Driving to Steelhead

Among music aficionado’s, I’m likely in the minority because I still buy CDs. I don’t create play lists although I have been known to plug into Pandora on occasion. To me, a CD is like a book of short stories. The first song should catch your attention and the second one should hold it long enough to make you want to listen to the third and the fourth. Not every song needs to be great for a CD to be considered a “keeper,” but there should not be any songs that you have to suffer through or fell obligated to skip past.

I got on Amazon.com recently, my pocket journal open to scribbles made while I tooled down the highway. My goal was to purchase some new driving music, something to listen to while I chewed up road miles on the way to fishing the Walla Walla, Touchet, or Tucannon Rivers for steelhead this winter. When I’m by myself, I can turn up the volume and not have to cater to whoever is riding shotgun.

You might consider my current collection of over 100 CDs as eclectic (or the habit archaic?): classical, world music, C&W, blues, jazz, rock-and-roll. For the most part, however, it’s heavily weighted towards artists that include Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ry Cooder, the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, John Hiatt, BB King, and Bob Dylan. Mostly old guys who play a mean guitar. There’s an occasional female artist mixed in. For instance, Natalie Merchant, Lucinda Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, and Koko Taylor. Sometimes I seek a sweet voice to make me feel loved.

My latest foray into the world of on-line digital music led to the purchase of five markedly different CDs. After eagerly ripping open my first mailer, I wondered about inspiration that led to the purchase of “Beautiful Thing” by the Ben Vaughan Combo. Was I sucked in by a positive review? Did I click on the wrong button? It went into the Goodwill donation box after I listened to the first five songs. One thing was for sure. Ben was singing to someone other than me.

Next up was a Alabama Shakes release, “Boys and Girls. The cover art was bland but the lead singer’s voice was riveting and the songs were packaged like the production manager knew what he was doing. That CD found a good home.

I suspected that I might be in for something different when I ordered “God Don’t Never Change. The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson.” And I was. The CD would be played on a rainy Sunday morning when steelhead came up short of expectation and I was in need of religion.

I had been impressed with Dwight Yokum’s acting performance on “Slingblade,” but did not bond with his latest musical release, “Swimming’ Pools, Movie Stars….” The one decent song I heard on satellite radio (a tribute to Prince) did not come up until the ninth track. And although the song was as good as I remembered, the other eleven did not inspire. You think maybe I was enamored with his crumpled cowboy hat? That CD also went into the Goodwill donation box.

My success rate was beginning to resemble the Mariner’s team batting average until I ripped open the fifth and last mailer. As things turned out, my final selection, the double-CD set “Johnny Winter The Woodstock Experience,” made my top song collection of the year. The Texas-born guitarist’s songs were soulful and inspired in a drug-free way. Which reminds that I recently survived a 3-hour root canal experience aided by a steady stream of nitrous oxide and guitar licks delivered by Roy Buchanan via the dental office’s link to Pandora. Which only proves that nothing settles your mind like a guitar master playing the blues. Look out steelies!