Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Dear K*****,

I know it’s been forever and ever.  Not sure if this email address even works anymore, so I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough if this gets returned after hitting send.

Right now I’m listening to a recent album from the wonderful singer/songwriter Tracy Shedd titled Arizona.  I’ve always kind of taken her talent for granted since first learning of her through one of those cheap Teen Beat Records samplers I used to always buy around the turn of the century (do you remember “Circles” from that last mix tape I sent just before I went in for the kidney removal surgery?).  All five of her albums are excellent, and yet I’m pretty sure that I’m not listening to them enough and telling everyone I can about them loudly enough.  This new one though has really hit me at the right time.  Apparently, it is almost entirely acoustic guitars, aside from a from a few little added touches here or there, but I swear I listened this thing three or four times before I realized how stripped down and spare this actually is.  I have been so enraptured in her words and voice and the delicate and memorable melodies provided by the twin acoustic guitars that nothing has ever felt like it was missing.

Why has it been such a profound listen right now?  Well, 2013 was overall a pretty lackluster year.  It was filled with my usual health uncertainties, more heartbreak, and just a general distaste, as I noticed in retrospect that many of my old standby hobbies and habits have gone by the wayside.  Many of the old comforts don’t really do the trick anymore and I’m not sure why or what to do or where to turn next.  I simply know that it’s time to find a new direction and I’m starting to find some solace in that idea.

I don’t want this to be about me, except to say that I have serious self-doubt about contacting you again after all of this time and so absolutely out of the blue.  But I’m worried about you.  Rumor has it that you have not been in a good place of late and I wish to offer you my distant support.  And I think Tracy Shedd offers up a notion, in her song “Broken Arrows”: “You can die trying, or you can die with a broken heart,” where I’m not totally sure these are the only options available (besides the dying part), but I’m taking her thought as a kick in the butt for 2014.  I’m tired of not trying things I want to achieve for fear of whatever, so to hell with it!

“Walking down memory lane
You took me by surprise
I was homesick and blue
Thinking about what to do”
                                                           -from “Sweet Talking”

Tracy Shedd does a fantastic cover of the old Magnetic Fields song “Candy” that I put on the first mix tape I ever sent you back in ‘93.  Do you remember when we last parted?  We were listening to the Magnetic Fields’ “100,000 Fireflies” on your turntable, when you gave me a hug and placed a simple rubber band on my wrist to tell me that I should wear one as a reminder that there will always be ‘someone’ out there who cares.  Well, that always meant the world to me and sometimes I find myself wearing five or six rubber bands at a time – during those most distressing moments.  I don’t think I can ever repay you for that show of support, but my offers of heartfelt music have always been my return gift.  Shedd also closes the album with a cover of Sonic Youth’s now legendary “Teenage Riot,” which you never liked, because it was ‘worthless noise,’ while I always argued that the song was ‘artful dissonance.’  I think you’d really like this version though, because she turns the onrush of the original into something slow-paced and clear, putting a focus on its thoughtful distillation of our times - besides Howie Gelb from Giant Sand, who you always liked, sings the song along with Tracy.

“Oh, if I’m gonna sit down
And listen to this
Oh, I’ll need a stiff drink
To get me through
Oh, nothing is certain
And no one is perfect
Oh, and you’re no fool
You’re just a little lost”
                                                     -from “You’re No Fool”

It’s the bulk of this album though that feels like it should be the metaphorical rubber band as my gift to you – hell, I’ll mail order a copy for you!  Tracy Shedd’s words are so perfectly straightforward and free of useless complications.  She is direct and lets the power of her phrasing and her beautiful voice and melodies to hammer home whatever emotions she sets out to evoke.  She is clearly singing from the point of view of having someone in her life deal with some serious shit - someone who is on the brink, as she boldly sings on the song “Control”: “don’t end it all tonight / you have a life to live.”  It is a simple message but her soaring voice drives her worried plea home overwhelmingly.

I can only hope that you are not at such a terrible point.  Life is often painful, frustrating and extremely difficult to deal with, but it’s something that we all have to do our best to persevere in order to reach those moments of sheer joy and inspiration that make it all feel like we each have value and that are lives are meaningful.  It’s music like this album that always remind me that we all go through tragic times and that it’s okay to take comfort in the poetic words of great artists such as Tracy - it's life-affirming.  You have always been a spark and the first person to help your family, friends and anyone you come in contact with.  It is time to focus your amazing healing powers inward and help yourself for once and to realize that you will always have someone out there supporting you in spirit. 

                                                                                                                                                       Warmest Wishes,


Tracy Shedd
(New Granada 2013)