For me, the biggest problem with our current theme is that there are simply too many songs to choose from. Of course, country music offers endless possibilities, but even outside of that there is a tremendous amount of material to work with. Artists who never lived in small towns themselves offer fantasies, both light and dark, of what they must be like. Others, like Iris DeMent here, clearly know from their own experience.
DeMent sees growing through adulthood in a small town as a burden. Every familiar place holds a memory of something long gone. You can not look out your window without being haunted by memories. DeMent’s narrator finally must leave in order to shed all of these accumulated moments that can never come again. The town itself, in this case, is a shadow of its former self. People and businesses leave, and are not replaced.
I have lived in small towns for most of my life, and I know what DeMent means. But I can also say that not all small towns are like this. I hope to present other aspects of small town life before this theme is done. The town I live in now is the one my children have grown up in. It has changed, and I have memories of places and people that are gone. But this town has also renewed itself. New businesses and types of businesses have come in, and with them have come new friends. I haven’t found a song yet that expresses this life cycle, (suggestions?), but I do have a few things queued up that I hope to get to.
Meanwhile, there is this video. The notes on YouTube say it was made for the series finale of Northern Exposure. I never watched the show, so the images probably have some resonances that I have completely missed. But the sepia-toned images and the poignant close-ups seem perfect for this song.