One of the highlights of my daily Twitter experience is checking out the latest musings from one of my all-time favorite artists, the incredible Rob Thomas. (Yes, that Rob Thomas, and if you don’t already follow him on Twitter, you can find him by searching for “ThisIsRobThomas” from the social network’s main website, or by clicking here. For that matter, if you don’t yet follow me, you can either search for “BrandonsBuzz” or click on the Twitter link inside the maroon box of tweets in the far right column of this very page.)


In amongst chattering with his friends and fans, Rob has a regular feature on his Twitter feed that he calls, simply, “Song of the Day.” There are no frills here, and no expansive ruminations: just a song title — and the name of a singer to whom the named tune corresponds — which presumably Rob is either listening to that very moment or otherwise just generally enjoys. The range of Rob’s choices can be a bit scattershot; sometimes he chooses a new-ish title, and others, he goes for a bona-fide blast from the past. Some days, he selects a superstar-sung classic that urrybody can hum along with, and others, he reaches into his hat and pulls out an obscure ditty that, probably, only he can sing in the shower. (Wednesday’s “Song” was Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” one of the all-time greats; before that, “Moves” from The New Pornographers and “Come Rain or Come Shine” from Ray Charles; recent titles from the past two weeks or so have come from the disparate likes of Suzanne Vega, The Black Keys, Cat Stevens, Soul Coughing, and — heads up, Sherry Ann! — Jason Mraz and The National.)


I’m always thrilled to learn what music the people whose work and opinions I admire are listening to, and indeed, my primary purpose in starting this blog two years ago was to peel back the curtain and allow all interested parties to steal a peek at what tunes float my boat. And even if you’re only a casual visitor to this site, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that music is an inviolable, immutable staple of my existence; sometimes I spend but a few fleeting moments, and others, I while away entire chunks of the afternoon in the glory of a favorite song or two or seven, but I promise you, a day never passes in which I haven’t listened to a magnificent melody of one stripe or another.


With the weekly record store report (which just celebrated its second birthday a couple of weeks ago), as well as periodic playlists which attack and expand upon a particular theme, I write an awful lot about music on this website. And yet I fret, often, that I don’t write enough: because I expend far more time and energy putting them together and pondering the status and significance of each included entry than the task ever originally required, the playlists — though I am uniformly proud of each and every one of them, and though I have come to love the sense of accomplishment that pulses through my brain and body whenever I’ve finished the latest one — have regrettably become few and far between (and yes, A, Madonna part deux is in utero!); and by dint of their very nature as summaries of the week in question, the record store reports are often no more than cursory exposition, a crude rundown of who, what, when, where, and why. I sometimes feel — and sometimes, still, quite strongly — that the music I adore deserves better than that. Deserves better than me.


As of this exact moment, 40,209 tunes populate my iTunes library.
(The latest additions: an Amazon-exclusive acoustic version of Alpha Rev’s dynamite “New Morning” and the brand new records from Stars, Hanson, and Tokyo Police Club.) The info with which iTunes provides me — again, I’ve not independently verified this, choosing simply to take the machine’s word for it on this matter — indicates that I could press play right this second and not hear a repeat song for one hundred nineteen and one-half days. And I never fail to be fascinated by the fact that, whenever I’m in the midst of an iPod shuffle, I will invariably stumble across a song that I haven’t heard in six months, or that I haven’t even thought about in three years, and I will almost always tell myself, “You should write about this before the moment passes.” (And, invariably — sadly, even — the moment does indeed pass before pen ever gets within a seven mile radius of paper.)


It has long been a dream of mine that the Buzz would become a daily destination for the determined and discerning music fan, and while it thrills me no end to understand that I have quietly built up a devoted regular readership over the past two years (and, believe me, I am grateful to and humbled by every last one of you), I understand equally that among the detriments that impede this blog from fully taking off is its irregular posting schedule. (Hey, something’s gotta give: the day job can be wild and woolly on occasion, and sometimes you gotta forgo writing about life and actually get out there and live it; hence, the intermittent six, seven, eight day gaps between blog entries.) But I would love to crawl into the habit of sitting down every single day and composing something — even if it’s nothing more than a simple sentence or two — for this website on the subject of the music I love.


