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Otis Walks Into The Woods

As mentioned last week, I love the work of Mary Lattimore because she offers a sweet, musical tranquility that few can rival. Her music is, in some was, like therapy.

Los Angeles based Lattimore‘s 2016 album At The Dam has been a favorite for some time (Who doesn’t obsess over harp based ambient music with electronic undertones??) and I recently found a reason to love it even more: dogs.

In doing some research about Lattimore for a pitch, I stumbled upon an NPR story about the album’s opening track “Otis Walks Into The Woods.” The song is a beautiful near-ten-minute tiptoe that Lattimore takes with the gentlest plucks of her instrument. They offer the feeling that you’re walking around something truly wondrous and unbelievable before the song collapses inward onto itself, warping perception of the sonic world that it built. Gone is the beautiful landscape, obscured by something equally as pretty but incredibly foggy. It’s ultimately a melancholic song that suggests an devolution. But of what? And who is Otis?

Turns out, Otis is Lattimore’s family dog and the song is about his assumed death, out in nature, on her parent’s farm. Lattimore explains, via the NPR story.

We had a sweet blind black lab named Otis, an older dog, and he stuck close to the back door. The farm cats would sleep on his back and the other dog Gracie would nestle beside him. He was a cozy old guy. Before going to bed herself, my mom would let him inside to sleep on a blanket in the room off of the screened-in porch. After my visit, Natalie and I were driving through Louisiana and mom called to let me know that when she went to let Otis into the house that night, he was nowhere to be found. Dad went looking for him with Gracie and the flashlight, went deep into the woods to look for him, but he vanished without a trace. They looked and looked for weeks, but never saw a sign of him ever again. When Natalie and I got to Marfa, I set up to record at a friend’s place and Otis was still on my mind, so I made him a song.

The power of animals, my dudes. The power of animals.

As if the song wasn’t beautiful enough, I will never not think of it as a very moving imagined story of Otis’ final days and hours and minutes and seconds, letting himself go back to nature. He seemed like such a sweet fellow. My parents have had labs for the past decade and I can attest: they, like Otis, are very special creatures.

Lattimore put it best too. “I guess noble animals leave the pack to pass away in solitude,” she said. “Otis, even being blind, found his way to where he wanted to go. It’s a sad story but it’s an ode to our pet.” You can listen to “Otis Walks Into The Woods” below (and the video is good but nothing about the dog or dogs).

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