I’ve known Christina Holbrook for well over 40 years, but really just for the last three. Chris and I are high school classmates who barely crossed paths in school and then bonded at our class reunion (a union, in this case, more than a re-union) over our mutual activity of writing. Only unlike me, she’s the real deal. After a corporate career in publishing, Chris wrote an intriguing, often very personal, long-running column, “Lark Ascending,” in the Summit Daily in Frisco, Colorado; explored winemakers and vineyards growing grapes at the highest elevation in the northern hemisphere in “Winelands of Colorado”; and has had her short fiction, essays, and travel reviews appear in numerous publications, literary journals, and anthologies. And now this month, with the publication of “All the Flowers of the Mountain,” Chris checks off the biggest writing hurdle yet: novelist. Early reviews are already heaping praise – “A haunting, evocative exploration of the enduring power of love, replete with the poignancy of Nicholas Sparks and the gritty authenticity of Delia Owens,” reads but one by Emily Colin, author of the NYT bestseller The Memory Thief. And I’m not the least bit surprised. Chris is a deep thinker who has the unusual ability to translate those reflections into compelling writing and relatable, engrossing stories. I can’t wait to read it.
So where do I come in on this? Chris, now familiar with this blog site as well as my frequent presentations of themed playlists, particularly those centered in and around the music of the 1970’s, was nice enough to ask me to collaborate with her on what she hoped could serve as companion listening to her book (a “novel” concept, one might say). She sought a short collection of songs that might connect some of the throughlines of “All the Flowers of the Mountain” – what Chris described to me for guidance as “a sort of romantic, melancholy vibe” – as well as evoking a sense of nostalgia for the music of the times, the ‘70’s, in which her story is set. “Many scenes in the novel were inspired by folk music,” said Chris, “and in particular how that music was interpreted by artists in the 1970’s.” We each picked some songs, we tossed a couple and added some others, Chris put together the final sequencing, and here it is: 24 memorable songs of love and longing from the 1970’s, by artists including Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Marshall Tucker Band, Loggins & Messina, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, Pure Prairie League, Seals & Crofts, and more.¹ One tune, “Wild Mountain Thyme,” has particular resonance within the plot of the story, and so appears here – not by accident – three times; an opening instrumental by Mark Knopfler, a gorgeous interpretation by James Taylor in the middle, and a traditional Irish version by The Chieftains to close the list out.
I’m quite touched and extremely honored that Chris chose to have me help out with this little project, and to play even a minuscule part in her book launch through the creation of our collaborative companion playlist. I hope you’ll enjoy some reminiscing through a little musical melancholia, and most importantly, I hope you’ll grab Chris’s book “All the Flowers of the Mountain,” which is available now in hardcover, paperback, and ebook, in bookstores, or through ever-popular on-line booksellers such as these:
Happy listening and reading. And I recommend going to your school reunions; you never know what friendships you might rekindle, or just plain kindle.
¹Joni Mitchell should have been an obvious inclusion – ‘Free Man in Paris’ and ‘Help Me’ were our finalists – but alas her catalog remains off Spotify as she stands in noble solidarity with Neil Young.