SotD: Sam Phillips, “Raised on Promises”

The last weekend of October 91 was jam-packed with fun and important events. I had no teaching duties that fall, thanks to some grant money my advisor had secured, so I had freedom enough to break away from writing my dissertation when the need arose. And arise it did–a wedding and a big birthday celebration on back-to-back days.

October 25 was not only my father-in-law’s birthday; it was that of my great aunt Birdie Brown (paternal grandmother’s sister) as well. While she had stopped driving by this point, she was still living in her home in Warsaw, KY, the house in which both she and my father had been born. And so I drove down US 42 from Florence that Friday morning to go visit her on the day she turned 90.

Aunt Birdie had never married. My grandmother was her only sibling, my father her only nephew, my sister and I her only pseudo-grandchildren (and she was very much like a grandmother to us–Grandma had died more than sixteen years earlier, just before I turned 11). She thought Amy and I hung the moon, so she was so very pleased to see me that day. Her eyesight and hearing had been deteriorating, but she could still get around reasonably well. I’m sure she escorted me to the living room, sat me down in the overstuffed chair I now have in our basement, and prompted me to tell all about my life at that time. I’m also certain I didn’t stay nearly as long as she might have wanted. I can recall a feeling of sadness as I drove off, worrying that I was disappointing her as I left her to what I know was often a lonely existence.

I had elsewhere to be, though. James, my college roomie, was getting married the following day (his wife-to-be was–and still is!–also named Amy), and I was one of the wedding party. The post-rehearsal festivities included a boat ride on the Kentucky River, with musicians on board playing John Prine and the like. It was a fabulous day for such an event, especially for late October–sunny and plenty warm.

The wedding itself, at the Campbell House in Lexington, was splendid, in part a mini-college reunion. I played the role of usher well! Music at the reception was provided by Candy Says, a local band (the drummer was dating Amy’s sister). It was a great time, but I couldn’t stick around forever, because…

…it was back to Warsaw on Sunday for a reception for Aunt Birdie. Since she’d lived there all her life and had been a librarian at the county school for a number of years, practically everyone in town knew her. Dad had made the arrangements and gotten the word out. We got there in plenty of time to escort her to the location (I think it was the Gallatin County Historical Society building?). She had a grand time all afternoon, certainly in part because her family was with her. I recently came across the guest book and pictures from the event.

I don’t remember how much longer Aunt Birdie stayed in that house, but I doubt it was more than another year or so. My trip to see her that October Friday had to have been one of the last times it was just the two of us there. When the time came, Dad moved her to the assisted living section at Colonial Heights, a senior facility in Florence. She was okay with that.

I imagine it was back to Illinois for me on Monday, but I wasn’t returning simply with memories of a wonderful few days. On Saturday morning, I’d swung by my favorite Lexington music store (I guess it’d changed names from Cut Corner Records to CD Central by this time–they were already in their new location) to see what could be had cheaply. I assume I picked up a few things, but the big prize was Cruel Inventions by Sam Phillips. My interest had been piqued by a review I’d read earlier that fall on the Usenet group rec.music.reviews, and when I came across a promo copy, I couldn’t resist. There are many great tunes on it, but “Raised on Promises” has long been my favorite.

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