There’s a radio show in Canada called “The Vinyl Café”. Aired weekly, it features the fictional stories of a dopey Canadian everyman named Dave, read by author and host Stuart MacLean. It’s often taped in front of a large audience in some small Canadian town, and features live music interspersed between the stories. The show is wildly popular; the simple storylines, mild humour, and MacLean’s lilting, wistful delivery are specifically designed to make the audience chuckle and wipe away a tear while thinking, “Isn’t that just the way life is?”
Where I live, the show airs on Saturday mornings, and on a recent Saturday morning when I decided that a lilting Stuart MacLean was better than getting out of bed, I lay staring at the ceiling and listening to a performance recorded in Smiths Falls, Ontario. As he often does, MacLean began the show by describing the town and the venue: a modest little village just south of the nation’s capital, a place where neighbours look out for one another and say “hello” to strangers while strolling down Main Street. You could almost hear the audience beaming as MacLean said nice things about the town, like a kid whose sports hero has just given him a high-five.
This particular show was coming to us from what used to be the main train station in Smiths Falls, a lovely old building that had once been an important point on the railway, but which had fallen into disuse by the late 1990s, and was saved from demolition by some preservation-minded citizens who rallied the community and raised the funds to turn it into a performance hall. Maybe it was because I had only just woken up, but I was really touched by the way the town had saved the station and made it a community meeting point again.
I chuckled, wiped some sleep from my eye, and thought, “Isn’t that just the way life is?”
Joey Wright was one of the musical guests that day, and this song made my Saturday.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The train station echo. The tiny sound fills the space, and makes me think of a lone busker in a subway station long after rush hour is over.
2. It sounds so delicate. Some of those high notes are barely plucked. Apparently, the song is not about a baby, but about how sometimes it’s easier to understand adults if you imagine them as big babies who just need a bit of huggin’. I like that.
3. The end. For a moment, the mandolin almost feels lost. Then, like a feather falling to the floor, it finds its final chord, and it’s over.
Recommended listening activity:
Looking at a train from a distance and wondering if anyone on the train can see you.