Friday, August 16, 2013

Favorite Song Friday: Beautiful Now

So this is something of an odd one. Because I only even became aware of this song (and artist) about 10 days ago.

But this song just has absolutely everything I love about music. A simple and engaging melody. Lyrics that come straight from the heart and express sentiments (in this case, beauty and love) that are as basic as they are timeless. And a singer who pours every ounce of himself into it, leaving nothing, as the saying goes, in the tank when he's done. And much like falling in love, time doesn't have to matter. Whether it's something you've been hearing on the radio since you were eight or something you just heard for a first time a few hours ago, when you know, you know.

I had the privilege of seeing James Maddock play last night at my church in East Longmeadow, MA. A small crowd of about 80 people came to watch this affable, engaging Brit play a 90-minute set in a quiet, candlelit setting that more than a little resembled MTV Unplugged in its heyday. 

Maddock is a Greenwich Village singer-songwriter guitarist with a few very impressive albums to his credit and whose career appears to be on a decidedly upward trajectory. He's already played with none other than Bruce Springsteen and has developed quite a faithful following in New York City. Next week he makes an appearance on the CBS Morning Show. He came to our quaint little church last night as both a favor to a friend who is a former member of our parish and a wise career move; he wants to start developing some street cred in the arts-loving Western Massachusetts area.

For all of us who were there, James Maddock was a revelation. He has this earthy, graveley voice that falls somewhere in John Gorka/Jason Isbell range, and occasionally even shows some of the raspy scrap of Bob Seger and Rod Stewart. He smiled and energetically workhorsed his way through a 20-song set that sprang from the gritty, folky clay that has produced so much amazing music for decades and decades. His songs were about people he loved, places he loved, and all the regrets and successes that come from living the human life. He was a hit with us, indeed, and hopefully he is on his way.

He played this song, as I so desperately had hoped he would, halfway through his second set. Good golly does he knock it out of the park on this song.

Favorite Song Friday - James Maddock - Beautiful Now

There is something just so splendid and sweet about this straightforward love song, admiring a lover not for what she once was or even how he still thinks of her, but rather of what she is.

"You were beautiful then
But you're way more beautiful now."

"Beautiful Now" doesn't disregard the past, but it puts it in its proper place. It challenges the notion that our better days are behind us. Those days really aren't the priority in the context of the person singing this song and lauding the woman at its heart. And that is not only a stunningly mature point of view to take, but a comforting one as well. Who among us doesn't sometimes feel the days when we were at our best now linger sadly in the rearview mirror? Who doesn't feel old, tired, worth less and less from time to time?

We grow older and we grow more and more distant from what we once looked like and acted like; this is simple human evolution. And sure, there are times when we all long to have a glimpse back at what those long-ago years looked like, to examine those photographs with the awed wonder of  people who have seen and done much in the years that have fallen between.

Maddock doesn't scoff at that; in fact he embraces it, acknowledging the memories ("The ghosts of golden hair, the ghosts of silver jeans") that he likely never got to share in, finding the angelic nature of his lover in her younger life entrancing indeed. But it all takes a backseat to what she is now, to what he sees in the clear and wonderful present everytime he looks at her. "You were beautiful then, but you're way more beautiful now." Who doesn't want to hear that? And even more, who doesn't want to really believe that?

From sleep I fall to waking
As I awake I find
A distant wave still breaking
On the West Coast of my mind
Time casts its great illusions
Such glimpses we're allowed
You were beautiful then
But you're way more beautiful now

James Maddock isn't the first writer to ever venture into the "It's what I see, not what anyone else sees" territory. Surely Shakespeare's most famous sonnet (Sonnet 130: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun") tackled this subject with so much aplomb it surely covered the ground for centuries.

And when I read this:

"And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As an she belied with false compare."

And then this:

"You were beautiful then,
But you're way more beautiful now."

I hear the same thought being delivered, with the same amount of passion and conviction. It's not as flowery or as perfectly and seismically crafted, but it cuts through everything and arrives at a very similar place, offering a sentiment that is as honest and true and meaningful as any I have heard in song for quite some time.

I admire James Maddock's songwriting, indeed, and I love this song for how easily and melodically it offers such a timeless and earnest message, delivered with the confidence of someone who knows what he's talking about and deeply, deeply believes in it.

And one word keeps coming back, each time I listen and fall more and more in love with this song.


1 comment:

  1. A great article Dan about a very wonderful evening of music. This song has a message for people to listen too and to love. He truly is a great artist who has many songs that contain
    words of wisdom and understanding. Thanks James Maddock