Squeeze is singing “I’ve Returned.” In fact, it has been more than a week since I last headed out for a real walk, ever since Mother Nature delivered a nice one-two punch to stun the American northeast. In less than a week we received around three feet of snow here in central Pennsylvania. It just shows the wisdom of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” I love snow and have been saying all winter that we need some good storms, but the second blizzard ruined plans my family and I had to fly to San Diego for a few days. I had business there; they were going to have fun. Instead we’re all stuck here. We now have more snow than most of New England.

It’s a gray morning. The sun is pale and wan behind the overcast. Dog piss stains the snow banks, which are already starting to look as ragged and dirty as a hobo’s overcoat. I’m not in a particularly good mood. Not only did I miss out on a trip to California, I’m under a lot of pressure to finish a freelance project. The funny thing is, it involves the power of positive thinking. I’m not laughing.

The iPod must sense my mood, because it starts delivering energetic guitar-oriented songs that slowly begin lifting my spirits. I hear the Old 97s (“The Easy Way”) and Golden Smog (“To Call my Own”). Things really pick up with the Magic Numbers’ “Love Me Like You Do” from their great debut album. I first heard the band in a music video that came on a DVD in Paste magazine and I liked the song so much I bought the album. It’s wonderful melodic pop music with a cool interplay between male and female voices (two brother and sister pairs, from what I recall), like the Mammas and the Pappas updated for a new century.

Luna comes next with “Speedbumps” from their last album, Rendezvous. It’s another great song and also one I first heard via Paste. I had been a Luna fan before then, though. I was initially interested because of their  Feelies connection  (drummer Stan Demeski). In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time tracking down Feelies spinoffs, which include Yung Wu, Speed the Plough, and Wake Ooloo. A guy I knew in Baltimore was going to get me a copy of an EP by the Willies (or maybe it was the Trypes), but it was gone by the time he got back to the record store. I still regret that. Just recently I bought Glenn Mercer’s solo album, Wheels in Motion. It’s a pretty low-key affair, but I must admit to being impressed by his cover of “Within You, Without You,” George Harrison’s neo-Indian track from Sgt. Pepper. I always liked that song and Mercer does a nice job with it by merging it with Harrison’s “Love You To.”

But I digress. John Hiatt comes up next with “Georgia Rae” from Slow Turning as I carefully navigate the sometimes icy sidewalks.  I’ve seen Hiatt a bunch of times. One of the most memorable was when he played solo at the Barns at Wolftrap in Northern Virginia shortly before the release of his breakthrough album, Bring the Family. The peak moment came when he sat down at the piano and played a new song, “Have a Little Faith in Me,” that just floored us all. The gig was also memorable because a friend, who was godawful behind the wheel, drove my wife and me to it. As soon as he picked us up at the Metro he tried to make a U-turn and bumped over the median. For the rest of the trip he behaved like a man with at best a passing familiarity with motor vehicles. On the way back he kept following a big truck even as the rig pulled into the breakdown lane and stopped. My wife, who is a nervous passenger even in the best of times, was trying to stay calm by slugging back our drink of the night, a wicked mixture of Hawaiian punch and Southern Comfort. I don’t know how we came up with that. Fortunately we survived both the trip and the cocktail beverage. Good times.

Now Frank Sinatra sings “River Stay Away from my Door” and really gets me swingin’. The first time I ever heard this I was driving to Colonial Williamsburg for some business. I was somewhere in Virginia, searching across the radio dial around rush hour, when I stumbled across an all-Sinatra show. The song blew me away. It’s one of those great build-to-a-great climax songs with an arrangement by Nelson Riddle. I was finally able to add the song to my collection when I purchased a box set of all Sinatra’s singles from his years with Capitol.

I end the walk on a high note, with Matthew Sweet’s “Divine Intervention,” from the great Girlfriend album. Richard Lloyd provides some stinging, dirty guitar on this one.

Does He love us, does He love us, does He love us, does He love us?
Hmm, now does He love us?
 I look around
And all I see is destruction.
We’re all counting on His divine intervention.

 Man, when those guitars come ripping in it makes everything feel better. I love it when Sweet says, “Here it comes,” and chuckles, followed by a drum fill that announces, yes indeed, here it comes, and then it’s another onslaught of guitars that just sweep over me like a rock and roll tsunami. Turn it up to 11! By the time it’s over I feel like I’m ready to sit down at the computer and face some more positive thinking.

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