Country Morning Music

cm_musicFirst, we were in Santa Cruz, because that’s where we wanted to be..I think it was the weekend that Todd Snider turned 40 . Anyway, it was at a motel near the water. Keith Sykes walked into motel courtyard in the afternoon, holding a guitar and a beer and ready to put both to good use. And then we all sat like children around some master storyteller, because we were children around some master storyteller. Most of the stories, we already knew by heart: Coast Of Marseilles” Volcano”, “You Got Gold”, “Long Monday” and a bunch of others. If it had just been the songs, that would have been enough. But it was also the way Sykes’ fingers flew around the guitar neck, and the way he sang. Every note had the intent and certainty of decades, and yet his voice was stripped of all age and weather. There were dolphins swimming and playing by the shore. Girls, too. But the best show in town was Sykes at a dirty old picnic table. Where the soul of man never dies, within arm’s reach of a bag of Cheetos.

Later, safe back out of earshot in Nashville, Snider kept talking about Keith Sykes. How he’d sought Sykes out, traveled 700 miles to meet him and wound up sleeping on his couch. How Sykes surveyed a young man’s young songs and heard an open heart in which to believe. How Sykes introduced him to Jimmy Buffett and John Prine, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell and Jerry Jeff Walker. These were the songwriters who turned to Sykes when they wanted something special. When the heavyweights want your help, you’re a heavyweight. Sykes approval was validation, his lessons were integral and his songs… heavens.

And so finally, we were in Memphis making a field recording. I fumbled with microphones while Sykes and Snider moved the bird out of the living room, and Jerene Sykes closed the bedroom door and tried to keep the dogs quite up there. And then Keith sat down on the his couch and played his songs. There were no lyric sheets . Sometimes he closed his eyes, and sometimes he looked right at us, and sometimes he looked right through us. The next afternoon, we were done, just in time for the big bonfire.
I worried on the way home to Nashville that people might need the visual, that they’d need to see Sykes on the couch, and that they’d need to watch the casual geniuses he calls his hands move atop that old Martin. I shouldn’t have worried . Listen to his music and you’ll see the room. You’ll see Snider, among the most revered songwriters of this generation, watching a hero of his do things no one else can do. You’ll see the faces of those who came in the evening to listen to the playbacks and looked around at the couch and place where the bird used to be as if to say ” This Happened here?”
-Peter Cooper, Nashville, TN


A long Monday
A Very Short Time
Country Morning Music
Everybody Wants To Be Like You
One True Love
Rainin’ (In My Soul)
She Love To Ride Horses
Shut Up And Talk To Me
That Ol’ Songwriter
The Coast of Marseilles
The Last Line
You Got Gold