Turn up the Music: A Lowcountry Soundtrack in Sanity

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On March 12, I went to a concert at the Gaillard Center downtown. It was a collaboration between the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Grammy-award winning band Ranky Tanky. Nearly all the members of the band are from the Charleston area, and their funky, soulful sound is rooted in the Gullah tradition. Originally a sold-out show, the crowd was thinner because of warnings related to the coronavirus but was still sizable and energetic.

Turn up the Music_ A Lowcountry Soundtrack in Sanity Charleston Moms
Ranky Tanky and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra performing at the Gaillard Center on March 12.

We debated whether or not to go; it was before things got as intense as they are now — schools and restaurants and beaches were still open, gatherings were limited to 250 people — and I’m so glad we went because the day after the show, the Gaillard canceled all its events for the rest of the season.

I remember looking up at the ornate dome in the gorgeous auditorium from our balcony seats, looking down at the lovely display of musicians and instruments gathered on stage, and feeling a deep sadness set in that this will be the last time I will get to experience live music or see a concert in a long time.

I rely on music in nearly all situations — whether for enjoyment or escapism or emotional recharging — and listening to my favorite bands has helped me make it through these crazy days. 

In the time before, my husband and I love going to concerts and plan our family trips around seeing shows. One of my favorite things to do when I’m driving alone is to put on MY songs and crank them up super loud. I’m totally that 40-something mom rocking out in my SUV at a red light.

Or at least I was.

Now I feel like I’m wading through life as if through an upside-down bowl of Jell-O. The current coronavirus situation feels simultaneously surreal and painfully real. I want to read articles and watch the news to stay informed, but it’s overwhelming and hard to comprehend how entire cities and countries have shut down. It scares me, and I feel like I have no control over what is happening, and I’m not even that much of a control freak. 

But when I put on my headphones, I’m in control of the music. I am instantly in a better mood when I hear songs that I love and am able to tune out the insanity around me. It might not be the best coping method, but music helps me express my emotions through dancing or singing along or crying at poignant lyrics.

Not surprisingly, the cancellation of all the concerts and music festivals was a big hit to my soul. In April we had tickets to High Water one weekend and Merlefest the following weekend. Merlefest is a huge family-friendly bluegrass festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, where we planned on camping for four nights and the lineup featured Willie Nelson, John Prine, and so many awesome musicians. 

PLAY IT LOUD

Now, as we settle into our homesteads, it’s as good a time as ever to dust off that box of CDs in the back of your closet or bust out your cherished vinyl collection and introduce new music to your kids. I’m pretty sure I have a little case somewhere with old cassette tapes that I plan on resurrecting as part of a homeschooling lesson titled “The Art of the Mix Tape: Old School Music Technology.”

Turn up the Music_ A Lowcountry Soundtrack in Sanity Charleston Moms
Your kids can rock out listening to records!

Of course, my kids don’t always want to listen to “mom’s music” but that doesn’t stop me from making them watch videos of my favorite bands on YouTube. This is a great opportunity to discover new songs together (even if you’re just rocking out to the Kidz Bop version).

I admit I’m obsessed with Lord Huron right now, and I have been listening to them non-stop. They’re not a new band by any means, but they’re new to me. I saw them perform last year at High Water Festival, and can’t get enough of the lead singer’s (Ben Schneider) voice. I don’t even know how to describe their sound. Songs waiver between upbeat and eclectic with an indie edge, I suppose, and the lyrics are thoughtful and gorgeous and sad and dark, if that makes any sense? In one beautiful song, “La Belle Fleur Sauvage,” I adore the description of the woman he loves. Sigh.  

SAMPLE SOUNDTRACK

I’ve compiled a playlist of some of my favorite songs right now, and it’s an eclectic combination of genres and tempos that seems weird but it works as an all-around awesome soundtrack. Even if you don’t have the same musical tastes, I hope you give some of these songs a chance. What’s the worst that can happen? There are three scenarios — you hate it and realize you don’t trust my judgment (in that case, I apologize, but no biggie); you realize we like the same music (in that case, I’ll see you at a show once our lives turn back to normal); or you realize you really love a new song or band (in that case, you can thank me for expanding your musical horizons!)

Here are the bands and the names of the songs on the playlist, dubbed “Lowcountry Soundtrack in Sanity”:

  • My Morning Jacket: “One Big Holiday”
  • Shovels and Rope: “The Devil Is All Around”
  • Dawes: “When My Time Comes”
  • Ranky Tanky: “That’s Alright”
  • Tom Petty: “Wildflowers”
  • Lord Huron: “La Belle Fleur Sauvage”
  • Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan: “Girl from the North Country”
  • Pete Yorn: “For Nancy (Cos It Already Is)”
  • Lake Street Dive: “Good Kisser”
  • The Avett Brothers: “If It’s The Beaches”
  • Led Zeppelin: “D’yer Mak’er”
  • Of Monsters And Men: “Little Talks”
  • Bright Eyes: “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”
  • Lord Huron: “Ends of the Earth”
  • Brandi Carlile: “The Eye”
  • The Mountain Goats: “This Year”

Here’s a link to the playlist in Apple Music.

Enjoy the music all around you!

What music are you jammin’ to these days? Share in the comments below!

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Pamela Brownstein
A native of New Orleans, who was raised in New Jersey, Pamela has lived in the Lowcountry of South Carolina for the past 15 years — which basically means she talks and drives fast like a Northerner but embraces the natural beauty and friendly, laid-back culture of the South. She graduated with a journalism degree from Penn State, and met her husband, Daniel, while working at a newspaper in Beaufort, SC. The two left-handed parents have two adorable right-handed children — Wolfe, 5, and Selah, 4 — and one unruly black Lab, named Lefty. They live in Mount Pleasant and Pamela works from home as a freelance graphic designer, writer and editor while also taking care of aforementioned children. She loves champagne, Bluegrass music and South Park.

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