Finger Picking

The nightlight built into the vanity has a plastic casing that makes it cast an eerie orange glow over the room. It cannot be turned off. For work reasons I carry a roll of painter’s tape in my travel bag and I’ll use it to tamper the radiance; I also unplug the digital alarm clock that bathes the bed in red. There is a science to sleeping in hotel rooms.

The din of smokers chatting on balconies, churning ice machines, and revelers stumbling out of the elevator is blocked out with music: On the road I fall asleep to Etta Baker.

In the recordings you can hear the fingers of her left hand move along the fretboard and the buzz of the strings as they’re plucked with the thumb and index finger of her right. These have not been cleaned with Pro Tools.

There are very few people who can and ever could speak this way through an instrument, and she worked in a textile factory and had nine children and still practiced every day and her efforts proved there is complexity in simplicity and show the perfect convergence of creativity and craft.

Never mind the beauty of it, that alone helps me sleep at night.

9 thoughts on “Finger Picking”

  1. I’ve got the album of her and Taj playing together – pure truth.

    “I said when I was young in my prime,
    I always tried to be on time.
    But now my pace is gettin’ slower
    an’ I don’t get around much any more.”

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