Let’s Keep Walking

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it isn’t for a lack of spinning. My life season is beginning to speed up and I have been enjoying music with no strings attached.

I’m also attempting to listen to EVERY vinyl in my collection and it’s taking a while. I’m discovering new jewels while relishing in favorites. I’m listening to my collection by artist.  By not writing about what I am listening too, I am sparing you 50 posts over Judy Garland.

Although, a theme has risen through the music I have been listening to at home and work. I have been gravitating towards songs and artists that I feel empowered through. I’m listening to songs that tell me “I’m worthy.”

I am not necessarily going through a depressed stage of my life, but it isn’t my happiness by no means. I need a pick me up. Here are some of the artists that have inspired me to keep walking lately.

As with all my lists, they are in no particular order.

1. John Legend

I have been a fan of Legend on and off for many years now. Recently I have been intently listening to his latest release, Darkness and Light and his first release, 2013’s Get Lifted. What I love about Get Lifted is its straight honesty and how Legend styles hip hop. Darkness and Light has become special to me as I have become more socially aware. Although I am a white male, when legend sings “There is power in the color of my face” in “I Know Better,” it not only brings awareness to problems our society is still facing, but it also reminds me that we are all unique and contribute to God’s vast world.

2. Beyoncé

Sorry B, couldn’t wait for an official release of Lemonade on vinyl.

Beyoncé strives to provide empowerment for women and African-Americans on her albums, especially with her last two releases Beyoncé and Lemonade, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a universal message. As a by-product of her mission, I have also seen that I can be comfortable in my own skin. I just feel pumped to be me when I hear the likes of “***Flawless” and “Formation.” Again these are songs that speak to me as I have begun to dissect my surrounds and become aware of our society. I am not discrediting this, I just think it’s beautiful that she can speak to anybody in any circumstance through her music’s message.

3. Reba McEntire

Now it is not everyday you see Beyonce and Reba in the same list, but my versatile ear is unpredictable from hour to hour. Reba’s latest album, Sing it Now: Songs of Faith and Hope has spoken to me in a way an album hasn’t in many years. Reba is very special to me (read about that here) and this album has helped me as my faith has been growing lately. There is not a more poignant message then her latest single “Back to God.” This world would be a better place if we just gave it back to the Creator and lived the true message of what it means to be like Christ (I will have a full post on this album soon). For unbelievers, I think the universal concept here is if we only would love each other and lay ourselves down for the goodness of others and the world, we could create a better place one action at a time. Below is my favorite lyrics and Reba’s conviction gives me chills.

“You gotta cry, rain tears of pain

Pound the floor and scream His name

‘Cause we’re still worth saving”

So although taking steps into the hurdles of our days may be burdensome and heavy, we have to realize we all have something to contribute to this world, we are all-powerful, and we need to love each other more. If we could realize these simple truths we would truly give this world back to God, and serve a higher purpose than ourselves. We would serve others.

Basically there is power in all of our faces, we must sing and act on faith and hope, and slay while we do it. This world is worth saving.

 

 

These are The Things I Lean On: A Musical Journey

I have loved music for a very long time now. As I have grown older, I am able to look back on music and artists and pinpoint exactly how they have impacted my life. Some of these impacts are very profound. I wrote an article over Reba McEntire and what she meant to my mom and me. She made an impact on our relationship through one of our families’ hardest times. You can read that story here.

wynonnajuddWell there must be something about country music superstars with red hair. Their art seems to consistently hold a special place in my heart.

To begin this story, I must preface it with a simple fact. I have listened to a lot of music in my 26 years on earth. I literally have 100’s of favorite songs and many favorite albums. I once heard that If you can pick out one favorite song and one favorite album, you must really have your life together. I’m far from complete.

Although I cannot choose my favorite song, I can tell you which song was my first favorite. That song was “Tell Me Why” by Wynonna Judd in 1993. It is close to being my first memory. I literally sang this song in my car seat.

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Happy days at Grandma and Grandpas.

