Song 215: Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band, “Pilgrim” (1999)


I wasn’t going to write about my dad today; I’ve already done that more on this blog than I expected to. But I had my iPod on shuffle yesterday, which I don’t do very often, and this song, one of 4,742, came on. So here we go.

My dad died nine years ago today, which seems both too short and too long a time. Every year around this time, I’m reminded of that hot, miserable summer, with its Massachusetts humidity that makes everything feel like swimming, and seemingly endless drives from Cambridge to Burlington, Burlington to Cambridge. I never liked August to begin with, and I’m weirdly grateful that one of my favorite times of year wasn’t ruined instead.

Shortly after he died, Lizzie put together a slideshow of photos of my dad, ranging from childhood to his fifties. It was an amazing slideshow and an even more amazing effort, one that involved digging through photo albums, scanning pictures, and arranging them into a narrative that totally nailed the guy that Chuck Brusie was. We eventually settled on Steve Earle’s “Pilgrim” to accompany the slideshow, a song that, to my knowledge, my dad never heard.

So why “Pilgrim”? It’s gorgeous, for one, but it just sounds like my dad: the humble view of one’s role in the world, the cowboy tone of the lyrics, and the lightly funny ending (“put a word in for you if I can”). I think he’d like this one, and I know for a fact that he’d like The Mountain, a bluegrass record that Earle made with the Del McCoury Band. Earle and co-vocalist Emmylou Harris have never sounded better.

I’m glad I’ll have this song to play when I’m missing my dad, because it makes me think of him, and it makes me feel better. It’s as simple as that. Thank you, Chuck, and thank you, Steve Earle.


One Comment on “Song 215: Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band, “Pilgrim” (1999)”

  1. 45spin says:

    I have the same thing happen every time I hear Johnny Cash. My dad was a big fan.

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