Sunday, January 29, 2012

Getting There: The Kenworth of my Dreams

Richard Shindell: The Kenworth Of My Dreams


Nominally, this twangy countrified folk song is about a truck, and its new owner, who purchases and fixes up the titular Kenworth with the help of his brother-in-law, and settles into the life of a long-haul trucker despite the ridicule of his friends and family. But like all Richard Shindell songs, there's hints of the confessional around the edges of our narrative voice, and the upbeat bounce of the production is a ruse, designed to strain and pull at deliberate odds with the subtext. And these textual cues call his honesty into question, pushing us to dig deeper.

But this way lies despair. Why did the narrator sell his fishing boat, and his Camaro? Why does he turn the radio off, late at night, when those sad country songs hit the airwaves? What is he running from? We can ask, but we will not find the answers: Shindell has withheld them, so that we may live in the mind of the narrator, and experience his emotional state through sharing his avoidance. And so, in the end, like all great folk songs, this song is really about us: how pride can haunt us, how our dreams live and die through our actions and inactions, the lengths to which we are willing to change our lives in order to escape and pursue, the ways in which the engines of the past linger in our hearts and minds, no matter how hard or fast we run.

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