My dad was a country music DJ and my mom was a teacher. Life was perfect. I loved both my parents with all my heart and felt lucky to have this family. My dad brought home a promotional poster the radio station had received in the mail of Wynonna. This was also the very first time my mom had to deal with what has now been my numerous musical binges.

Then in two short years, my parents filed for divorce. My dad moved out. My mom cried. I attempted to put together parts of a heart that had not even formed.

As time progressed, my relationship with my dad became strained. A bridge of healing has now been built-in its place, but there will always be hurt. Love built that bridge. There were many years where we went without seeing each other but once or twice a year. It was a complicated time, but one I am glad to say I have now taken ownership of in my life.

Every time I would talk to my dad, I always took an interest in his career. It’s still a dream of mine to work in the music industry and he was the closest person I knew! I don’t remember a lot from these conversations. We often didn’t have much to talk about and I tended to default to music. My dad and I did not always have the same musical taste, but we always had one favorite artist in common: Wynonna and The Judds  When we talked music, everything was at peace.

One day my dad told me about a radio conference in Nashville with many other stations and musical artists. It was professional environment, so it was not polite or proper to ask for pictures or autographs.

img_7479As the story goes, he found himself in a room with Wynonna. He told her I was a big fan and he showed Wynonna a picture of me from his wallet. She then turned to a staff member and asked if they had a picture and a piece of paper she could write on. Ms. Judd took it upon herself to sign a picture for me and wrote a small note. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

Of course this made me an even bigger fan. I asked my dad if I could write her back, because I was convinced he had all her personal contact information.

Fast forward to when I was 11. I was in the seventh grade and my relationship with my dad had not strengthened at all. During this year my grandpa, his father, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was terminal.

My dad took me up to northeast Oklahoma to spend time with my Grandpa and to tell him goodbye. I didn’t understand the severity of the situation and I was convinced that if I prayed enough Grandpa would heal. Prayer does heal, but when the Lord decides He wants one of our loved ones to be with Him we have to accept His choice.

41pwtcpmzvlOn the way up the turnpike, I had brought along a few CD’s with me to listen to in the car. One of these CD’s was Wynonna’s A New Day Dawning. I love this album. We listened to the entire album, and our favorite song was “Tuff Enough.” I still remember watching the Oklahoma countryside and listening to this album.

Throughout the following years, I continued to collect all of Wynonna’s recordings. I still remember buying What the World Needs Now from the local K-Mart. Are those still open?

In 2012 Wynonna had a concert booked in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I immediately called my mom and told her we were going. This concert was right before Wynonna and Cactus Moser got married. My mom and I had an absolute blast. We had great floor seats and beyond Wynonna’s near perfect live vocals, we were rolling on the floor in laughter. A person in the crowd heckled Wynonna about going and toilet papering Garth Brooks’ home. He lived in Owasso, OK, at that time, which is around the corner from Tulsa. Wynonna had a difficult time pronouncing “O-Wa-So,” but she assured us “Wy-No-Na” understood. My mom and I still talk about this concert today.

Two years later, Wynonna was making another stop in Oklahoma. This time she was in Shawnee, which was just around 45 minutes from where I lived. I followed Wynonna on every social media site and knew they were doing Wynonna trivia contests to win meet and greet passes. Well I got the answer correct and I exclaimed in the middle of work “Boom, guess who is going to meet Wynonna?”

fullsizerender-2After all these years, I couldn’t believe I was going to meet Wynonna. What was I going to say? This became an issue, but amidst my anxiety the day came. All of us who had meet and greet passes gathered in a tent beside the stage (the concert was outdoors). Then Wynonna walked around the corner. I had always thought Wynonna was pretty, but pictures don’t do her justice! She had a larger than life personality and image. Wynonna friggin’ Judd was in the room.

I waited patiently and I finally had my turn. Anybody who has been in a meet and greet line knows how quickly they flow. You maybe get 10 seconds to say what you want, get a picture, and move on. To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember the exact moment I spoke to her. I just told her I had been a lifelong fan and in her usual wit she asked, “Well how old are you now?” I told her I was 24 (at that time), and she just said “Oh Lord” or something along those lines.

