This is my 500th post on Brome Hill, the blog I started in earnest after my newspaper job was eliminated nearly three years ago in a round of budget cuts.
That would seem like a big deal if not for Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, the documentary I was able to watch this afternoon because it’s a free HBO/Showtime/Cinemax weekend in my hometown. The Showtime documentary goes behind the scenes as singer/songwriters Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Goddess, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford work with producer T Bone Burnett to record dozens of songs over a two-week period last year. The songs were chosen from the hundreds of songs Bob Dylan wrote in 1967 while he lived at Big Pink in upstate New York. He later put the lyrics away and forgot about the songs he didn’t include on The Basement Tapes, which was released in 1975.
Yes, I said hundreds of songs. And he essentially forgot about them.
Dylan does not appear in person in the documentary, but he is heard discussing the time in his life when he wrote the lyrics to these many songs, which he gave to Burnett for this project.
The documentary is worth watching if only for the way it shows how the songwriters work. It was interesting to see them take the same set of lyrics and for each to come back with a completely different interpretation of the same song.
I read one review that said Down on the Bottom by James — who is lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band My Morning Jacket — “comes the closest to echoing the atmosphere of the original Basement Tapes.”
And it’s a good song. But my favorite after watching the documentary and listening once to the entire album is Kansas City by Mumford, lead singer of Mumford & Sons. I couldn’t help but admire the angst he went through and the pressure he put on himself to finish the song. He literally wiped tears from his eyes after they recorded it.
A hack like me seldom stops to realize that someone who has been as successful as Mumford still struggles with the same doubts the rest of us have when attempting creative work. It was a good reminder.
Let’s end this with a few words about the beginning of this blog three years ago, a period that was one of the darkest times of my adult life. Of all of the things I’ve blogged about since then, I’d say at least half of them were written in the months immediately after I lost my job. My blogging has slowed down as I’ve become busier with other things and slogged through other life changes I didn’t feel like sharing.
Life moves on. And that has been an important lesson blogging has helped me learn. The blog has also helped remind me of the importance of perseverance, which is why I still pound away here on my computer keyboard from time to time.
If you’re reading this, thank you for joining me for this post and the 499 that preceded it.