The Left and Leaving

Over the last week, I've listened to Counting Crows more than is probably healthy, and definitely more than anyone has done since 1999. Once in a while, I experience a pervasive mood which can only be sated by Adam Duritz's rambling vocals, his band's jangly folk rock, and nostalgia of a better era of pop music.

In the summer of 1998, Counting Crows released a double live album called Across a Wire. The first set was recorded during their Storytellers performance for VH1. It was mostly stripped down acoustic versions of songs from their first two records, a few with alternate lyrics only recorded at that show. I bought Across a Wire when it first came out; the following winter, I listened to the Storytellers half more than any other album. There was a morose quality to it that seemed to match the way I felt during that season of my life.

This week, I returned to the songs from the Storytellers show. Call it musical therapy. Not only Across a Wire, I've been playing other tracks from Counting Crows career. Other than podcasts, I haven't listened to much else.

As I’ve listened, I have discovered a theme I had not noticed before. Many of Counting Crows’ songs speak from the perspective of someone who has been left or is leaving. Thematically, that would explain why I was drawn to Across a Wire in the winter of 98/99. We had moved from Marysville to Everett. I had changed jobs from a record store to a manufacturing company. I was between girlfriends. It was the last winter that I would spend in the Seattle area before moving to Boise.

Thanks to that winter, I now have a sentimental attachment to the album that demands occasional replay. Especially when I've been left. Or am leaving one thing for another. Counting Crows is the soundtrack for the abandoned or the abandoning. The proof is in their lyrics.

For those who have been left.

From Round Here:
"Round here, she's slipping through my hands"
"She looks up at the building and says she's thinking of jumping, she says she's tired of life, she must be tired of something" (the Storytellers version says "Well, everybody is tired of something")

From Anna Begins:
"It's chasing me away, she disappears, and oh, Lord, I'm not ready for this sort of thing"

From Ghost Train:
"She buys a ticket 'cause it's cold were she comes from, she climbs aboard because she's scared of getting older in the snow"

From Catapult:
"All of a sudden she disappears, just yesterday she was here"
"Someone should be with me here 'cause I don't want to be alone"

From Angels of the Silences:
"Well I guess you left me with some feathers in my hand, did it make it any easier to leave me where I stand"
"Why'd you leave me 'til I'm only good for waiting for you"

From Good Night, Elisabeth:
"I woke up in pieces and Elisabeth had disappeared again"

From Mercury:
"She is a victim of her own responses, shackled to a heart that wants to settle and then runs away"
"She is leaving on a walkaway, she is leaving me in disarray, in the absence of a place to be she stands there looking back at me, hesitates, and then turns away"

From Long December:
"I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving"

From All My Friends:
"All my friends and lovers will leave me behind"

For those who are leaving.

From Round Here:
"Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white"
(Storytellers version) "Would you catch me if I was falling? Would you kiss me if I was leaving? Would you hold me 'cause I'm lonely without you?"

From Rain King:
"I've been here before and I deserve a little more"

From Raining in Baltimore:
"There's things I remember and things I forget, I miss you, I guess I should, three thousand five hundred miles away."

From Catapult:
"I wanna be scattered from here in this catapult"

From Angels of the Silences:
"I'm gone, I'm gone, I'll leave today I'm gone."

From Daylight Fading:
"It's getting cold in California, I guess I'll be leaving soon"
"When we see the early signs of daylight fading we leave just before it's gone"
"I want to say goodbye to you, goodbye to all my friends, goodbye to everyone I know"

From I'm Not Sleeping:
"I've got news for everyone 'cause I'm going out that door"

From Have You Seen Me Lately:
"Get away from me, this isn't gonna be easy, but I don't need you"
"I don't need anyone and these days I feel like I'm fading away"
"I thought that someone would notice, I thought somebody would say something if I was missing"

From Walkaways:
Just the same old walkaways, someday I'm going to stay but not today"

From Hanginaround:
"You know I gotta get out but I'm stuck so tight, weighed by the chains that keep me hanging around"
"I've been bumming around this old town for way too long"

From Speedway:
"Thinking about taking some time, thinking about leaving soon"
"I'm thinking about leaving tomorrow, I'm thinking about being on my own"

There's the theme. Leaving and being left. Perhaps that's why Counting Crows resonates with me. A divorcee and single dad with a melancholy disposition about to leave one ministry for another. Things change. Seasons come and go. When it happens, it's nice to have some music to remind you you're not alone.

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