Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We're From Here by Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray (2012)

There are moments when I think that nothing I do matters.  I don't mean that in the cosmological sense; I made my peace with my meaninglessness on that level a long time ago.  I mean on a nuts-and-bolts, interpersonal, everyday level.

What I value, others do not (my thinking goes).  I don't have any real friends, anyone I can truly depend on.  People only show interest in me when they think they can use me (not that I mind playing the game, but when I start thinking that that's ALL there is...).  In these moments, I often wonder why I do anything at all.  Why do I write this blog?  Why do I talk to these people?  Why do I even set foot outside the door?  All is vanity and vexation of spirit and so on and so forth.

Judging from "Go Hang," the opening track of We're From Here, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray have been there too:

Well, maybe I'll let my pipes rust.
I've run out of fools I can trust.
I'm gonna cry my nose runny
While I'm making my money
And my guitar is covered in dust.

I saw Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray play the Crux back on March 30th.  I was waist-deep in my Treefort write-ups at the time, so I'd decided beforehand that I wasn't going to write about the show.  I liked  this group's performance so much, however, that I introduced myself afterwards and gave them a business card.  In turn, Chris Stelloh (a.k.a. Yuma Wray) handed me a copy of their album.  If I liked it, he said, I could write a review of it.  If I didn't, we'd just forget the whole thing.

I listened to We're From Here a few times and knew that I liked it, but it didn't really sink in until I found myself in one of those (admittedly narcissistic) funks I mentioned earlier.  The album ain't exactly sunshine and roses: its lyrics are filled with hard times, broken dreams and heartache.  The punchline of "Morning Is Breaking" is "breaking my heart."  The most hope that "No Surprise" can muster is "It's not too late, but it's improbable."  Even the yearning of "Pneumonia" is tempered by lines like "Oh, better off alone" and "I'm gonna be with you 'til my blood runs cold/ Or 'til you just get old."

Of course, blues and country were built from the get-go to handle hard times, broken dreams and heartache.  Consequently, Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray's firm footing in these genres lends a durability and tough-mindedness to We're From Here's somber, skeptical moments.  Also, listening to Erin Frisby (a.k.a. Miss Shevaughn) dip these songs in her warm, rich, hundred-proof voice, I react in the same way that I do when I hear Aretha Franklin wail about being a fool over some guy: I imagine that at any minute, she'll shake those doldrums off and get back to kicking the world's a**.  The stinging guitar, the glowing organ and Chris Stelloh's pleasantly unvarnished croon add to that defiant, keep-your-chin-up spirit.

You don't need to look too deep for that spirit either.  The resolution and independence of "Make It Out Alive's" lyrics help make up for that track's slightly stiff performance.  "Martha Ann" celebrates the life of a woman who was given less than nothing, made plenty of bad decisions and still grabbed life by the balls.  And whether Frisby's telling her mama to go hang from a tree ("Go Hang") or Stelloh's putting the noose around his own neck ("Cloin's Lament"), the ultimate message is the same: "F*ck you--if I'm going out, I'm going out on my own terms."

We're From Here saves its most hopeful, life-affirming moment for last.  "Anniversary Song" tells of a couple whose piss and vinegar drove them apart but who start to reconnect after taking some knocks.  "Each painful moment, every toll, every tear/ Paid for the ticket that brought me here," Frisby sings.  This puts all of the hard times etc. that have come before into perspective.  A brief instrumental coda entitled "Prelude to Go Hang" further accentuates the idea that Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray had to endure all of that stuff to reach this point.  We will grieve not, rather find and so on and so forth.  Or, if your Wordsworth's a little rusty, you can't always get what you want...

You can find info on Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray on Facebook and elsewhere online.  You can stream and purchase We're From Here on Bandcamp.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button in the upper right-hand corner and donate whatever you can.  Even $5 can go a long way.

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