A long time ago, I saw an Enya interview in which she was asked to describe her music in one word, and she picked "melancholy". I was shocked. I mean, so much of her music---in fact, most of my favourites, at least at the time---was upbeat in that ethereal sort of way that she does. But as I thought about it more, I realised that if you really look at the entirety of her oeuvre, there really is an overarching melancholy to it; much as looking at the history of the Irish people shows you a long line of sad, oppressed, dirt-farming poverty that is nevertheless punctuated with a lot of happiness. Found happiness, to be sure; the Irish find happiness because they know where and how to look for it.
It was in this vein of looking at the big picture of the work that I classified the music of Rachel Ries and Andru Bemis last night. I've talked about them before; they were at Knox last night, in Wallace Lounge, and they lived up to my previous raves.
During the course of the performance, I got to thinking about how similar, and yet different, they were. They're both going to fit more or less in the category of folk, or maybe singer-songwriter. And you could even maybe put them both in the general category of sad songs (with a lot of exceptions, to be sure). But Andru's sad songs are a gritty, railroad-and-rust-belt sort of sad. In my brain they situate themselves firmly in places like Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, and they have more of the feel of songs of a people. Even when he's singing his own stuff, it sounds like a rendition of something that surely must have been written decades ago and put into a "songs of the hobo" singalong book somewhere.
Rachel's sad songs, on the other hand, are a more broad-expanses-of-the-upper-Midwest sort of sad. And they tend to be more personal, intimate; even when she's singing someone else's song, you get the feeling that she's singing about something that happened to her last week. But it's an upbeat sort of sadness, if that's possible, sadness with a wry grin. I think part of the reason I like her singing so much is that, as with some of my other favourite groups, catchy music is frequently paired with much more serious lyrics.
It was seriously hard not to request my favourite songs that I knew from their CDs, but of course those I could hear when I went home. And I was rewarded: there were quite a few new-to-me songs, including one that hit like a punch to the stomach about some really sad things that happened in Rachel's town growing up. I get to look forward to that one on her next CD, which might be a while as the current one is only just coming out in a couple weeks.
Which, by the way, will be excellent. I've heard most of the songs on it, and it'll totally be worth your money. It looks like it's not officially orderable yet, but once it is you should go to her site and order it. Also go see her perform---looks like she's got a few shows in Chicago in the next few weeks.
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." --John Kenneth GalbraithPosted by blahedo at 10:30pm on 16 Apr 2005 | TrackBack