Track 8

“The Mississippi River, magnetic engines roar,
sad songs keep the devil away.”
—Jay Farrar (Son Volt, “Angel of the Blues”)

These songs
are homecomings.
One—“Angel of the Blues”—
returns me to the roots of true

On this Day in 1995: A Prose Poem?

Warning: Sentimentality Ahead

In honor of the 15th anniversary of Trace’s official release today, I decided to listen to the entire album while walking along the West Bank of the Mississippi River. I walked from downtown Minneapolis to the river and along the pedestrian path—which hovers between the river and the Great River Road (Highway 61)—to the Broadway Bridge in the time it takes to listen to all the songs through “Too Early.” “Mystifies Me” played as I turned back and started heading south. I did make a brief detour on a trail that loops to the water’s edge for “Out of the Picture.” With the band members residing all along the Mississippi River at the time the album was recorded, from the Minneapolis area to the Saint Louis area to (temporarily) New Orleans, I have always associated the album with the river.

Trace may have been released 15 years ago today, but I’ll never forget hearing the songs for the first time on a leaked tape cassette that was circulating in early 1995 and the first time I saw the band play at the 7th Street Entry on a warm June night. I stood in the front row and have done my best to maintain that position ever since. When I listen to those songs, I feel as if they’ve been around my whole life. “Sounds like 1963” indeed. Isn’t that the definition of classic?

No collection of songs has had such a presence in my life. I believe that generations down the road, or up the river, will listen to Trace (on whatever contraption is prevalent at the time) and become just as enchanted with the songs’ beauty, sadness, grit, and wisdom. Trace is a best friend, a classic, a poem, a prayer. And “the rhythm of the river will remain.”