Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things? –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Listen closely and you can hear birds and animals throughout Ben Weaver’s new LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo. It was recorded by Tom Herbers, an engineer with a storied career capturing Minnesota music, in a barn outside Rochester. It’s Ben’s eighth album, and also the first released by our shop through its own in-house imprint.
Tomorrow we’re also releasing a 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, two songs we are very proud to share with the world. If you’ve been following us here, you’ve already heard the A side, which was featured in a very sweet video shot by Ali Rogers (here) and included footage of the band playing at our block party this past spring. We’ve added the B side of the single at the end of this post.
You may have read this Washington Post article when it was picked up by our local paper last week — one of the plants featured in the article is Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, who are the folks we worked with in making these first two releases. You may also have an idea how difficult it has become to press records these days. The cost, the quality and the timing are all very serious considerations — we’re really happy with our experience working with this plant (and would totally recommend them!) but we’ve heard some terribly heartbreaking stories from friends who have had poor luck with other, larger presses: lost masters, entire runs mis-pressed, damaged lacquers and poor communication. And this is all after the long process of learning to play, writing new music, performing it before an audience, and recording what you want to preserve and share.
Those of us who never stopped buying and listening to records are a little confused by the “resurgence of vinyl” craze. None of us understood what everyone was doing with their CDs and iPods, and DJs that don’t play records. We’re baffled that record shops stopped selling LPs for years, though not surprised they jumped back into it once it proved both fashionable and profitable. When asked if records are “really coming back” by new visitors here, we’ve always just said they never left.
Dropping the needle onto a record never loses that magical feeling — it’s sublime no matter how long you’ve understood the physical process that recreates the sound stored in the grooves. And playing one you helped create has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had here in the record shop.
While we have been working on these projects, I have been running along the river, which is a unique experience early in the morning during this time of the year — the trees are beginning to show us the fall colors, and all the critters are frantically storing away for the coming winter. It has provided a perfect setting to think about ideas presented by these two records, and what Ben and Brian and so many others have brought to our lives with the music they bring to the shop.
I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, for the second time this fall. Emerson is one of those writers one ought to revisit at different stages of life, because they’ll find new inspiration. A young man takes his lessons from Self Reliance and its theme of independence and individualism, but after the world has worn him down a little he can appreciate the more pensive expressions in Nature.
There are passages of Emerson’s essay which fit beautifully with the words Ben wrote for his new album. In the second section, “Beauty,” he describes the benefits our access to the natural world provide for our physical and spiritual well being:
The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.
Of course, even in Emerson’s time, urban life prohibited such peaceful repose, and little has changed in the nearly two centuries since. Artificial living continues to leave us both physically and spiritually unfit. Even one of our most base expressions, music, has become sterilized when it is produced in insulated and windowless studios intended to eliminate such nuisances as the wind that rustles the leaves above our heads.
This past week Ben has visited a couple local radio shows, including one of our favorites, KFAI’s Pam Without Boundaries, which happened to be, sadly, on its last broadcast. In his conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer (which you can stream here) and with the Current’s Dave Campbell (here), Ben offers a familiar explanation for his bicycle tour, one we have heard before here at Hymie’s: “There’s nothing harder than driving to Cleveland on a Tuesday night and playing to ten people in a bar, where they’re probably not listening anyway,” he explains. “It’s so inconducive to having the kind of interactions I want to have with people.”
Instead he has planned to tour on this new album by bicycle, performing in farms and nature centers instead of bars, and participating in projects such as prairie restorations along the way. Details for Ben’s tour to New Orleans, which he has called It’s All the River, can be found on his website here. It’s a plan which again recalls Emerson, who famously wrote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Way up above we promised to post the B side of Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade’s new single, and its fitting we should. It was a conversation with him at the picnic table in our garden which led to the creation of a record label based in this shop — and since announcing these two releases we have started building the plans for the next several.
Over the years we’ve expressed our love for the flip side of a single several times (recently here and here), and so it was with a sort of reverence for the irreverence of the B side that we approached the first ever issued on our own label. Brian brought to us a song he described as “classic Family Trade” which we could hardly resist.
“Glad for Every Burden” expresses just how we feel about all the work that has gone into these two records, and into this record store. All of it has been a blessing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ben Weaver and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will both perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday October 10 (details here). Both new releases from Hymie’s will be available. They will also be reading at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday (details here).