I heard the first notes of the banjo come over the car stereo speakers, and my first thought was: Just because I shaved off all my hair when I was nineteen and listened to Ani DiFranco and went to that hippie school, they all still think I like patchouli and Bluegrass. Dammnit.
It was my sister who first recommended them to me. Have you heard of Mumford and Sons? You might like them… My sister doesn’t usually recommend music to me. Our tastes aren’t all that dissimilar anyway. Usually, if I mention so-and-so, she’s already listening to them. But this was odd- a band I’d never heard of. Then again, I’d become wholly disenchanted with our local indie radio station these last few years and was listening to NPR exclusively…
And then, the next day, my future brother in law, while we were listening to music and playing dominoes at the kitchen table, switches up the tempo and says, while swishing his finger around on the mousepad, Here- you might like this. And he played a song of theirs.
Hours later, I had a burned copy in my hand. I’d been waiting for just the right moment to listen to it. But then I realized it wasn’t going to come, perfection. This was to be a trip of so much imperfection sitting right there on top of perfection’s pretty party dress. So, I slipped it into the CD player in the rental car and waited.
I turned it down low and waited for it to blow me away. I listened and waited some more. Nothing.
Then I got to song number seven, Little Lion Man. And something snapped inside me. Something about the way the singer ripped into the words “I really fucked it up this time” just got to me. I listened to it over and over again, in that compulsive way I do when I like a song. I got home and slipped it into the CD player in my own car. I drove from appointment to appointment today and listened. I listened to it turned all the way up. I had it turned up so loud my side view mirrors vibrated in time with the bass notes. I sang at the top of my lungs and beat the steering wheel with my palms. Magically, effortlessly, my voice found the harmony. Maybe this is what my sister was thinking when she heard them for the first time. She’ll love them because it is effortless. There is something so anguished and breaking in the singer’s tone. Maybe this is what my future brother in law was thinking when he burned the CD for me. She’ll love them because she will be able to hear herself in there.
For the record, I don’t care for Bluegrass, I HATE the smell of patchouli, and I didn’t graduate from that hippie school. But I love this song.