Aug. 17--Where has Cary Swinney been?
Some perhaps assumed that Cary and Bene moved to a new locale, or, and I swear I read this online: Swinney had grown weary of performing.
No doubt some -- like those who shake the entertainer's hand after a show and say, "I'll pray for you" -- felt the successful singer-songwriter needed to rethink his set list anyway.
Questioning was not rampant here because, at least since Great Scott's Barbecue stopped being a viable venue, Swinney appeared more apt to play out of town.
Back then, if I had his "Martha" or "Big Shots" in my CD player, I tended to visualize Swinney blazing a new mountain trail.
I rarely expected a local gig.
But months had passed since I had even heard water cooler talk about a Swinney show. So I was thrilled to learn that this Texas Tech graduate -- whose CDs sell well on the Internet, with even critics in Holland delivering raves -- will make more musical magic this week.
Swinney and fiddle player Richard Bowden, both well liked, will headline together Friday at 8 p.m. at the Tornado Gallery, 1822 Buddy Holly Ave.
Although in the case of Swinney, "It still hurts to sing."
In fact, that process has been painful since September 2012.
That's when playing guitar and singing became impossible for a 50-year-old man who could not even stand up.
He has theories, but as he visited one doctor after another, he could never answer their obvious question: What did you do?
Actually, they all figured out what he had done. He had torn a muscle in his abdominal region. It was the how part that has him stumped.
But Swinney rarely, if ever, is without an interesting story.
Long before his accident, he had been attracted to Bowden's mandolin when the musicians shared hotel rooms while touring.
He later put out the word with friends to keep their eyes open for a mandolin being sold. It was music producer Alan Crossland who came across a couple parting with theirs. Swinney met them and discovered it was no ordinary instrument, but rather a nicer Loar mandolin.
Within minutes, he told them, "I have never said this to anyone, but I have a feeling that I am meant to own this mandolin."
Making things more eerie: Minutes after he purchased the instrument, another friend in New Mexico, who had been researching mandolins for him, called to advise Swinney to purchase only a Loar mandolin.
Start the "Twilight Zone" theme.
Swinney, of course, did not know why the purchase felt so important -- until the day he tore an abdominal muscle. He could not stand. He could not sing. Just trying to hold a guitar proved uncomfortable.
But the mandolin was a perfect fit.
Indeed, he did not have far to look for a positive to emerge from almost a year of excruciating pain: "I could drive, but it hurt. I became sedentary all year.
"But," said Swinney, "I learned how to play the mandolin."
He added, "I have found the instrument I know I will play until the day I die."
He wrote seven songs this year. He enjoyed the instrument to such an extent that only two songs have lyrics. The rest are instrumentals.
"That's not like me," said Swinney.
He loves exploring with words.
He is a lyricist for the well read, for thinking listeners.
He hates hypocrisy as much as he loves that mandolin.
He makes references to Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein; he recalls angry letters Mark Twain wrote to God.
On the other hand, when he would go mountain hiking, he sometimes lived in a cabin at 8,000 feet by himself for 10 days at a time. When he left, he felt moved to treat his fellow man with more respect.
"We all say that," said Swinney. "But how many of us cannot even show respect to a sacker at the grocery store who does not deserve to be ignored? If that need to treat others better is from God, then I'm comfortable with that."
The feeling doesn't last long. He finds opposite examples. At one point, he describes himself as a religious straggler.
But no matter what song he plays, he finds each improved by Bowden.
In fact, without naming names, Swinney said that he has "played with some really good cats, musicians who are so good that I let my ego run wild, just because I got to play with them.
"But then I met Richard, and he became a spark in my life. I told him that he made me want to be a better player, and a better writer."
Indeed, Swinney played with many musicians who never bothered to listen to what his songs were about. They just knew when to come in and play their parts.
"Richard listens to everything, and he makes the entire song better," Swinney said.
He noted that Bowden "lives to play" -- whether touring in North Africa with Bob Livingston, or taking out his violin and playing for hours for perspiring people on the streets of India.
"He has played in concert halls and is just as happy on the streets of India. And unlike many, he has mastered one more thing," said Swinney. "He plays in tune."
Friday's show has a $10 cover. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 687-1644 or 441-8564 for more details.
Chat about movies, theater, music, dance and visual arts at my blog playBill by Kerns at lubbockonline.com -- or check out Twitter at AJ_WilliamKerns.
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