he said.
"That's good. I did it yesterday."
"What?" He was blinking slowly, stunned.
"My show. It's on Fridays." Paul is a Sherlock for details. After trying to convince me for awhile that my show was, indeed, on Saturdays, we finally agreed to meet up later for the concert.
At 7:30, as the sun sets on the Danforth, young Christians are out on the sidewalk, trying to save musicians. On the main floor, a short, sepia bookie is attempting to collect on a bet. "Is this not your signature?" he deadpans to his client. Paul and I link, and are ushered up the stairs to the new soft-chair version of The Black Swan's annual Winterfolk celebration. David Bradstreet opens the night with a finely-tuned set that takes the audience from childhood to Antarctica and back again. Paul goes out for a quick smoke and I order a red wine. I ask Paul how many times he's seen her. "This one puts it to two figures," he admits.
We're both psyched when Lynn comes down the aisle with her guitar and a sheaf of papers.
She begins with a new piece, part of a current songwriting project that she hopes will be "the darkest Christmas music ever recorded." It's about how cold and sad everything is. Delicious. The vamp after the chorus goes on and on as she investigates the ceiling. "I was looking pretty pro for awhile there wasn't I?" she quips, stopping to look for the second verse in her paperwork. "I actually can't remember anything I've written since 2012. I've got seven hundred songs; I'm working on it." The room warms up.
Then she plays a few songs from the Downpour material. "Paul Corby. Corby's Orbit. You here?" she asks, tilting her head back. I make a startled, yelping sort of sound. "This one's for you," and she launches into 'My Road'. Tingles. Then there is a touch on my knee. "I hope you know. You're a dead man."
Without any more memory lapses, she continues through her catalogue of tears and triumphs. Tremors of empathetic vulnerability are cresting in waves as she announces the midpoint of the set as "a bright spot, designed to lift us all up. It's called 'How To Be Alone'". How cold will it get? Well, she IS from Ottawa. Another new song about teenage hookers, called, perhaps, 'High Heels In The Snow' (dedicated to our disinterested Prime Minister), takes us right to the brink of inconsolability. Lynn's husky verses break through into hearty crystal clear choruses full of resolute lamentation. Over and over, deeper and deeper.
Then the opening chords of 'Black Flowers' spill out a warning. Paul mutters "oh shit". Lynn Miles casts her final spell, then polishes off the night with a virtuosic 'Let The Sun Have Its Day' from Fall For Beauty, swings her silvery haystack of hair back and takes her final bow. I reach in my pocket and pull out a folded clean tissue and pass it back to Paul without looking."Every damn time" he murmurs.
p.s. John A***** asks " Have you created a doppelganger Paul C to conceal your own emotional responses?" Very good question John. How Borges is that?