Years ago, after completing roughly five hundred of same for his staggering online journal, The War Against Silence, an astonishingly attuned Boston chap by the name of Glenn McDonald — a man whose incredible way with words I’ve admired for most of a decade now, and the kind of writer I most seriously would maim and kill to be when I grow up — walked away from the weekly grind of churning out a deeply-felt personal essay about an album of his choosing. However, at the end of each year, he still writes a best-of piece detailing his favorite music of the previous twelve months, and the more you read of his stuff, and the more of your mind you surrender to Glenn’s rhythms and cadences — the site is fully archived, dating back some fifteen years, and trust me right now, there are far worse ways to lose altogether a sleepless night — the more clearly you realize that, oftentimes, he isn’t writing about the music itself at all, but rather how the music affects him: how it touches him; moves him; surrounds him; heals him; how it coincides (or, in some cases, clashes wholly and heartbreakingly) with how he views the world around him, and with how he views himself stumbling to navigate through that world. The end result of all this toil and trouble is as extraordinary, as twisted, as riveting and as wholesale a peek inside the stunning psyche of a sincere lover of song as has ever existed in any forum, and is very much similar to what I (quite possibly futilely) aspire this blog to be on its best days.


It’s time to try. (Nothing good ever came from not taking a shot, after all.) A few days ago, while driving home after an excruciatingly long (and hot) day at work, a track from Dierks Bentley’s fascinating new bluegrass album (more on that in mere moments) popped up in a shuffle, and while I sat at a stoplight spellbound by the tune, the notion for a new regular Buzz feature plopped into my brain whole like so many pennies from heaven, and before the light had even turned green, the concept of what I am officially calling “Honey from the Hive” was born. (I know, I know, that title is corny beyond expression, and if any of my readers has a better one in mind, I am absolutely taking suggestions, but days and days of pondering this pickle have produced nothing I like better, so that’s what we’re moving forward with.)


“Honey from the Hive” will consist of a song — as goes for Mr. Thomas above, sometimes it will be a new song, sometimes a classic, sometimes a massive hit and sometimes an overlooked gem — a clickable iTunes link for the song (so that you can play along in the comfort of your own abode, if you’re so inclined), and an explanation — as goes for Mr. McDonald above, sometimes a simple sentence or two, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a hailstorm of pretty prose — as to why said song has been singled out. With great respect and gratitude, I bow before those aforementioned gentlemen; the unparalleled pride and passion they pour into these projects have made me seethe with envy, and that jealousy has motivated me, has indeed brought me to believe — however foolhardy this idea may ultimately become — that I should be racing in this very lane.


I won’t promise “Honey from the Hive” will appear here on the Buzz every single day without fail (see paragraph six above), but I fully intend to make a go of this, because way too much worthy music falls through the cracks (and in this age of homogenized, suffocated radio playlists, it’s more true than ever), and my heart breaks a little more each time I fall in love with a fabulous song only to watch it fall completely by the wayside. That, too, will likely always be true, but at least from here on, I’ll have concrete proof that I went down swinging.


So without further ado, I can think of no better way to kick off
“Honey from the Hive” than with the song that inspired it:


Dierks Bentley (featuring Del McCoury & The Punch Brothers) —
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” (from Up on the Ridge) — Pride

Bentley is no Bono, to be absolutely sure, but he dirties up his voice (making sure to emphasize that sexy-as-hell jagged growl that has always marked his most memorable material) and takes a valiant stab at covering the iconic 1984 breakthrough smash that gave U2 its very first brush with stateside success. With gently lush fiddles — courtesy of bravura work from Gabe Witcher — replacing the original’s percussive pomp and bombast, this works far more beautifully than it ever had a right to.

1 response to “one man come in the name of love
(or: taste a drop of honey from the hive)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    I was immediately moved by this piece, especially by the vivid and, in Brandon’s apt words, “lush” orchestration; the strings and the woodwinds really do shine. This is nothing like U2. Great start to the new feature, Brandon!