The Pine Trees and The Winding Road


Leaving southeast Texas for the hill country. April 2022.

On the recent road trip out to Texas I listened to a lot of Jim Croce. I planned it that way because I find that Jim's music keeps the mind active and on a long drive it makes a good companion between the rest areas and the pines along the road- in that stretch of I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile you need it and strong coffee to make the miles.

I often heard Jim's music in my childhood home in the 1970s. My mother had a copy of the 1974 album Photographs & Memories. I posthumously must thank my mother for exposing me to so much music in the seventies and eighties instead of television. Jim died at the age of thirty in a Louisiana plane crash six months after I was born. His music reminds me of dark wood paneling, the scent of the fireplace, sunshine in the pines and endless days. 


Jim Croce was a 1960s and 70s singer/songwriter that reminds me of the English singer Nick Drake, of which I am a big fan. Nick died of a drug overdose just a year after Croce and their music is similar in that it is largely acoustic guitar driven folk melodies. As much as I adore Drake, I admit that Croce's writing is richer, deeper and more varied. It is a shame that there is so little of it, only five studio albums. It can be unfair to compare the music of one artist to another, but I see such parallels between these two that is not an unfair comparison. Jim was also a better vocalist, listen to his phrasing and the delicate vocal delivery in the last minute of Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels). He shows the listener instead of telling them when he sings, “I've overcome the blow. I've learned to take it well. I only wish my words could convince myself.” He confesses and inhabits the role like a believable actor. Drake for all of his talent and troubles never had that ability.


Jim also put in the work on the road touring where he ultimately died. Nick Drake by contrast was known for not enjoying even the smallest tour in the U.K. or performing live because of his mental health. The story of Drake is a heartbreaking one like Jim's, but in a different way. Listen to the pain in Black Eyed Dog or Hanging On A Star and try not to cry for the obvious suffering.


I am of the impression that Croce's music has not been embraced by the hip set like Nick Drake's music in the past couple of decades. Perhaps it has something to do with Nick's staggeringly good looks and his posh English background, whereas Jim with his bushy mustache and rolled up sleeves looks like he just got off work at a steel mill. 


I will love them both. Jim can be for the road and mowing grass. Nick can be for the rainy days at home. Whatever your preference and musical tastes, I hope you enjoy music as much as I do.


I heard a much more recent song from 2020 called Cheap Cocaine by Willi Carlisle and that was a nice surprise. 

As I finished writing this, I entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, Croce was as good a songwriter as Kristofferson. Hmm... 

Thank you for reading.