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  • Rich Kassirer

Issue 25: That Magic Moment

What would it be like to be standing on stage bathed in the warm glow of blue and green spotlights, looking out on a crowd of people waiting eagerly to hear your songs? You start playing, picking out chords to your most personal of tunes, the one you wrote when you were in that private place and time where the words and music came together. And then the band kicks in behind you – the drums tap out the beat, the bass follows, and then guitar, keyboards, and other instruments. There is a swelling of sound, a surge of energy and then…

What comes next? What does it feel like? We haven’t had the opportunity (or the skill!) to know the pleasure or the terror of what comes next. But it is something that has always intrigued us: Can you feel it when everything is going right? You surely know when things are going wrong, but can you hear it when you are in that Magic Moment when it is all perfect? Modern Acoustic asked some of our favorite musicians to describe that Magic Moment to us – when they really knew why they do what they do: why they spend hours on end putting their most personal of feelings to music; why they are willing to travel great distances for potentially little pay and small crowds; how they are able to get up in front of those people and perform as if the whole world was listening.

It is a feeling that those of us who have never done it may have a hard time understanding, but we believe, with a little help from our friends, we’ve captured some of that Magic in our four-page feature.

Someone we didn’t hear from (but sure would have loved to!) was Neil Young. What makes Neil tick? We’re not quite sure, but we do know that he loves what he does – and that it should be celebrated. His long-awaited retrospective box set is finally out and that gives us reason to rejoice in his four-decade-long career and see him for what he is: one of the best songwriters in pop music history. Where would you place him in the pantheon of rock, folk and pop music? Can you think of anyone else who has covered so much ground for so long? Also, we offer up our favorite Neil tunes, and a list (one we don’t completely agree with) of the best living songwriters.

To read the Magic Moments, click HERE.


1. “Knuckleball Catcher,’’ not available yet, Gillian Welch. YouTube is the only place you’ll find this, but it’s worth the search. 2. “From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea),” “Picaresque,” The Decemberists. Their story songs just hit a nerve. 3. “Ain’t No Grave,” “Shaken by a Low Sound,’’ Crooked Still. We keep coming back to this album. Fantastic. 4. “James!,” “Grand,” Erin McKeown. Waiting (im)patiently for the new album. 5. “Loretta,” “Rear View Mirror,” Townes Van Zandt. After seeing Steve Earle, we had to go back and listen again.

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