Soon, the bells we had been given upon entering the sanctuary would be rang in joy when all of the lights were suddenly turned on and the organ would blast as all sang hallelujah. But first we must go through the long dark.
Easter Vigils stand out to me as moments of transition, when you look back on where you have come from and begin to actually hope that things may change.
Kansas City | The New Basement TapesThis song comes from a supergroup created in 2014 for the purpose of setting to music some unreleased lyrics from Bob Dylan‘s 1967 Basement Tapes sessions. The all-star lineup includes Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (who does the majority of the singing on this particular track), Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes.2 These particular lyrics were written at a time in Dylan’s life when he had become a bona fide rockstar and the “voice of a generation,“ but felt pushed artistically in a new direction. Of the many new expectations was a loud desire from some of his original fans that he remain a simple folk singer. In fact, just a year before, Dylan had an iconic interaction with fans in London during his legendary “Royal Albert Hall” concert. 3
So for the purposes of these lyrics (and particularly due to Mumford’s singing), I hear an intense desire to move forward, and yet feel the constraint of the past. For me, “Kansas City“ represents not only a lyrical metaphor of trying to go back to a simpler time, but an actual place, as that is the area to which we moved in order to get our lives back. As a location, Kansas City has always held a special place in my heart, though it was not until this time in my life that I actually lived close to the city.
The Way It Was | The KillersThe Killers will always hold a special place in our marriage. On our honeymoon, I brought my iPod4 so we could have some groovy tunes while driving our rental car around Myrtle Beach (aka, the Branson of the East Coast). Our rental didn’t have an aux input so we had no way of playing said groovy tunes. So on Day One, we drove to a local record store and rummaged through the discount bins, coming across Hot Fuss. We played that album every day that week and our love for the band and its connection to the early days of our relationship were solidified.
“The Way It Was” comes from a later album, Battle Born, in which lyrics such as “Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend, looks like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year,“ would be out of place. Instead, a matured Brandon Flowers is trying to deal with the ups and downs and difficulties of life, relationships, and the crashing down of quixotic dreams. The song covers the interior thoughts of a man driving onto a lonely stretch of desert road, thinking back on the past, wondering if I go on with you (by my side) can it be the way it was when we met?
Of course, nothing can ever simply go back, but we can at least seek to reclaim something from what we’ve lost. When the present is incredibly difficult, one thing we can do is reach back to the past and use it as a springboard for the future.
Everything’s Not Lost | Coldplay
Including the hidden track “Life Is For Living,“ this song closes out the first album from what would become one of the biggest bands in the world. I cannot quite decide if the lyrics are from Mikala to me, or me to her––or if we were at different times were saying it to each other.
“Everything’s Not Lost” mentions counting up my demons, realizing that some of them may actually have positive aspects that are worth carrying on into a new life, but the vast majority should be driven away. This song is a frank admittance of wrongdoing, an apology, and then a promise that everything is indeed not lost and that we still have a chance to start over.
As “Life Is For Living” says,
My head just aches when I think of The things that I shouldn't have done. But life is for living we all know, And I don't want to live it alone.
The Ballad of Love and Hate | Avett Brothers
One of my favorite story songs, I have seldom felt more seen than by the descriptions of the character Hate. In many ways, the first 3 to 4 years of our marriage was indeed a ballad of Love and Hate, one person seeking to create something beautiful and another seeking to ignore or destroy it.
After the two lovers are reunited, we close with Love cradling a weary, head hung down Hate in her arms, brushing off the failures of the past and simply reminding him of the solid things: I’m yours and that’s it, forever; you’re mine and that’s it, forever.Of course in real life, there is a whole season of reconstruction following such a moment, but the coming together of Love and Hate to try to start over is a lived experience for me. If anything, I feel like Love here is too easy on Hate. My Enneagram 8 partner,5 was not quite so gentle, but it was also what I needed.
Mikala would not have apologized for being gone for so long, and yet she also has been able to say in the years since that she grew from the experience––that the past is the past, though it has made us who we are in the present. In the end, Love and Hate came together and were able to start anew. We are each other‘s and that’s it, forever.
Holland Road | Mumford and Sons
Upon further research, this song was created as an expression of the artist’s relationship to the music industry and his own fans.
Thankfully, meaning is in the public domain.
For me, I cannot quite decide who is the “you“ being addressed here: is it the church? God? Mikala? All three at various points? Is it myself?
The singer realizes the effect of my shame has brought unnecessary pain, though he experiences the rebounding anger from those he hurt. The Holland Road seems to be a place, or a point in time, or an experience that one walks away from and yet never really leaves. We can pretend it’s in the past, but the gravity of that place always seeks to draw us back into its destructive center. As the singer says, So I hid my load, but little did I know that would not be the end of the Holland Road.
Ultimately, this is a song begging whomever is being spoken to to still believe in me––whether that be a partner, a calling, a God, or a self. As expected, the tune ends with a very classic Mumford and Sons mothafuckin-banjo-horn-blaring-put-your-hipster-hands-in-the-air anthem:
But I still believe, Through these cracks you'll see, When I'm on my knees I still believe. And when I hit the ground, Neither lost nor found, If you'll believe in me, I'll still believe.
The Devil You Know | Derek Webb
As I mentioned previously, this entire album speaks deeply to years covered in the main narrative of my book. So deeply does Webb’s art resonate with me that at one point I had every track sprinkled in the playlist. While there are other songs from it I prefer, this one expressed the season too well, particularly as a transition point into the awakening of Easter.
There eventually came a point when it was not Mikala waiting for me to return to her, but it was a legitimate request from me that she trust me once again.According to phrases.org, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,“ comes from a 16th century Irish proverb, and is typically used as a way to express the uncertainty of apparent greener pastures.6
In this song, the singer recognizes that he was looking for something perfect, like pure joy, but now understands that good things and bad things always mingle, no stories are simple, landmines under feet.
Essentially, I knew I was asking for a huge amount of credulity and blind faith on my wife’s part so we could try this again, but it was the only way.
Thankfully, she was willing to trust the devil she knew.
1. I don’t have an “Easter Vigil” section in my book, but there are many songs to cover so I had to break them up somehow.↩ 2. Oh yeah, and this particular track includes Johnny Depp on guitar, since he just happened to be in the area the day they were recording and I guess that’s a thing.↩ 3. Dylan was called “Judas” and he replied “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar.” Then he turned to his band and said, “Play it fuckin’ loud!” Also, for those who care, this concert was actually played in Manchester, not the RAH.↩ 4. The white rectangle that had a click wheel on it↩ 5. You know, if you’re into astrology.↩ 6. Or, as they’d say in Letterkenny, “Old boss is a dick till you meet the new one.“↩