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Sturgeon, Rimbaud, Buck and Me

Country Musings by Robert Loy, November 2008

Sturgeon's Law states that 90 per cent of everything is crap. And that includes music, of course. I submit that there are two exceptions to this rule: 1.) crap percentage is somewhat higher on modern day country radio, and 2) when you're young the operands in this equation are reversed, i.e., 90 percent of everything is pure gold.

I remember when I was a kid taking a car trip somewhere with my dad. He wanted to change the radio station to listen to a basketball game. I asked him to wait till the song that was playing ("Valleri" by The Monkees) was over as it was my favorite song. When The Monkees finished doing their thing my dad reached for the radio button, but not before the next song had started (something by the Grass Roots) and I said, no, hang on, that's my real favorite song.

My dad waited patiently but when the third song started, and again I asked him not to change the station (Sorry, I don't remember anything about this song, other than that it was my absolute all-time favorite), he said they can't all be your favorite and turned on the basketball game.

But he was wrong, They were all my favorite. Which brings me to Loy's Law - Nothing will ever again sound as good as music when you first discover it for yourself.

Together these two laws make a depressing case for an adult music fan. But despair not. Hope comes from the only thing I remember from my college economics class - the more there is of a particular item, the less each item is worth. Conversely, the less there is, the more each individual item is worth.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I've found a song I am passionate about, and if I can no longer turn on the radio and count on being sent into a rhapsody, when I do find a song I love, I love that one song even more than I loved any one song by The Monkees or the Grass Roots or anybody else during my golden musical age.

The song is "Furr" by a folky Portland-based sextet called Blitzen Trapper. If you haven't heard it yet, treat yourself soon. It's reminiscent of The Byrds and Poco and all that early country-rock stuff, but with a complex rhyme scheme and thoughtful lyrics that touch on (among other things) love, getting in touch with our animal nature, spirituality and the compromises that must be made in order for interspecies mating. It's about a man who turns into a wolf and eventually back into a man for the woman he loves. And much more. All in four minutes and eight seconds.

"Furr" has gone to the top of almost all of my iPod playlists. And I could give you a couple dozen music critic reasons why - in fact I just gave you a few. But the truth is I love it because it reminds me of what it was to be a kid again.

Specifically it reminds me of the day I discovered one of my all-time favorite books "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. This unforgettable reading experience was one of my first instances of sitting safely in my living room while being transported far, far away. And I don't mean just to the frozen North but into the mind and heart of a Saint Bernard mix named Buck. And even now "The Call of the Wild" is one of my desert island books, i.e. if I could only take 10 books with me to live on a deserted island "The Call of the Wild" would be one of them.

So the good news is if you're riding in the car with me and you want to change the radio station chances are I'll let you.

And the even better news is I have once again found the truth of Rimbaud's quote "Genius is the recovery of childhood at will."