Our Universal Tongue

images 2There’s no denying that as a writer, I’m all about words. But when words are put to music and made into a song, a universal language is created that can move a mass of people all at the same time. Often it does the job better than mere words can.

I’m just back from my first trip to Nashville and the button of my music-loving soul has most definitely been turned on.  I road tripped down there with my husband and two dear, longtime friends for the annual Americana Music Association’s Festival and Conference http://americanamusic.org/who-we-are. Americana music is folk, country, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, often called roots music. All four of us love the many flavors of Americana music and the mess it makes with our emotions so we went down there to marinate in it.

I never seen so much talent spanning the generations in one place, at the same time.

Here are just a few musicians you might recognize:

Stephen Stills

Emmylou Harris

Richard Thompson

Rosanne Cash

Billy Bragg

Robert Hunter (who sang “Ripple”).

Dr. John

Buddy Miller

Merle Haggard

The McCrary Sisters with a kickin’ version of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Buddy Miller singing “Gasoline and Matches.”



Billy Bragg singing “Never Buy the Sun”


Enough review, travelogue and linkage.

If you get the chance to go to Nashville, do it!


What I really want to share with you is that next to all the riffs, licks, melodies and great one liners that are still dancing in my head, I picked up some things about inspiration from the songwriters. There are many things we can learn from them about creative process and making art:


Inspiration can come in the strangest ways: from a memory or mood, line or title.

Rodney Crowell

“It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night that Chews Your Ass Out All Day Long“



Art doesn’t have to be about big things.

Dr. John singing “Right Place Wrong Time”


There is power in pause, break and bridge.

David Bromberg in the midst of a bridge at The Station Inn:



An idea may begin with in a solo state (or one, two or three), but it can many others to expand its reach.




Inspiration begets more inspiration.

“Newcomers” The Lone Bellow singing “Teach Me to Know.”



Good ideas, once put out there, are gifts to world, but other voices can bring new life to it.

Here is a very young Emmylou Harris singing Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again.”



Photograph of the inside of the Ryman Auditorium.  Thank you to vinylives.com.