A few weeks ago I was doing a job at work. (I know, right! I was surprised, too!) It was a long job: repainting the walls of a small bathroom and then re-doing the floor, so I was in this small room for basically two days. To pass the time, I listened to music; I have a little Bluetooth speaker at work that pairs to my phone. It’s this speaker, actually:
I’m a fan of the Klein tools brand, and this speaker has pretty decent sound for a single-speaker jobsite-style item. But this isn’t a speaker commercial, so moving on: I was listening to an album by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors on YouTube Music, which is generally my streaming service of choice. YouTube Music has an “autoplay” setting where, if you’re listening to an album and the album ends, it moves right on to…something else. It might be a playlist or album of yours, or it might not be; it might be the same artist you just listened to, or…it might not be. Sometimes this leads to interesting musical discoveries; sometimes, not so much.
This was one of the interesting ones. I have no idea how YouTube Music’s algorithms work, but in this case it brought up a song that stopped me in my tracks, and I had to look it up when I got a chance. (This was a few hours later, so thankfully I was able to find my listening history and ID the song!)
Gregory Alan Isakoff is a singer-songwriter who lives in Colorado. His bio states:
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and now calling Colorado home, horticulturist-turned-musician Gregory Alan Isakov has cast an impressive presence on the indie-rock and folk worlds with his five full-length studio albums: That Sea, The Gambler; This Empty Northern Hemisphere; The Weatherman; Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony; and Evening Machines (nominated for a Grammy award for Best Folk Album). Isakov tours internationally with his band, and has performed with several national symphony orchestras across the United States. In addition to owning his independent record label, Suitcase Town Music, he also runs a small farm in Boulder County, which provides produce to the farm’s CSA members and to local restaurants.
As for this song itself, it seems to be a distillation of wistful regret the looking back at various missteps that marred a beautiful thing:
Now I’ve been crazy, couldn’t you tell?I threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell Now I’m covered up in straw, belly up on the table Well, I drank and sang, and passed in the stable Mhm, mhmAnd that tall grass grows high and brownWell, I dragged you straight in the muddy ground And you sent me back to where I roam Well I cursed and I cried, but now I know Oh, now I know
And yet…there’s something here, some little hint of optimism, lurking behind the song’s sad melody and lyrics. Would “turning these diamonds back into coal” be such a bad thing? And maybe it’s just me, but the main stringed instrument here is a banjo, and while the banjo isn’t always a happy instrument, it’s not a purely sad one, either. Consider Kermit and “The Rainbow Connection”, for example.
Anyway, here is “The Stable Song” by Gregory Alan Isakoff.