Monday, January 29, 2007

The gentle voice

The voice comes over you soft and easy. It's not a sucker punch; it's more like a gentle wave that floats ever so easily across your body.

You're drawn in immediately, not by her looks, which are gorgeous, not even by the fedora (as a child, I'd have called it a 'Papaw hat') she wears on the top of her head. No, it's the voice that brings you near.

"It's been a too long time with no peace of mind, and I'm ready for the times to get better."

She starts with an old Crystal Gayle tune, and you're glad you came. Her voice is a respite from the bitter cold air. It's almost as if by driving to the Old City and ducking into the taproom, you've come home, back to something familiar that stirs you deep down in your soul.

Pull up a chair and listen a minute. Here's how this all happened.

What a weekend to forget. Lost in the haze of painkillers and migraines, I just wanted it to end. Go away. Get back to work on Monday. Forget about this 3-day hell.

I'm taking a nap, easing into the Sunday afternoon, when I hear the phone ring. Text message. Will look at it in a minute. Finally open my eyes a couple of hours later. And like manna, it's Andrea.

"Would you like to go see Robinella tonight?"

I don't have to be prompted. Robinella has one of the prettiest voices I've ever heard. Sometimes I shut my eyes and pretend she's singing just for me. It's ethereal. It's lovely.

We duck into Barley's about 7 or so. It's freezing outside, but I forget all about that when this angel opens her mouth.

Somewhere in her first set, she steals my heart, twists it around and plucks its heartstrings like a finely tuned mandolin.

"Funny how my teardrops don't make a sound, when they're all down my cheeks and they fall to the ground...

"Hold me, I've fallen and I can't stand upright. Love me, I'll stay by your side..."

Her voice fades and the mandolin combines with the bass and the drums and the pedal steel to create something that I want to go on forever. My soul climbs into the stratosphere and despite the song's sadly poignant lyric I'm rejuvenated somehow, as if this is exactly what I needed to hear tonight.

"Please, God," I pray, "don't let this ever end."

My request is granted for awhile. Robinella shifts back and forth in her unique way, from soul to bluegrass to Patsy Cline and back again. Somewhere in the second set, she strums her guitar a minute, then launches into a familiar waltz.

"Dance a little closer to me, dance a little closer now, dance a little closer tonight..."

Upon hearing Nanci Griffith's lyric, Andrea smiles, nods her head to the music, loses herself in the moment.

"This is my favorite."

Robinella treats us to a little bit of everything before she leaves us. She even tells us that Jesus is coming soon and that she's crazy for loving you.

When she goes a part of us goes with her. We put on our coats and I raise my collar to the wind, preparing for the winter chill I know is coming.

My body is soon frozen, but the heart remains warm. Still it basks in the glow of that voice, that voice that floats over you like a gentle wave.

It stays with you on the ride home, and as you drift off to sleep, your thoughts return to the smell of smoke from the bar, to the gentle eyes of the woman who brings your drinks, to the look on Andrea's face when she hears her song, and finally, ultimately, to that voice.

"See my tears in the moonlight, reflect what I'm feeling inside. Hold me, I've fallen and I can't stand upright.

"Love me,"
it says, "I'll stay by your side..."

Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere.


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