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Love in a 'Safe Trip Home'

I am a creature of habit when it comes to music. I’ll play certain albums or collections of music over and over for days at a time. Billie Holiday, Andrew Peterson, R. Carlos Nakai, Jennifer Knapp, the soundtrack to Tortilla Soup, Gypsy Kings, Pavarotti—it’s an eclectic list. Over the past year, I’ve taken to the habit of plugging in my earphones and listening to music as I clean or cook (which can take up quite a bit of my time on some days, heh). And three of the albums on my iPod collection are by Dido, a British classically trained singer whose voice is one of the more amazing and haunting I’ve heard.

I stumbled across her music when we watched Roswell, which used “Here With Me” as the show’s theme. I bought the No Angel album then, and Life for Rent when it came out in 2003. We had to wait five years for her latest, Safe Trip Home—but it was worth it.

Reviewers call it her best and most mature album to date. Stephanie Merritt gets at the deeper aspect that's behind the album’s maturity when she writes:
Where Life For Rent was a series of snapshots from the life of a newly single girl (one reviewer called it the musical equivalent of Bridget Jones's Diary), Safe Trip Home is overwhelmingly coloured by the death at the end of 2006 of her father.

Not that it's a gloomy album, but these songs are noticeably more reflective, their themes of longing and absence rooted deeper than the caprices of romantic love, and consequently it feels more serious than her previous work. The outstanding song of the album is the piercingly beautiful, Celtic-flavoured 'Grafton Street', a six-minute hymn to loss co-written with Brian Eno and featuring Mick Fleetwood on drums. Listen to it once and it will catch at your heart as a wrenching lament for a lover who will not return. Listen to it again knowing it's an account of visiting her father during his last illness and death ('My love, I know you're leaving, but I will stay here with you') and I guarantee you will be bawling your eyes out uncontrollably long after the album has finished. There's an honesty and depth to this song that you can't fake . . . .
It strikes me that it’s often easier for me to talk about the “loving others” part of the Jesus’ summary of all commands than it is to deal with the risks involved in that. Relationships with others are both messy and painful as well as extraordinarily beautiful. They are much of the meat of our experience here-and-now—and much of Dido’s music in this album explores the loss, regret, hope, joy, happiness and beauty that happens as we love others. One of the things I love about Dido’s music is her ability to express the various places we find ourselves in the relationships that grow and fracture between us and those with whom we interact and cross paths—and this album does indeed get at that much deeper than her previous ones. I love how she leaves behind melancholy for melancholy’s sake in "Northern Skies" and struggles with the risks in choosing love—and the costs of choosing not to—in "Don’t Believe in Love." And I am amazed at how she can capture so well the pain of death and regret in "Grafton Street" and "The Day Before the Day" (which still brings tears to my eyes) along side the happiness of a committed love in "Look No Further."

While spiritual themes are relatively absent from Dido’s music, she beckons us to consider what it means to love others in all its pain and beauty—and I for one think that brings God-talk into open spaces.

(Image: Cheeky, RCA, Sony Music)

Comments

Just wondering, are you familiar with the band Over the Rhine? They covered a song of Dido's called 'Give Me Strength' a few years ago, which I've always rather liked.
Carmen Andres said…
peter, well, i'm familiar now, heh - just visited their web site and played some of their music. what a great sound! i can see why they'd cover a Dido song. thanks for the head's up.