Listen to "Rembrance."
When reading Schleiermacher, I was reminded of my friend Steve Petrinko, who was my main cohort in my college band The MayTricks (previously covered in a number of music blog posts). Working in close proximity like that at that time of life (we were also apartment-mates for a couple of years) meant lots of philosophy discussions, and being young and opinionated, we clashed on a number of things, one of which was religion. He's Russian Orthodox, which like Judaism focuses a bit more on practice and tradition than on believing weird things, but like all Christians he does ultimately get behind articles of faith, and he argued that the appeal of faith was emotional, not intellectual.
Thus this song came to mind, one of Steve's best, and explicitly religious: it's a Christmas song, about the fact that Jesus came and can't really have gone away. However, I didn't get the religious aspect at all until years after this was written.
Here's the story of my interaction with this. After I left Ann Arbor in fall 1994 to go to grad school in Austin, Steve found a new bass player (better than me!) and kept our old band going under the new name "Fingers," and this was one of the songs he wrote for that group. When I visited the following summer, I got to hear him and Cliff our rhythm guitarist singing this together in a very tight dual vocal arrangement that impressed the heck out of me, and this is definitely one of the nicest melodies Steve has written. They had started recording an album that summer, recording in an actual studio (plus Steve's home setup had been upgraded since we finished our last MayTricks album), but by the fall, Fingers had broken up and the album was abandoned.
Some years later, visiting Ann Arbor again, I cajoled Steve into letting me take the lead in getting one of the tunes from this project (not this song) finished up, but the rest of it just sat there, as Steve recorded "Remembrance" and his other songs with all new people in a very different style. In 1999, when it looked vaguely possible that I might move back to Ann Arbor, Steve and I discussed playing together again, and I brought up doing this song as a duo. I did think, though, that the verse lyrics were too opaque: I honestly didn't know what the song was about, and there were too many syllables, and I thought the winter imagery was trite, so I wrote new lyrics of my own to make it a love song. Steve absolutely hated them: "I'm thinkin' that you're my right arm, and if that's news, then I'll be damned away. I'm thinkin' I could keep that harm I keep for you all safely wrapped away." I also made the chord progression less prickly and wrote a vocal harmony line for the chorus.
Well, I ended up not moving to Ann Arbor (I moved to Madison instead in 2000), so the issue was moot, but when I thought of asking Steve to put this tune on the podcast, we remembered that unfinished Fingers version. Though I was especially looking forward to hearing that dual Steve/Cliff vocal, sadly, Cliff's singing had never been recorded (and he died in a rock climbing accident in 2004). So, Steve did a mix of the recording as it stood (all instruments recorded, except no guitar solo, and only a lead vocal on there), and I filled in the last gaps (the backing vocal and the solo, which I did on a handbell set I had coincidentally unearthed in my basement just a few days previous), got Steve's blessing, and that's what you're hearing. Given how great those 1995 performances were on this (dig those crazy lead guitar... guitar synth? sounds) and how often this melody goes through my head, I'm extremely happy to have been a part of finishing it.