VIBES: A Playlist For Your Drives


I remember when my parents told me about my new sister, an unplanned surprise, one that was supposedly arriving sometime over the summer of 1998. I was so excited to have another girl in the house. A friend I could protect, coach, and love. Fast-forward seventeen years and six months since that first discussion. It's me, my Mom, my twenty-year-old brother Henry, and my now seventeen year-old sister Kate at the kitchen table. We are eating fried chicken and potato salad. There's also lemonade and strawberry shortcake and cool-whip and baked beans. My brother has returned from the summer camp where he now leads music and swim lessons with a full beard. He has taken an affinity towards wearing chino shorts with chambray bowties and loafers, yet still peppers college-age colloquialisms like 'turnt up',  'go hard,' and 'whack A.F.' into his everyday speech. My sister is at the head of the table with a new haircut I'm still getting used to. It makes her look like a dead-ringer for 1992- era Sinead O'Connor -- specifically what she looked like on the cover of 'Am I Not Your Girl?'  We discuss my sister's eventual ability to vote for Hilary in 2016 and she opens our gifts --- a pair of blue jeans. Black cut-off Levi's shorts with that cute two-horse back patch. Lip gloss. Scented lotion.

At the end of the evening, I say goodbye.  I'm in the doorway heading out, but something makes me stop. I look at my Mom standing in the living room. I wait there at the precipice of the door, suddenly wanting her to say something that will comfort me --but comfort me from what? My own bittersweet memories of birthdays past, present, and future? My own fears of growing up?

I can't place what exactly is causing me to feel the sting of time's passage so sharply, so instead I just say, rather cheerfully -- "Okay, Bye!! Love you!" and get in my truck, feeding a CD into the dash and playing it loud.

There's something about birthdays. Another marker of a year's plodding progress. And there's something about every birthday that makes me miss my dad. Can he see that Henry has a beard? Would he like it?  Can he see that Katie has a shaved head? Was he watching while Mom painted the bedroom and the hallway? Would he like the person I am becoming?  Can he see my brother and sister and I -- navigating as we can around early adulthood, sometimes fumbling, sometimes succeeding? I hope he can. I think he can. And the ways I commune with my Dad are in quiet moments like this -- in my truck, driving home, listening to Emmylou and the CD's I've made for myself that remind me of him.

I sometimes pretend like he's there, listening along with me as we used to. I tell him how funny my brother is, and ask his opinion on my writing. As the music plays,  I tell him how awesome it was to see Tift Merrit play live out in the desert last fall, and when the CD switches to my favorite Andrew Combs single I excitedly ask ''Doesn't the bridge on 'Big Bad Love' remind you of early John Pizzarelli?'  These little things are the things I miss sharing with him the most, and so the music becomes my meditation, my communion with him. I only cry a little bit -- just for half-a-block. Then the tears stop. I sing along to 'Tulsa Queen' all the way home. Things feel better.


1. Tulsa Queen - Emmylou Harris
2. Nashville Blues - The Everly Brothers
3. Lost in the Light - Bahamas
4. New York - Cat Power
5. Wanted Man - Johnny Cash
6. Waymore's Blue's - Waylon Jennings
7. Drink Up and Be Somebody - Merle Haggard
8. Call Me the Breeze - JJ Cale
9. Freedom Highway - The Staple Singers
10. Maria - Lucinda Williams
11. Hard Scratch Pride - Whitey Morgan & The 78's
12. Long White Line - Sturgill Simpson
13. Hey, Now I'm Movin - Kurt Vile
14. It's Been A Long Time Coming - Delaney & Bonnie
15. Movin' - Johnny Cash
16. Time to Bum Again - Waylon Jennings
17. Happy Woman Blues - Lucinda Williams
18. Traveling Alone - Tift Merritt
19. Dark End of the Street - Cat Power
20. 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton
21. Loretta - Townes Van Zandt
22. Tighten Up My Thang - Soul Children
23. Sweet Home - Pops Staples
24. Go Out on The Road - Hurray for the Riff Raff
25. Westbound Train - Robert Ellis
26. Never Going Back Again - Fleetwood Mac
27. That's All It Took - Gram Parsons
28. The Pick-Up - Conway Twitty
29. Heartbroken, In Disrepair - Dan Auerbach
30. Into Something (Can't Shake Loose) - O.V. Wright
31. The Trip - Kim Fowley
32. I'd Love to Lay You Down - Conway Twitty
33. Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man - Conway Twitty
34. Chattahoochee - Alan Jackson
35. It's Only Make Believe - Conway Twitty
36. Rollin' Free - Johnny  Cash
37. Wild One - Nikki Lane
38. Hummed Low - Odessa Rose
39. Learning How to Live - Lucinda Williams
40. Killing the Blues - Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
41. To Live is To Fly - Townes Van Zandt
42. Drifted Apart - Tift Merrit
43. West - Lucinda Williams
44. Dearly Departed - Shakey Graves
45. Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line - Waylon Jennings
46. Security - Otis Redding 47. Workin' Woman Blues - Valerie June
48. Feeling of Beauty - Tift Merrit
49. Runnin' You Out of My Mind - Andrew Combs
50. Can't Take You With Me - Bahamas
51. The Breeze / My Baby Cries - Bill Callahan
52. Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way - Waylon Jennings