My friend Chris over at from the bungalow posted a challenge the other day and there was no way I could pass it up. The toughest thing about it was picking just one song. So for what it’s worth, here it is:
I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s vehicle while she ran into some store or other to pick something up or exchange something. “I want you to listen to this song,” she had said just before she got out, setting up a particular track, leaving me with the stereo on and the CD liner notes in my hand. It was December, cold and snowy outside and I was feeling warm and cozy in the truck.
When she returned I was in tears. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I just wondered if that’s really what it was like, how true a portrayal this is.” It is exactly what it was like.
My friend had given me a copy of Karine Polwart’s Under this Earthly Spell CD as a gift months before. I had read the liner notes and lyrics (as I am wont to do). I had listened to the CD any number of times already. How had I missed this? How did this not knock me flat the very first play-through? I know for a fact that I had read the bit about this song being written for an AIDS project. I know for a fact that I had read how it was dedicated to a real mother and a real son. I know for a fact that I had listened to track 6 already. More.Than.Once. Apparently, however, while I had indeed listened, I hadn’t ever heard it. I’m guessing I just hadn’t wanted to hear it. It is exactly what it was like.
This time, this December day, in a month that was still such an enemy to me, while I was safely ensconced in what amounted to a den of love and compassion, this time when I listened to Karine Polwart’s “Firethief,” I actually heard it. And hearing it, really hearing it for the first time, I felt it. I felt it from the tip of my intellectual brain down to the foundation of my very being. I felt it in my head, in my eyes, in my throat, in my gut, in my heart, in my nerve endings, in my spirit and in my soul. Had I not been sitting in a cushy heated seat, I would have been flat on the floor. My brother died of AIDS in December 1993. It is exactly what it was like.
There was a period of time after my brother’s death that I couldn’t listen to a certain song; it made me cry no matter where I was. Other selections take me back to long nights of pogo-ing together at university pubs. There are recordings that transport me to the quiet weeks before BlueEyes was hospitalized. Music was like a life blood for him; it’s the same for SkinnyGuy (my other brother) and me. I am all about music and lyrics: pick up any scrap of paper in my house and it will have snippets of lyrics scribbled on it; I hear music in the wind rushing through trees and in the photocopier spitting out paper. I have never before had a song paint a picture for me and take my breath away like “Firethief” does. It is exactly what it was like. And I love it. It’s a glorious song and for all its inherent heartache, it lifts me up. It courses through me and envelopes me in love. Thank you, Karine. Thank you so much for writing this song.
If you would like to hear Karine sing this amazing selection, please follow this link: Firethief Live