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I am quite glad that Alana has asked me to participate in blogging about the mix CD she made; as you will know if you have been reading along, music has been very important to us. I hope you don’t mind me chiming in on this series.

Once upon a time, we swapped CDs with each other, and Alana first suggested sharing sad songs with one another, I eagerly joined in the exercise. When I was younger I had a small Peanuts book, Happiness is a Sad Song, and I have always agreed with that sentiment wholeheartedly. More than this, Canadian folk/rock music was a focus around which Alana and I first found something we could discuss; in fact, Canadian music actually became the point of meeting which began to thaw our mutual suspicions about one another. I think we had both got used to being the ‘token Canadian’ in any given group, meaning that the presence of another Canadian threatened to undermine our mythologies. But if you find that both of you like similar kinds of music, much can be forgiven. She introduced me to some French-Canadian music that I did not know, as well as reminding me of the qualities of Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen, while I brought her attention to musicians like Danny Michel, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and the Skydiggers.

I named the five CDs I burned for Kippah, ‘Happiness is a Sad Song, Vols. 1-5’, and the Skydiggers were well represented, with about fifteen tracks all told. Alana and I have a running shtick about the band’s music in which I insist that they sing some happy songs, too, she asks me to name one, and then she disputes whatever I say. The Skydiggers, for the most part, are firmly in the folk/rock genre, though if they had begun making music around the end of the millennium instead of 1987, they would probably have been labelled alt-country. Many of their songs tell stories of loss and heartbreak, or open up reflection on distance and depth. ‘Horseshoe Bay’, a track off of the album Bittersweet Harmony, is not really an exception to this. The funny thing is, this track did not make it onto ‘Happiness is a Sad Song’. Maybe that is why it stands out for Kippah. Someone will have to ask her.

Unfortunately, neither Alana nor I can find a recording of this track anywhere on the internet to share. So, here are the lyrics, as near as we can figure them out:

You’re a long way from north Vancouver,
you’re a long way from home
a long way from the choices you made so long ago
is that what’s haunting you
as you stare out on the Horseshoe Bay.

I’m a long way from north Toronto
I’m a long way from home
a long way from the choices I made so long ago
they’re still haunting me
as I’m stuck in traffic near King and Bay

’cause all we’re proving
is we’re bound for losing
all we’ve gained
all we’re proving
is we’re bound for losing
everything

We’re a long way from where we started
we’re a long way–can’t find home
a long way from the choices we made so long ago
and we’re holding on
’cause love will keep those fears at bay

’cause all we’re proving
is we’re bound for losing
all we’ve gained
all we’re proving
is we’re bound for losing
everything

When I started my PhD, I could not bring many of my belongings with me. I chose seven CDs. Bittersweet Harmony was one. It was more than six months before I was back to pick up more of my collection, so I developed a pretty intimate rapport with those seven CDs. Certain tunes burned themselves into my head and, though the lyrics are probably not enough to explain why, ‘Horseshoe Bay’ was among those. I’ve often tried to figure out just why the Skydiggers’ songs resonate so much with me. In a way they represent all that I, in my days as a very serious adolescent, did not want poetry and music to be about–little things like love and relationships, particularly endings and tears. But maybe those little moments, those possibilities for light to be glimpsed even in the sad songs, provide life to the music.

For a taste of Skydiggers’ music, here are some other tracks:

CBC’s Radio3 has a small selection of tracks, as well as further information on the band, here.

The band’s official site is here.

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