“Eclectic Wonder” Revisited

A Tribute to Judi – 2010

Its been about 20 years since my cousin Judi gave me “Eclectic Wonder” in the form of a cassette tape. It was a “mix” compilation of some of her favorite “right now” music of that time.  It wasn’t as easy then as it is now to create mix compilations.  She actually had to work at it with real source music from vinyl, CD and/or another cassette.  It became the first of many shared tapes and CDs over the years and Judi has established herself as a great music scout.  She has a great eye and ear for emerging local talent on the Red Dirt (Oklahoma & Texas) music scene.  Over the years, she has introduced me to a number of artists that I proudly still call favorites.  This article pays homage to Judi through remembering “Eclectic Wonder” and the legacy beyond.

Judi is the youngest of us Sampson-Barnett cousins.  Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma some decades ago to my Uncle John and (late) Aunt Jo Bates.   We grew up in fairly close proximity—living across town from each other until I went away to college and they moved to Oklahoma City.   But, we weren’t as close as kids—because of our age difference (I was five years older)-as we have become as adults.  I was much closer back then, in age and common interests, to her older sister Joni–who will have her own day here in the tribute section soon.

Joni, Judi and Aunt Jo

Judi and I did spent plenty of time together as kids though—because all of us cousins were kept in close proximity by our matriarchal family leaders.  Our mothers and their mother ensured it.  But we generally didn’t share our thoughts and interests until we became adults.  Once the 5-year age difference was removed as an obstacle, we could then explore our common interests–except that we weren’t anywhere near each other in time and space at that point.

Judi was still in school, an undergraduate at Oklahoma University in Norman.  She was also working at a record store.   I was in the active-duty Army as a First Lieutenant.  She was in touch with the best and worst that the new music scene had to offer.   I was just back from my first tour in Korea and had been mostly out of touch….with family, friends and the music scene.  Judi’s shared music compilations became a means for staying in contact. It was then….and still is today a terrific means for sharing who we are and what is important to us.

“Eclectic Wonder” included about 18-20 songs.  It was a mix of popular and not so popular, alternative songs.  College radio then and now is often known for that kind of dichotomy. Among the mix, that I still remember was the Indigo Girls – Kid Fears; Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up;  10,000 Maniacs – What’s the Matter Here?; and the Black Crowes – Hard to Handle. (Sample them here if you choose)

All of the aforementioned artists and songs are still in my library.  Along with virtually everything that Peter Gabriel, Natalie Merchant and the Black Crowes have done since.

The music notwithstanding, no revisitation of “Eclectic Wonder” would be complete without defining eclectic.  According to the online dictionary (at http://www.thefreedictionary.com), “eclectic” means:

a. selecting what seems best from various styles, doctrines, ideas, methods, etc.

I would submit that that is exactly what she did then.  She shared the best music of her “right now” with me then.  And now, here I am twenty years later, trying to do that same very thing–in the “Music Reviews” of this here “lame” website.   I’d say that this sort of imitation makes for a fair tribute in itself…but I must attribute my work appropriately.  So, thanks to Judi for giving me the idea.  We’ve all heard the adage….that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Judi does have an extraordinary capacity for music appreciation.  Her tastes are unquestionably “eclectic.”  I don’t know how much thought she put into entitling the mix tape as “Eclectic Wonder” but it fit perfectly.  To complete the picture, we must also see the definition of  “wonder.”  It is (again taken online from thefreedictionary.com):

a. One that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration; a marvel
b. The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous:

That original mix tape clearly came from a diverse, eclectic place, and in doing so, created some enduring “wonder” across a broad spectrum of musical styles.  She began a long-term process of sharing the best music she could find, from all kinds of sources, big and small—the only common denominator being that it it must strike an emotional chord or generate some wonder.  The long-term, net legacy of this effort has been a healthy expansion of my musical tastes.

In paying attention to what she has shared over the years, I have embraced and became huge fans of numerous artists that she turned me onto. Among the favorites that she has generated (or regenerated an) “awe” in me are, the aforementioned Peter Gabriel, Natalie Merchant, et al,…..but with them, I must also include Todd Snider, Alejandro Escovedo, Norah Jones, and most recently my 2010 favorites, the Turnpike Troubadours.

We’ve shared a lot of music over the years and we’ve both been enriched by it.  Soon, I will be taking her son (the 16 year old Colton) to see his first “Arena” concert, to see Rush along with his Uncle Greg (Joni’s husband).  It will be fun.  Greg and I will share our three decades plus of Rush appreciation with more of the Sampson-Barnett progeny.  Colton discovered Rush on his own this year and Mom knew that Uncle Greg and Uncle Jay had more than a passing interest in their music.  So, we shared some of our Rush favorites and then agreed that Colton should see the upcoming tour.  The cycle of creating “Eclectic Wonder” from the realm of music continues.  Long after we’ve forgotten when and how it all began, Colton will undoubtedly still be passing down his own favorites for years to come.  JDPF

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