It’s been a busy weekend of driving to/from Rochester where I saw the Drive-by Truckers play at the Water Street Music Hall last night (they were awesome, thank for asking) and, of course, there was the necessary shuttling of HRH back and forth to grandma and grandpa’s that made this whole trip possible in the first place.
Now, given I blew off yesterday’s long swim in order to get to Rochester earlier to visit and tip a few Sarnac Goat Rodeo brews back (seriously, how do you pass up a beer known as “Goat Rodeo”?), I definitely didn’t want to miss tonight’s planned 10k “recovery” run and, despite having to listen to a crap load of Irish “diddly-diddly” on the radio today – more that you shake a shillelagh at – I also wanted to mark the St. Patrick’s Day holiday spirit today with some good ‘ol Celtic-themed music. However, instead, I’m choosing to go with another type of “classic” Irish album that doesn’t have all obnoxious penny whistle and fiddle racket you’d normally expect to hear but something a bit more creepier and daunting, like the ‘T.B. Sheets‘ by Van Morrison.
‘T.B. Sheets‘ is a retrospective album of recordings made in 1967 by the Northern Irish hippie crooner, released in 1973 on Bang Records. It contains songs that had appeared on Morrison’s debut album, ‘Blowin’ Your Mind!‘, including his first hit, ‘Brown Eyed Girl‘, which, thankfully, is the last track on the album. However, before we get to that point the also has an early versions of two songs that appeared in 1968 on Morrison’s acclaimed album ‘Astral Weeks‘ – ‘Beside You‘ and it’s beautiful centerpiece, ‘Madame George‘. And there’s the interesting lyrically-based ‘Who Drove the Red Sports Car?‘ which is pretty sweet. Interestingly though, that all together this recording is listed as an unauthorized album that was only released without Morrison’s knowledge or approval. Whatever, it’s awesome.
The best moment in the album however, belongs to the uber-creepy “death song” ‘T.B. Sheets‘ which recounts “the sound of a sick room” where life saps steadily from the singer’s beloved, tuberculosis-ridden Julie. There is no trite drama, no nostalgic sugar coating or grand deathbed epiphany, but rather an “Is That All There Is?” fatalism – a mild, detached, slowly-suffocating bleakness. “The sunlight shining through the crack in the window pane numbs my brain,” Morrison moans over a skittering Hammond organ; you can almost feel the terminal bed sheets sticky with cold sweat and sputum. Is that happy Celtic running music or what?
Honestly, it turns out it was given it’s pretty grey out and the slow shuffle of the tambourine through the nearly 10 minute dirge matches that of my slow, methodical “recovery” pace along the uninspired out-and-back route down Thunder Bay and Windmill Rd’s, with a quick loop down to the lake and back. Also worthy to note is that this was the first run where I didn’t have to wear a jacket; Spring must be just around the corner…finally!