Sunday, April 12, 2015

Recording: Russ Strutt

Artist: Russ Strutt

Songs: Sunshine of Your Love [Cream cover] + Silver Wings [Merle Haggard cover]

Recorded at Rising Star Studios, sometime in 2006.

Russ Strutt - Sunshine of Your Love

Russ Strutt - Silver Wings

My father died yesterday.

Perhaps one isn't supposed to admit it, but we weren't as close as a father and son are supposed to be. ("were supposed to be". Not used to that yet.) There was Family Stuff, and from the time I was in university there was about a decade I wasn't in touch. It was one of those turning-thirty things, maybe, that I decided to call him up one day. Or maybe just a sense if I didn't talk to him and missed my chance, I'd regret it. So although things weren't storybook perfect, we did have an adult relationship. And we mostly bonded over music.

Russ had a bit of a wandering spirit and wasn't the sort of person who wanted to live in one place for too long. After he retired, he spent his winters down in Terlingua, a dusty desert town in southwest Texas. He'd been a casual guitar player for most of his life, but he took it up more seriously down there, eventually holding down nights in local cantinas mostly playing old country songs, and finding a community of friends to play music with.

When we reconnected, he had an RV out by the Thousand Islands and we hung out for an afternoon together. I'd taken up playing the guitar by then (another one of those turning-thirty things) and we played songs back and forth for each other. I thought it filled in an otherwise awkward gap, but for him it seemed to bring a level of happiness I couldn't really understand, or that I couldn't imagine my presence should justify.

We kept in touch after that, and he'd pass through town every year or so, travelling from one place to another on long highway journeys. He liked for us to play together, so that was a part of many of our visits. Once, in ought-and-six, when I was probably most into playing, I booked us some time at a rehearsal place out in Etobicoke I'd been to a few times and brought my friend J along.

These recordings come from that day, and though we tackled a bunch of songs in ramshackle style, these two stick out in my mind. I always thought of "Sunshine of Your Love" as my father's song more than as a pop artifact because I first heard it over and over from the basement of my childhood home as he cranked it out on his red Hagstrom electric. (And now I can laugh to hear him throw himself into the vocal with slurred-howling gusto, and just maybe find a tiny bit of pride in listening to myself almost keeping up on bass.) "Silver Wings" wasn't one of the songs that we'd planned ahead for, but at the end of the session when J. and I began packing up, Russ just spontaneously launched into it. I didn't have a tab to play along (which probably improves the recording) but at least I could sing on the refrain.

Russ liked to sit back and have a beer and pick the guitar. He liked the companionship of old dogs. He loved living under the open sky, whether at his property in Manitoba or down in Texas. He wasn't the best father; I certainly wasn't the best son. We tried, in our own ways. We both had the music in us.

I'm not a spiritualist or metaphysicist, so I can't say with honest conviction that I hope Russ is enjoying himself on a new journey (or hum to myself "I know there's a lotta big preachers that know a lot more than I do / but it could be that the good Lord likes a little pickin' too" with more than a faint smile). I think that coincidences are just coincidences, but a week or so ago, I had the urge, for the first time in a while, to pick up my guitar. So at least I feel ready to face this event in a proper way. Sorry for imposing these half-coherent thoughts on you but this all just came out when I was thinking through things to myself. Now I have some songs to sing.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Joe, just reading this now...please accept my belated condolences. Beautiful write-up.