I have been revisiting an old classic, the album Honey From the Tombs from 2006 by Canadian indie rock musician Amy Millan. The reason why I consider it a classic, and something representative of nostalgia for my own personal sake, is the memories I associate with the music on the album. You see, my family and I made a road trip across Sweden that year, and the only two albums I carried on my iPod were Memphis' A Little Place In the Wilderness (another gem) and Amy Millan's.
Having lived in Sweden for two years without having discovered the scenery of the Swedish countryside made the trip even more interesting. We managed to re-visit Småland (where I had spent part of my childhood) including the city of Växjö, and ultimately ended up in the Stockholm archipelago to eventually settle outside Stockholm for a while.
What the album also reminds me of is the roadtrip we did around the Great Lakes in America and Canada in 2003. Granted, I wasn't listening to Amy Millan then, but her Canadian identity resonates strongly with those memories. We started off that trip by flying from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Chicago, Illinois. The Windy City, as they call, is far more beautiful than the media likes to portray it (with their constant emphasis on its delinquent past and present).
We then drove up north to the state of Michigan. Michigan has a very European feel over itself, with pretty, rural architecture and lots of lighthouses. Yet, the hospitality is as American as one can get, and this is what is particular about East coast America.
Subsequently we made it to Canada (the state of Ontario). This allowed us to visit both the Niagara Falls and appreciate the splendour of the Canadian landscape. We also managed to visit Toronto, a city of high culture. Other highlights on the way included the city of Thunder Bay where we found hordes of teenagers congregating in the local shopping mall like in any other city.
Finally, we drove West to the very flat state of Manitoba. Here we visited the city of Winnipeg. It had a rather charming air over itself, reminding me strongly of a city like Växjö (it is mid-sized, cute and not too pretentious). We were at one point considering moving to Canada and we had had our eyes on Winnipeg. Alas, that never became reality and we started driving south to the American border. We drove through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, to finally end up in Chicago a month after we had started. Some highlights on the way included visiting the city of Fargo, where the neo-noir film Fargo (1996) has its setting.
I would like to look at Honey From the Tombs by Amy Millan. Amy captures the true essence of the road trip across the Canadian wasteland. Her voice is at times very raunchy and rural, and somehow she manages to embody what it means to appreciate the beauty that Canada has to offer.
Highlights: The whole LP is very accomplished and there is not a song that does not belong on the album.
Come Home Loaded Roadie: Singing about the man who left her, Amy uses background drones to carry us through as listeners. She makes quite a few allusions to the lonely life on the Canadian roads. Since the distances in that country are so startlingly large one is bound to have to drive alone quite a bit:
"I can hear your wheels on the lonely highway
Ice kicked up in the February sun of the town Thunder Bay
It's all wrong while your gone
It's all wrong while your gone
Come home and the birds will bring you honey
Come home and flowers will bloom
Come home are you as lonesome
Come home soon
East to west, north to south, blind in the pines of highway 69
Thirty loads in thirty nights, thirty cities and dirty dashboard days
It's all wrong while your gone"
Losing You: "Your eyes are like burned-out headlights". Amy's melancholy about her irrevocable loss is effectively coupled with banjo music. Call her a hillbilly, maybe, but her talent goes beyond that.
Skinny Boy: Another country-sounding track perfect for listening in the car.
Wayward and Parliament: An observation on Canadian life:
"Man made moons they go on one by one
When the sun is done for the day
That's when the girls come by through the silver blinds
We'll watch the drinking lie on the pavement
That's our sentiment
Down by the railway the bicycles are there
An apocalyptic fair for the alive
It's a sign the messengers they bring
With their stainless steel wings on a 45
That plays our lullaby"