One of our two cars was stolen out of the driveway a week ago. It was an old Camry, but Toyotas never stop.
To replace it, I'd been to Ringwood on Friday and nearly bought an Avalon, and Williamstown the day before and nearly bought a Holden Viva, and prior to that I'd spent a day's due diligence on Carsales. I made a shortlist.
On Saturday morning I took the freeway south. It was a nice morning, pale sun breaking through. It was the second day out of that fourth C19 shutdown thing, and Melbourne was catching up with itself on yet another groundhog freedom day.
Off the Record's tunes were floating around inside the car, gold and shimmering notes bouncing off the windows in the winter freeway sun streaming through the glass as the car slipped past Toorak, Malvern East, and Chadstone. In between the music the RRR-FM announcer was interviewing Jerry Douglas, who was saying the studio - RCA's famous Studio B - in which the album was recorded could be heard in the music; something to do with its build; the floor and wall acoustics suiting the laid-back bluegrass sound and highlighting the glittering lap and dobro guitar notes. I almost believed him.
I stopped at Chesterville and Wickham, where a white Camry sat on the forecourt of a garage. Clean, but headlining hanging down and a few scratches. Then out of Keys into Herald. The next song. That same golden shimmering sound. Maybe he was right. Sounded like he was playing the guitar in the back seat.
South again on Warrigal towards that sterile flatland of Cheltenham, where cars for sale, acres of them, doze beneath bunting and old broken neon signs - 'Melbourne's Car Supermarket' - a kind of automobile theme park. I parked, and walked, and walked, and peered in the windows of sad old Subarus with sagging seats; Commodores with one too many burnouts under their tyres; shopping trolley Nissans with peeling paint; V70 Volvos that have driven to the moon and back. I didn't find one I wanted to buy.
I went home. I had circumnavigated Melbourne; probably two hundred kilometres that morning. Brian Wise was still making his way through the tracklist in between grabs of the interview with Jerry Douglas. I realised Jerry Douglas hadn't been kidding. This was astounding. If you don't think there is any good music still being produced, buy this album.
'Leftover Feelings' - John Hiatt, with the Jerry Douglas Band. New West Records, May 2021.
Listen to: Long Black Electric Cadillac, Keen Rambler, The Music is Hot, Changes in My Mind.
From John Hiatt's website: ... John Hiatt walked into historic RCA Studio B and opened up a lifetime full of leftover feelings. "I was immediately taken back to 1970, when I got to Nashville," said Hiatt, who was at the studio to record with Dobro master Jerry Douglas and Douglas's band. "You can't not be aware of the records that were made there ... Elvis, the Everley Brothers, Waylon Jennings doing 'Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line'. But all that history wasn't intimidating ...
By the time I got back to my northern suburb, Off the Record was over and Neon Sunset, which always finds some treasure, was mining the rich skein of twentieth-century music that runs somewhere under a faultline from Fawkner to Frankston. It's there: I've heard it erupting in the night.
That afternoon I decided to take a look at the small car yards, about a kilometre from my house, that stretch along Sydney Road from Gowrie station to the Ring Road. In one of the yards sat a small, unmarked navy blue Corolla staring staring through its mouse-eye headlights at the trucks steadily groaning up the hill towards happy Sydney in the far, far distance. I bought it.