Over the past months Justin Vernon, probably my all-time favorite musician in bands such as Bon Iver, Big Red Machine, Volcano Choir, and The Shouting Matches; has been releasing a set of compilations or recordings. These episodes which he has titled the "Song Chest Radio Hour" air on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee a terrestrial radio station out of Wisconsin which is where Justin makes his home. The episodes are played on the radio the first Sunday of each month at 5 PM Central time and archived on a service called MixCloud soon after where you can stream all the previous episodes and get a full track listing from each.
Each of the four episodes (at the time of this writing) features Justin as he walks you through all types and genres of music in his deep and calming voice. Each piece of music is meticulously placed with Justin adding tidbits of history, background, or personal stories to complement the tracks. Often he asks for and allows you to stand in personal reflection.
Some of the music featured is well-known or mainstream but most are not. Even when a track is familiar he'll often shine a spotlight on it in some unique and interesting way. A great example is in episode 2 he plays “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys, a track I think almost everyone would recognize but to show just how great of a harmonist they were he plays it with the vocals isolated. It's quite something to hear and without these episodes, chances are you would go your entire life without hearing it. There are already so many tracks I have gone to seek out and add to my collection as a result of this collection.
The final five to ten minutes of each episode tend to lean on some form of writing or poetry read by Justin and set over music. Each of these has been wonderfully thoughtful, inspiring pieces of writing, read beautifully and once again leaving you just copious amounts of room to ingest, sit and reflect. This is easily my favorite part of each episode. So I wanted to share one of the most recent. A reading of "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver. Read by Justin over the track "In Reverse” by War On Drugs.
Here it is.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
If you enjoy stumbling across new and interesting music as much as I do. If you enjoy the history of music. If you enjoy poetry. If you just need a place where you can "spread some love, joy, & acceptance", one of the stated goals of the show. I can't recommend enough listening in on the Song Chest Radio Hour. You'll likely learn something new and undoubtedly find some new gems along the way.
🎵 Happy listening!