Saturday, May 31, 2014
Track of the Week: Allman Brothers Band, "Midnight Rider"
Summer's here and the time is right for listening to my favorite summer records. I don't know that it is, but some songs just sound so much better in the summertime. Perhaps my all-time favorite in this regard is "Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers Band, which is tailor-made for summer road trips. It was on one of these road trips that my deeper affection for "Midnight Rider" began. I was driving with my friends Debbie and Paul down to Augusta, Georgia, from Illinois. We were there for a wedding, and took the whole long trip in Debbie's tiny Toyota Tercel in a shade of teal not seen since the mid-90s, an appropriate ride for a troika of grad students.
It was quite a trip, driving through the flatlands of central Illinois, the eerie, verdant emptiness of southern Illinois' "little Egypt," over the scenic Tennessee mountains on down to Atlanta by way of Chattanooga. In the pretty drive across the north Georgia plains from Atlanta to Augusta, we put an Allman Brothers CD on, and staring out of the window at the tall trees wrapped in kudzu, there didn't seem to be a more perfect song in the world than "Midnight Rider."
Over the next few years it became a staple of mine on summer road trip mix CDs and playlists, both for the song's theme and for its almost perfect execution. The Allman Brothers had an amazing knack for having great musicianship without making it showy or ostentatious. The chops suit the song, including the laid-back yet masterful solo in the middle that somehow turns the feeling I get on a lazy drive on a country road into music.
Little did I know at the time "Midnight Rider" put its hooks in me that one of my other friends attending the wedding would get a job in the Allman Brothers' hometown of Macon, or later that he would show me the graves of band members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. Life has its twists and turns, some good, some bad, but listening to those beloved summer records reminds me that there are a few small pleasures I can still count on in this world.