One of those “I need to tell you this story in order to tell you the story I want to tell you” posts, so please bear with.
I don’t write nearly as much as I used to for three main reasons. First, writing time seems to be significantly scarcer than in days gone by. Second, this decade has been brutal on multiple fronts, thus so much as the ability to jot things down, let alone desire to do so, has joined writing time in the scarcity department. Third, I’ve been focusing on my own music the past few years, reclaiming my songwriting muse and working on developing my guitar playing chops to where I feel sufficiently adept at same to perform the music that burns within. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I am making progress.
Which leads to the story of Kayleigh. (Which will lead to the story I’m trying to tell.)
Kayleigh is 1) a girl’s name, sometimes spelled Kaylee; 2) a 1985 song by the mostly British (the lead singer at the time was Scottish) progressive rock band Marillion. Said band was my #1 favorite for many years until the past few years saw them embracing and preaching incessant left-wing bile. That, plus the recent discovery that since the 1980s they have become slavish copycats of Talk Talk’s last two albums, have moved them far away from my assorted playlists. But, at the time “Kayleigh” came out, I was enraptured by them.
Now, while my listening tastes have long leaned toward the progressive and harder rock side of things, when it comes to creating my own music I’ve found myself best served on the quieter side of blues, folk, and what happens when you combine the two. Namely, country. Not so much the current iteration of country, which is far more pop/rock oriented than anything else, but older artists where the fusion of raw blues rhythm and gritty energy with English folk music’s melodic sensibility is still readily apparent. Since its inception as a music genre unique unto itself country has always unashamedly absorbed other musical genres, examples from days gone by being the Western swing music of Bob Wills or the ‘50s pre-rock’n’roll pop flavorings of Marty Robbins and Patsy Cline. Figure into the mix the surprisingly country-rich to those unfamiliar with their body of work Grateful Dead, and you’ll pretty much know where I’m at.
Now, when one thinks country and guitar in the same span, one naturally thinks of the Fender Telecaster. It is pretty much ubiquitous in country and has been since its introduction in the early 1950s. A guitar seldom used in country, despite its status in jazz and rock, is the Gibson Les Paul. Apparently it is insufficiently twangy for the job.
Naturally, I use a Les Paul for my more country-ish moments.
The Les Paul has two great characteristics. One, terrific sustain and tone. Two, a terrifically high price tag. While the budget Epiphone line of Les Pauls is reasonably priced if rather spotty quality-wise, a genuine Gibson Les Paul is going to set you back four figures, more often than not with a crooked number leading the way. And that is for a new one. The highly prized vintage ones that were built from the latter 1950s up to 1960 easily command $100K+. There is part of me that would love to have one, and another part that never wants to so much as hold one for fear I’d drop and break the thing.
The closest thing to a budget Gibson Les Paul is the Tribute model (like cars, there are usually several different models of most major guitar types). The Tribute uses lower grade wood, albeit the same kinds as its upper echelon brethren, in its construction and eschews most of the usual Les Paul decorative finishing touches in order to keep costs down. It’s still a Les Paul, but not one evoking the usual “OOOOH! SHINY!” reaction said guitar induces in six-string aficionados.
Almost needless to say, it’s the only model I can afford these days, hence I have one. It will never sound like a 1960 Standard, but it’s a decent guitar. I’ve lavished a little upgrade lovin’ on it: better tuning machines, pickups, and controls. It still does not and will never sound like a 1960 Standard, but it’s as good as it is going to get. Hopefully its owner will continue to improve.
Okay, said all that to say this.
Chances are good to excellent, if not higher, you will never get exactly and/or everything you want in life. Ofttimes you get the short end of the stick. Ofttimes it seems like you’re on a losing streak so omnipresent and unvarying Charlie Brown’s baseball team just sent you a note of encouragement. The bills don’t get paid. The breaks don’t come your way. Heartbreak, yes. But not the breaks. The days are slogs. You wonder will it ever change. You wonder not if, but when the proverbial straw will hit the camel’s back. In this case, you’re the camel. You don’t need pious pie in the sky platitudes. You need something solid to hold on to, and you need it now.
Find something, even if it’s from the bargain basket, that is of value to you regardless of price tag and make it your own. Play a musical instrument. Sing. Dance. Paint. Sculpt. Write. Bake. Scrapbook. Fix stuff. Find something and hang on to it. Work at it. Find that sweet spot where you are at peace with what you’re doing. It’s out there. Find it.
And give it a name.
Like how my Les Paul is named Kayleigh.