I met Wynonna Judd. Lets end this anecdote here, because words don’t adequately express meeting a musician that has impacted your life through their music in such a profound way. To say I was star struck would be an understatement. Looking back, I wish I had just told her thank you.

fullsizerenderFast forward a few more years and Wynonna was again returning to Oklahoma. She was coming to Hinton, which also happened to be around an hour away from me. So I was going to buy tickets, that was a no brainer. Now by this time I had come across many of The Judd’s vinyl albums. My favorite cover is Rockin’ With The Rhythm. I remembered Wynonna often signed things people would bring to her on the stage. Now I wanted a record signed. Right during the break of a song, I ran to the stage and handed her the album. She looked at me, smiled, and signed my record.

I am now a Wynonna concert veteran, but I must warn you, when you see her live she will ruin other concerts. I have been to many shows and I have never seen anybody connect with their audience like her. She talks to people in the crowd directly. She cracks jokes with the crowd. She tells stories from her life and career. She plays the drums. She is a true performer. I call this the Wynonna effect, because nobody can quite connect to an audience like Wynonna. If you have a chance to see her, do it!! If she is within an hour of you, go and go every time! Each time she is spectacular and you’ll never see the same concert twice.

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My ever growing Wynonna and The Judds vinyl collection.

Now we arrive at the beginning of 2017. I’m still a vigilant fan and have written about her many times. Today, as I have come to learn Wynonna’s story, I have also found inspiration through her strength and perseverance through her life. She reminds me of my mom, which in my world, is the highest honor I can give anyone.

Oddly enough, throughout all my years of listening to Wynonna, my most profound experience with her music was in 2016. Earlier in the post, I mentioned that my parents divorced. My world was in shambles and my little mind could not make sense of the situation, but there were always two constant people in my life. They stood like stone pillars. I call them Grandma and Grandpa.

Last May one of those pillars took a new heavenly form and went to live with the Lord, my Grandpa. He was 88 years old and lived an amazing life. My family had recently moved him and my Grandma to a nursing home for rehab. Grandpa had just suffered a medium rate stroke and a minor heart attack. He needed a little extra care to get him back where he could live in assisted living again. The nursing home was going to be temporary.

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Grandpa and I.

Shortly after, my Grandpa became sick once more and he had to go to the hospital. This time they told us he wasn’t going to make it much longer and they called in hospice. He was placed on a ventilator and I rushed to the hospital. I sat and held his hand. As I looked him in the eyes I began to sing…”Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good ol’days.”

I didn’t know all the words to the song and I googled them. Every verse fit him. That song remained in my head all day. As they were making plans to send him back to the nursing home, I went to my house, which was about an hour away, to get some clothes and things to stay with Grandpa through his final days. God had different plans and within those two hours Grandpa met Jesus.

My mom then went home to southern Oklahoma to begin planning the funeral. I went home a few days later to be her support. We went to the funeral home and we were going to have a picture video made of Grandpa. There was a full section over just his grandkids. The funeral home asked us what song we wanted to play. I told my mom that we had to play The Judds’ song, “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days)” and we did. I now think about him every time I hear that song and it has become another one of my favorites.

Music is more than just art. Artists are more than just talent. When you become a fan of a particular artist, they become a companion to you. The records are there for you through thick and thin and are always ready for a spin.

As these artists become your companion, they begin to hold a special place in your heart. Wynonna and her music has been there for me my entire life. Her songs remind me of the happiest moments in my life and they provide comfort for me at my lows.

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Grandma in 1947.

Today, not even a year after my Grandpa’s passing, I moved to New York to pursue a job opportunity. I miss my Grandma terribly and wish I could be with her, but I know she wants me to pursue what makes me happy. She has stood as solid as ever through Grandpa’s passing. She struggles, but I have never seen strength portrayed the way my Grandma has these past 6 months. She is truly the most beautiful person I know.

And remember when I said there was just something about red heads I liked. My grandma has red hair.

