You know where I live? Just outside of Boston. You know what we had a lot of this winter? Snow. You know what yesterday was? First day of spring. You know what we have a freshly-fallen-coat-of this morning? Snow.
My mother had a saying, once you got past the Irish you were done with winter. Another lie told me by the older generation!
All right, all right, it’ll all melt in time, the numbers are on my side. So consider this entry my surrender, or offering. Frozen, not burnt.
This is, appropriately, a stark, wintry song, just voice and piano and something called a “tundra drone.” (I’m no musician, but I want one of those.) Tracey begins by singing of snow as a destroyer, an eraser:
Fills the fields we used to know
And the little park where we would go…
There’s a lost lover (“It’s all over and you’re gone”) and lost dreams (they are, you guessed it, buried under the snow). But Tracey’s voice is so hushed and mournful that by the time you get to the bridge you aren’t feeling this is a relationship song but a death song, a deeper farewell:
Sometimes the wind blows through the trees
And I think I hear you calling me…
In the last verse snow comes to represent the heavy blankness of grief, through which the singer (and all of us) must walk: alone of course.
Randy Newman wrote this song, but I don’t think he ever recorded it. (I’m pretty sure he never could have hit the notes during that bridge section.) Nilsson did record it, for Nilsson Sings Newman, but didn’t include it on the album. His version is more offhand, less haunted. Tracey Thorn is the vocalist/songwriter for the band Everything But the Girl, and this comes from her Christmas album, which is quite beautiful though not very joy of the season. It’s not sad, exactly, more…stoic, with a recurrent theme of the distance between the vision we all have of what the holiday should be and how it usually turns out. Her cover of “Hard Candy Christmas,” also on the album, is equally downbeat and equally great.