“Idlewild” by Mandy Brooks tells a heartfelt story of magical childhood memories that help adults get through the challenges of life. In her new country/folk song, Brooks describes the place her family gathered each summer growing up, and the way that sense of belonging somewhere helped her when she felt broken as an adult.
“Every summer driving miles to come where we could be/The place where we belonged, a family/There was so much space/The stories we could tell/I knew you so well.”
Historically, the name Idlewild references an airport, a meeting place in the novel Anne of Green Gables, a rock band, and a musical, but in this song, Idlewild feels specific to Brooks and her own life as she draws us in lyrically, fully encompassing us in her world. While we’re not told exactly where Idlewild might be on the map, the song’s title indicates that Brooks and her family are traveling somewhere meaningful and well known to them. Whether Idlewild is a small town, a farm, or the name of a property to Brooks, we can be sure that Idlewild is where she visited her grandmother’s house. The slight twang in her voice along with passionate piano chords help create that sense of being out in the country, in the wide open lands.
“Big red barn and Grandma’s house/ Take me back so I can see/ The forest trails/I ran free.”
Brooks takes us into her memories using imagery of the red barn and running down the forest trails, evoking a sense of childlike ease and wonder in the listener.
“Oh, Idlewild, you’ll always be a part of me.”
As this chorus repeats, it seems the song is written to serve as a reminder that freedom is within Brooks always, and that she only needs to think of Idlewild, or take a quick visit back to the big red barn to remind her of it.
“Although it seems so long/But just like yesterday/You will never be far away.”
As she describes the feeling of her dreams being shattered and scattered on the floor, falling through the cracks in the floorboards, she sings that while life may feel uneasy or she may feel lost, she will always be whole in Idlewild. Woods remembers her childhood summers in the difficult moments, like many of us remember a time in life when things were more simple to get us through.
“When all my dreams fall between/The floorboards on the ground/And all the pieces shatter/Scatter all around/You know I tried to find the faces I once knew/I always have a place in you.”