Thank you, Wy, for everything. I’ll catch you on the next tweet.

Reba McEntire, Love Somebody: Life Doesn’t Go Out Like That

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I remember my friend’s parents were divorced and she would tell me about it, but I always knew that wouldn’t be me. My little 5 year-old world was in perfect formation and as hard as concrete. How nice it was be to be that naive.

Until my parents split later that next year.

Issues ensued with the split and 5, 6, 7, 8, year old me had some pretty tough situations. This is when music became my pillar. It stablized me and provided a channel for my emotions. It was always there for me and it never left. It was my distraction and safety.

49fb0424b3a89093cb1fc2c710e66f89We did not have a lot of money and often times our entertainment came in the form of renting movies from Blockbuster. Every now and then Blockbuster would have a sale with all their previously used VHS. My mom would pick out movies and buy them for me, usually for $5 or less. She knew I loved music and she purchased a Reba concert on VHS for me.

Now this was not sitcom or even modern Reba. This was early 90’s Reba with red hair ratted to the ceiling, fringe, and too many costume changes to count. To say the least, I was mesmorized.

I watched that VHS so many times. Recently, I found the same program on Youtube and I still have it memorized. So when I say that I am a life long Reba fan, I ain’t jokin’ ya’ll.

In that VHS, she opened with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and sang all her classic songs including “Does He Love You,” “Walk On,” “Take it Back,” “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” and “Fancy.” It was 90’s Reba at her best and she entertained me for hours on end.

Now let’s fast forward 20 years. A few weeks ago Reba released her 27th studio album entitled Love Somebody. Considering my long history with Reba, I always buy her albums the first day of release. I was really excited about this album since Reba has now moved to the new Nash Icon record label.

1035x1035-Reba_LoveSomebody_CoverThis album has everything I wanted as a Reba fan, but it had an even deeper message for me. I love the sassy tunes like “Going Out Like That,” “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet,” and “Until They Don’t Love You.” I love the breakup songs like “She Got Drunk Last Night,” “I’ll Go On,” and her duet with Jennifer Nettles, “Enough.” Then she gives us a great story song with “Love Land.” Nobody sings a breakup or story song with the same conviction and emotion as Reba.

“Enough” is a great sequel to Reba’s 1993 hit with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You.”  She also recalls and sings another song for her father who has now passed away, “Them Horses.” This is a very different view point then “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” These are amongst my top favorites.

Although there are two songs on this album that really speak to me both in the past and the present. They are songs of pure love, the title track, “Love Somebody,” and the Reba penned “Pray for Peace.”

reba-mcentire-aint-going-out-like-that-music-video-2015-03-13b-400pxThat’s exactly how I survived all those years of emotional turmoil through the love of many, but most importantly, my mom. I never once saw her cry. She was a pillar of strength. She never showed me her weakness. She gave up so I could have when it came to clothes, toys, you name it.

She even gave up a couple books to buy me a handful of previously viewed VHS’.

Through her pain, she was able to love somebody and luckily that was me. It’s something I can never repay, but it’s a payment never expected. My mom loves me around the world and back, but secretly I love her around the moon and back.

Then there is “Pray for Peace.” I love Reba’s story of this song, but it made me realize where I am now. I am at peace. At 25 I am at peace with my life, relationships, and my potential. I have many struggles I deal with daily, but I’ve made it this far and turning around isn’t even an option.

Through love I gained peace.

reba-mcentires-quotes-7Reba’s music provided a distraction and comfort for a troubled young boy. Her music has also provided a commentary throughout my life. It’s a debt many of us owe so many artists who give us a piece of themselves. Thank you Reba.

I witnessed my mom go down and rise back to the the top. One thing I have learned though all of life is how you often get bucked off your horse and get dirt in your hair. You even probably gained a few bruises and had your pride hurt from that fall, but in the end my mom is always a “Survivor.” Reba highlights this in many of her songs over the years and has recently brought this idea full circle for me.

Through her love my mama has now taught me to never go out like that and that there is always life out there.