Song #20 // Margo Price, “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” [Midwest Farmer’s Daughter]

Lights get low.

Lights get low.

These may be most favorite poetic words that I return to time and time again in quiet moments.

Lights get low.

And not just because of the mis-remembered title of the Miles Davis jazz standard recording, or the image conjured up by the pizza parlor chairs and sawdust floors of Tom Waits’s “Closing Time.”

Something about “lights get low” gets me every time.

When I was in high school I wrote a collection of poems. I wrote them quickly. Didn’t revise. Didn’t know what revision was. Didn’t know what poetry was. I wrote them in a notebook and typed them on a computer. Printed them out and stapled them together. Gave them to all of my friends, mercifully as ignorant of poetry as I was. The title page read Scenes & Fields.

The first line of the first poem–some rambling image of autumn lawns abutting wild, black woods in crisp changing air–begin with the words “Scenes and fields.” The last line of the last poem–some likewise rambling (though admittedly more poetic than it deserved to be) retelling of emotions related to when someone knocked over a snowman that my parents and I had made in our front yard–ended with “scenes and fields.”

It was a bookend trick I took from an interview I heard from Sting in the mid-90s. On a small clock radio in my bedroom late at night I heard an interview where the songwriter described his writing process of Mercury Falling, where the opening and closing lines were–you guessed it–“mercury falling.”

For some reason that anecdote stuck with me; it seemed important somehow. In the nascent days of AOL chatrooms, the late night radio was as good a transmission from the world as I could hope for; I took what I could get. In that same interview, Sting lauded the Dalai Lama’s Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, which only served to supplement my fascination with Buddhism that I’d picked up from Dharma Bums and other faraway lands.

I still don’t know what “scenes & fields” means, or why I put those particular words (and ampersand) together. But I love it. It still holds a mystery for me. It still invites me to explore.

“Lights get low” doesn’t quite do that, though. Instead it paints a muddied, vivid picture. A romantic notion, both wistful and warming. I write this tonight, the last one up, ready to turn out the lights. Ready to sneak into bed. Ready to remember and project. And the lights get low.

The title of this album and the involvement of Jack White only makes me love this woman and song more. Likewise, a clever turn of phrase in a catchy country song never could turn me away neither. But it was her set at this year’s ACL–which I could hear almost crystal clear from my backyard–that really won me over. It was then that her voice carried over half a mile up a hill and weaved through several houses and garages to get to me and still be a strong enough breeze to nearly knock me out of my seat.