We usually keep the Christmas tree up through New Year's Day, but this year we took it down early.
Family members gone home, the holiday bustle past, the house felt empty on a dreary Sunday. Searching through my long-neglected CD collection, I found Norman Blake's album, "Whiskey Before Breakfast."
Listening again to Blake's flat-picking and singing on "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane," "The Girl I Left Behind in Sunny Tennessee," and "Church Street Blues" renewed my faith in old truths and enduring stories.
Blake's virtuoso guitar playing on instrumentals "The Minstrel Boy to the War Has Gone/Ash Grove," "Macon Rag" and "Whiskey Before Breakfast" brightened the day.
As 2019 dwindles and a momentous new year looms, I return to Blake and others who taught my generation the splendor of American musical traditions. Sadly, too many of them died young: Richard Farina, Janis Joplin, Clarence White, Gram Parsons, Duane Allman, Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Rick Danko.
Blake, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder and others forge on as another decade comes.
Their music promises that better days will come.