Middling 1.2: Music

I don't know how or why, but apparently central Iowa is a draw for some pretty cool music acts. Exhibit A is a recent show put on by Lucy Wainwright Roche with Suzzy Roche. My aunt Jeannine caught the show with her sisters, and because my aunt is the bestest (and maybe because I had recently referenced the artist online, having swapped songs on social media with a very young colleague), she bought me TWO of their records. She even had them signed for me: on one of them, Lucy simply wrote, "Dave!!!"

Lucy Wainwright Roche's music is, I will quickly aver, most likely an acquired taste. I acquired that taste thanks to Paste magazine, which way back in the day sent a CD sampler of music in the mail with each issue. Those were kinder, more tactile times. On one of those CDs was Lucy's (I'll call her Lucy now, since she calls me Dave) song "Chicago," which made me a little weepy even when I lived there and holds up nicely after a decade or so. Lucy's voice is simple and vulnerable; one might be tempted to dismiss her as overrated, privileged by her impressive musical pedigree (Suzzy is her mother and member of the great vocal group the Roches; her father is a Grammy-winning folk singer), but one should not so dismiss her. Her music does tend to be a little uniform, but so does the music of the Lumineers, and I got tired of them almost immediately, whereas I keep listening to Lucy.

Once you accept the relatively closed musical universe the songs operate within (and if you think that's a critique, listen to the blues for a day and get back to me), you notice the range of her interests. Echoes of early Simon and Garfunkel abound, but with a feminine sensibility that made me realize how masculine Paul Simon is (if you think that's a critique of either Lucy or S&G, you really need to relax). My earlier exposure to Lucy had her square in the hipster/twee column for me (see "Chicago," her cover of "Call Your Girlfriend" and "Seek and Hide," a duet with Colin Meloy of the Decemberists), but these two records make her seem older, more seasoned and sage. Maybe it's the collaboration with her mother.

The collaboration may also explain the cover songs, which were more mainstream than I would have expected: "Desperado," "Rhythm of the Rain" and "Landslide" all seem awfully popular (if you think that's a criticism, you really need to do some inner work). But Lucy is a great interpreter if other people's songs, particularly as showcased on the Beatles' (relatively) deep track "For No One" (on Fairytale and Myth) and Joni Mitchell's "Clouds" (on Mud and Apples). I tend to think you have to earn the right to perform "Clouds" (a song on my funeral playlist, for future reference), and as young as she is, I think Lucy has earned that right.

Anyway, that's the latest on music from me. If you like vulnerable, literary singer-songwriter types, you should look Lucy up.


Every three or four months I send out a long missive to friends and family members. I've taken to posting portions of those newsletters here. The theme of the newsletter is life in middle age, with a focus on what I'm reading, what I'm listening to, and how I'm living. This post is from last fall's newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it.



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