America is unrecognizable. 300,000+ citizens have died in a pandemic that could have been better managed. The government is sitting on a stimulus package that would ignite the economy and save livelihoods. People are refusing to take personal responsibility. Lies and misdirected efforts have derailed our focus. This is not the country I know. It’s humiliating and inexcusable, destroying our ideals as well as forcing us apart. Courtney Marie Andrews’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” performed in collaboration with Liz Cooper and Molly Sarlé reinforce that we must return to the America that once existed; a country of infinite possibilities, participation and positivity.
The soothing acoustic guitars and sweet, idyllic humming lays the song’s foundation. In Andrews’ first note I’m engrossed in her leading vocals that combine stirring exuberance with delicacy. She is complimented superbly by Cooper and Sarlé whose voices emanate the right amount of vulnerability. On the surface, the track is obviously about young love. (Paul Simon was inspired to write it after taking a road trip with then-girlfriend Kathy Chitty.) As the verses progress the lyrics shift. The strength in tonality doesn’t change, but there is a duality in the tune’s meaning. It’s more than just a couple’s journey sharing cigarettes and laughing as they make up stories. Its mood becomes serious, showcasing the raw feeling of detachment. “Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping.”
It’s undoubtedly been a rough ten months. Although I have fallen into a routine and am extremely fortunate for all I have, I often feel discouraged, disengaged, even helpless with the plight before us. It’s bewildering and hence the words resonate. “I'm empty and aching and I don't know why. Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike. They've all come to look for America. All come to look for America. All come to look for America.” In the final lines, as the trio joins in harmony, they reinforce a key message, illustrating the importance of togetherness even when feeling so alone. Although still somewhat lost in the chaos, restless with malaise and filled with uncertainty Andrews’ rendition illuminates Americans, (even me too) have unbreakable spirits and drive. The humming resumes, filling my disconnected void with encouraged vibrations. We have been “empty and aching” but it’s time to rediscover “America,” pushing forward to a better future. Here’s to 2021!