On my long hikes, I am often by myself. And that was particularly true on my recent Utah jaunt. I had a few stretches of not seeing anyone for two or three days at a time. And sometimes when I did see people during the day, it would only be for a few brief minutes. And often just once that day.
Sometimes I’d have music stuck in my head. Music that would fit my mood or where I was at the time. My personal soundtrack.
As one last post for the Utah trek, I thought I’d share the music stuck in my head at various times. Sometimes the lyrics or the song title fit. But often it was the feel of the song itself.
- Shine by Daniel Lanois
A song about seeking while wandering. Hmmm…
Lanois is the superstar producer best known for U2’s Joshua Tree, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, and Willie Nelson’s Teatro among many other albums.
Both the music he produces and his impressive solo works feature a warmth and atmosphere that draws the listener in even more. His songs are almost whispered confessionals. The kind of thoughts spoken during late night conversations had on an intimate level. Give his work a listen.
- Lawrence of Arabia Overture
One of my favorite movies of all time. As Ebert wrote, most viewers don’t remember the film. They remember the experience of seeing the movie. And that aspect applies to me as well. The vistas, the quiet moments, the sparse dialogue that is almost poetic. And Maurice Jarre’s score.
The overture was stuck in my head for obvious reasons. And Lawrence’s theme that plays in the overture, in particular, fits the sweeping image of the desert so well.
I’ve only seen this movie on the big screen. And I can’t imagine seeing it any other way. If this film is being shown on the big screen, it is not something I want to see. It is a movie I am compelled to see.
- Deeper Well – Emmylou Harris
This song is from the phenomenal Wrecking Ball album. Produced by Daniel Lanois with guest appearances by members of U2 on the instruments, it is an album that transcends the country genre. Is it rock? Country? Folk? Who knows. Just a damn good album.
Harris’ vocals are both delicate and powerful. And those aspects are showcased on this song. On a literal level, I was often wondering about water. 🙂 On a more figurative level, it is another song about seeking. And hoping to find some answers. With an almost martial beat on the drums provided by Mullen of U2, the song propels and seems to capture the essence of hiking through this harsh but striking land.
- Face of Love – Dead Man Walking Original Score. with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Eddie Vedder.
The soundtrack for Dead Man Walking is an eclectic 1990s masterpiece. Featuring artists as diverse as Steve Earle, Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, and others. But the standout tracks for me were the two featuring the Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan accompanied by Eddie Vedder.
Sufism has been described as Islam mysticism. Perhaps mysticism is too simplistic of a description. As Sufism is also about devotion and passion beyond the mystical aspects.
The poet Rumi is the most well-known Sufi to Westerners. And the various forms of Sufi chants and music are not dissimilar from older Gregorian chants or Baptist songs from Appalachia: Powerful music that happens to be about religious faith.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was first introduced to most listeners on Peter Gabriel’s Passion album. His haunting vocals were fitting music for a film about the first century Judea.
And the more extended version of Ali Khan’s song on the Dead Man Walking: The Score also seems to fit a similar environment in Utah.
Where a faith was shaped in a harsh desert environment. But also an environment full of memorable sights that delight. And seem to encourage contemplation.
- The Maker – Daniel Lanois
Another track from Daniel Lanois.
The Maker has been covered by Jerry Garcia, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson on his masterpiece Teatro, and many other artists.
But I think the original version is the one I still like the best.
With backing vocals by Aaron Neville, the song is full of Catholic imagery. And French-Canadian Catholicism imagery at that.
A literal interpretation of the song is about finding redemption. A looser interpretation could be about returning to the path that feels satisfying after straying.
- Bright Morning Stars – Emmylou Harris
Waking up before the sunrise, this song always seemed appropriate.
This version by Emmylou Harris seems particularly appropriate for the early morning hours when the day is about to start.
Her voice, as always, is achingly beautiful.
- Torn and Frayed – Rolling Stones
Exile on Main Street is one of my favorite albums. A loose, sloppy, and raucous mix of blues, country, rock, and soul was put into a blender to create this masterpiece.
And while Torn and Frayed was not anything remotely like my hiking experience (!), seeing my beat up and torn gear and clothing (and being tired once or twice) seemed to conjure this song at times. Plus it is one of my favorites. 🙂
- Homeward Bound – Paul Simon and George Harrison
When I was in Moab, I knew the Colorado border was only two days or so away. I was heading to my adopted home of nearly twenty years.
The literal title of Homeward Bound seemed appropriate.
And it is this version I enjoy. George Harrison was overshadowed by his bolder and louder bandmates. It wasn’t until he was a solo artist that his gifts of introspection and quiet guitar playing really shined. And this cover and duet of Homeward Bound illustrate those gifts rather well, I think.