Saturday, August 29, 2020

Colter Wall, "Plain To See Plainsman" (Track of the Week)

Quarantine has had plenty of negative effects on my life, but not being able to go home and visit my parents is at the top of the list. We were set to make the road trip to Nebraska right before virus numbers started spiking again in the Midwest. Once New Jersey added Nebraska to the two-week quarantine list, our decision was made. (There was no way we would be able to maintain sanity if our kids were confined to the house with us for that period of time. And since we aren't assholes, we were actually going to follow the quarantine rules. You're welcome.)

Today I am feeling especially homesick. I miss my family the most, but I also miss the landscape. Something about impossible expanse of the Western sky lifts my soul. I also need a break from the culture of the NYC area, where everyone is constantly displaying their status and spraying their anxieties everywhere. Give me a taste of Plains humility and reserve, please.

Lucky for me, I got a tip via Twitter to listen to Colter Wall, a young country and western (with an emphasis on western) singer from Canada. I was immediately drawn in from the first song I listened to, "Plain to See Plainsman."

He sounds like a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Waylon Jennings, combining the plain-spoken deep folk voice with a slight outlaw edge of surly grit. "Plain to See Plainsman" is about being homesick for the plains. In his case it's Saskatchewan, not Nebraska. Nevertheless, replace "wheat fields" with "corn fields" and it perfectly expresses the way I feel right now. There is something about that place that is lodged in my heart, and I am never complete without it. Part of that comes from never feeling truly at home in any of the places I have lived since I left Nebraska.

I am as surprised about this as anyone. For a long time I felt zero nostalgia for central Nebraska. There were people there that I loved, but I never fit in there and years of childhood exclusion and bullying hardly made me embrace the place. I even thought that if my parents moved elsewhere in retirement that I would not even go back to visit my hometown. Well, I guess there's a reason that "distance makes the heart grow fonder" has become a cliche.

"Plain to See Plainsman" is about wandering and wandering and finding out that your true home is the place you left. Maybe not where you want to live the rest of your days, but definitely where you want your bones to rest. 

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