If you've ever done work around your house on your own — replacing electrical outlets/switches, simple plumbing, rotten-wood repair — you know it can be exhilarating when you actually fix something and infuriating when you haven't.

Happened to me Saturday when trying to fix problems with two rooms in my house that suddenly didn't have power. All-day work. No success.

Needing something to soothe my seriously raw nerves, I retired to the patio with an adult beverage and turned on my outside stereo. The question was: What to listen to? Something aggressive and forceful to match my feelings or something nice and soothing to tamp them down?

I went for aggressive and forceful with melodic punk band Bad Religion. It worked. Music has charms to soothe the savage beast, or so the idiom goes, but in this case, it kept that savagery up until it popped like a balloon and released.

It got me thinking about the power of music to mirror your feelings, whether ticked off, dancing-about happy or boo-hoo sad. I'd like to hear from you what music you turn to when things are good, bad or just "there." I'll put together a column with your comments.

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Shawn Ryan

I spent most of my teenage years listening to hard rock — Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, UFO. Yeah, I guess I was slightly "annoyed" in those years, but c'mon, don't all boys carry a little irritation at that age?

In my early 20s, though, while I still loved hard rock, I found myself attracted to different music. Specifically, I remember the first time I heard Dan Fogelberg (I hear you laughing). I was living in a huge, rambling house with four girls — roommates only — and we were having a blast. My teenage angst had dissipated and uncovered more-pleasant feelings.

For the last half of the 1980s and most of the '90s, when I was in my 30s, I was music writer at the Birmingham News in Alabama. As the paper with the largest circulation in the state, about 175,000 daily (those were the days), we were on the mailing list for virtually every record label in the country. I couldn't help but come in contact with new stuff.

I discovered that I really liked country music, everything from George Strait to Reba McEntire, Steve Earle to Lyle Lovett. I found new R&B/funk bands to love. The blues, old and new, entered my palate. When my emotions went through their various permutations, I could reach for a specific type of music and push through, wallow or just listen and relax.

Never could get into smooth jazz, though.

Contact Shawn Ryan at


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