ETA: I hesitate to make these posts too long and too introspective, as sometimes I get the feeling that it just bores the reader or it’s too long for people to get interested in. However, with few people commenting, I figured, “What the hell…” While I don’t always have the time available to expound as much as I would like, I think the better pieces are those that do go into some detail. So….
I got to thinking about why this song “hits” me. I think there is a common theme for me of unrealized dreams. Not that my life is bad. Quite the contrary. I’m living the great, middle-class American life. I’m married to my soul mate (truly), we have three successful and well-balanced sons, I have a good job that more than pays the bills, LSU is winning and most importantly, everyone is healthy. So, why am I not overjoyed and buoyant all of the time? It’s a question I constantly ask myself.
Is it an inherent prohibition on letting myself be happy? A long time ago, after a bitter break-up, a boyfriend told me that I’d never be happy. That I just wouldn’t let myself. Those words ring in my head every so often and I have to wonder if he was right.
Or is it that there is no real sense of self? I think that somewhere, I lost my identity. In the day to day grind of work, house, kids, husband, hobbies, etc., “I” got lost. I think that’s what this song says to me. Life is now more than half over and hasn’t the majority of it just been “one foot in front of the other”, day in and day out? Where’s the adventure? Where’s the passion? Where’s the fun?
I think that’s the premise of Angel from Montgomery and what Prine was trying to convey. For me, it’s just a song that is painful. Not a sharp pain that brings back a undesirable memory but more of a dull, aching, dread.
While I like Prine’s masculine version, I think the Raitt and Tedeschi version are what provide the sensation that only a woman can deliver…a guttural pleading for something to provide adventure, passion and fun.
Made a trip up to Montgomery yesterday for a Mini DD soccer game. On these 2-3 hour jaunts, I like to listen to what I call “road music” to help the trip go by faster and get my mind off the endless asphalt in front of me. The trip and my road mix got me to thinking about one of my favorite songs in this mix — Susan Tedeschi’s Angel from Montgomery.
The song was written, however, by John Prine for his debut album back in 1972. Here is John’s own explanation of the song as well as his original version:
Angel from Montgomery has been covered by several artists, including Bonnie Raitt:
Each has it’s own pain and provides a different level of emotion. Susan Tedeschi’s version is bluesy and melancholy. Prine’s version is wistful and sad, while Bonnie Raitt’s version is downright despair.
NOTE: You know you’re doing alright when Bruce Hornsby, Brian Adams and Jackson Brown are your back-up singers.
For good measure, here is a duet of John Prine & Bonnie Raitt. This version is very different, to me, than the Bonnie Raitt or John Prine solo versions above.
Very interesting how one song, ostensibly performed at a similar tempo, can convey such subtlety of emotion. It’s like sharpening a knife or fine tuning a radio.