A very good friend of mine died less than a year ago in rather tragic circumstances. He was the one who first introduced me to the works of Birdie Hilltop, a singer/songwriter from Pennsylvania who has several albums to his name. I loved Birdie’s music from the very first minute I heard it – somehow languid and engaged at the same time; an incredible sadness under pins the best tracks, but a sadness that is pure and not stained by any pretension. My friend loved Birdie Hilltop’s music so much that he put several of his songs in a film he made that played at the Slamdance film festival in 2008.
Since my friend’s death, I have had both a desire to rediscover Birdie Hilltop’s music again and a fear of doing so. I associate it so heavily with my dead friend, I both wanted to reconnect with that part of my life again while simultaneously being scared of the very same thing. But in the end, I could not resist the urge any longer, so I found the musician’s website and ordered “Scotland”, which was the album my friend had first showed me as a primer. When a bigger than I expected package arrived in the post, I opened it to see that the musician had sent his whole discography in kindness. As I placed the first CD into my computer I suddenly got a little worried – what if the music isn’t as good as I remember it? What will that do to my emotions regarding my lost friend? This was clearly the substance of the fear that had prevented me from looking rediscover Birdie Hilltop for so long.
As it turned out, that was never an issue. I put on “Scotland” first – and it was perhaps even better than I remembered it. This wasn’t nostalgia for my friend either – or at least it wasn’t the only factor that made me enjoy the music so much. It is just really, really good stuff. I listened to the rest of the albums, some of which I had heard before, some of which I hadn’t. They were all equally excellent.
All this then made me think about the inherent unfairness of musical fame and lack thereof . Why does Birdie Hilltop and his magnificently beautiful, sad tunes sit in obscurity while Matchbox 20 made millions? That’s just life, I guess, but listening to these albums again for the first time in years and years really brought home to me why and what we value in society – and how we really do put things that don’t deserve them on pedestals while ignoring beautiful stuff that is right there in front of us.
Relax, I’m not going all Paul Mason on your asses here (about to start ranting about post-capitalism any minute…) – I just think you should check out Birdie Hilltop’s music, which you can do right here: http://www.birdiehilltop.com. I hope you get half as much out of it as I have. And if this sounds like some sort of dodgy paid for sales pitch, I can promise you it isn’t. It’s just that I really like this stuff.