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Dear Garrison, In your show,

March 3, 2005 |

Dear Garrison,
In your show, I've noticed there are a number of songs you like to come back to (e.g., "Forever Young," "My Life," "The Cheapest Kind," anything by Buddy Holly). Is there a personal favorite that stands out from the rest? I assume "Little Drummer Boy" is at the bottom of the list.

Do you ever feel you're a singer trapped in a writer's body?

Rob Enslin
Syracuse, N.Y.

At the moment, I love singing duets with Prudence Johnson more than anything. Kate MacKenzie and I used to sing duets and then she got married and retired to Oregon and I haven't been able to convince her to come back to work. Prudence has a fine voice, very pure, and singing harmony to her melody makes a person feel graceful as Fred Astaire, even if the song is "Gold Watch & Chain" or "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" or "Devoted To You". It's awfully pleasurable, a guilty pleasure since she and I tend to fall into a pop style — Prudence isn't really at home in gospel music or bluegrass — but what can I say? I love it. I don't do Buddy Holly very well — I'm better at channeling Elvis. Any day I can sing gospel with Jearlyn Steele, "Precious Lord" or "Tramp On The Street" or "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," is a good day. On the Rhubarb Tour of 2003, I sang "Frankie and Johnny" every night for three weeks and loved that, and also "My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose," which is bits of Burns and Herrick and Yeats and Wordsworth and other poets. And then there have been the hundreds of renditions of "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Home On The Range" and "Amazing Grace" and other songs with audiences. Some audiences bristle when you ask them to sing and that's okay, but now and then you catch people when they're in the mood for it. Tuesday night at the University of Nevada, Reno, I stood on the stage of the music hall and found that the beautiful acoustic that delivers the string quartet to the audience also delivers the audience to the guy on stage. They sang two verses of "O beautiful for spacious skies" in quiet four-part harmony that was so majestic, I saw people dabbing at their eyes. Well, that's how I feel when I sing harmony, too. This is one motive for doing the Prairie Home Companion cruise in August — we can gather in the ship's auditorium and sing for hours.

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