Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The way I see it, there's always more to be unhappy about than not. This isn't a statement that needs extrapolation or an extended dissection. It's not got the horns and markings of a downer. It is just the likely truth, the way that it is. Take for example the picking of any flower, as lame or as easy as that may, for you see where it's going. The pleasure derived from the arrangement of many of those flowers in a vase, on a table or threshold, is outweighed with an abundance of negatives - things that could be taken as heartbreaking. The reality is that those flowers and the baby's breath that they'll live with will be dead in a matter of days. They'd just had their backs cut in half, they'd been felled. They'd had better days, when the sun came and went, the rains dropped sweetly into their hair and eyes and drained down and into their open-mouthed feet. They'll not receive a ceremony when they get brown, crunchy and ugly. They'll just be tossed into the trash with the used paper towels, chicken bones and soiled baby diapers. Dust to dust, more to be saddened by and those are just renewable, unfeeling flowers.
When you get started on the complicated cases of men and women about or not about town, all over the world, sensing their mortality and recognizing that there beats an occasionally aching heart in everyone, it becomes clear that Jana Hunter does not write for the fringe population - her music and the warmly chilly lyrics of the most fetching currents of the downtrodden waters that shift and gurgle through our hot veins is meant for the majority.
Should you feel the need to have to explain to another why they would get what she does and what she says on her latest -- There's No Home -- take a pause and they just say, "Because you're alive. You will understand this because you, maybe like I did in the shower this morning, hung your head there, eyes half-closed, with the streams of soaking liquid racing for the exits and thought about all the dread you had ahead of you today. And, man, I'm a generally happy person - as I'm sure you are. You should understand now."
Hunter sings of vultures, rough days, turbulence and disastrous thoughts in the most bittersweet way imaginable, as her rich voice - which sounds like a dark mahogany color - reaches for the dimmer switch and the air surrounding the setting drops 30 degrees in an instant, forcing us to bring our bodies tighter, to cringe our skins and get closer to ourselves, for it's the best vantage point for her great lengths of minute details.
She's demure in her pessimism, but by her own definition, it's not all that depressing or ugly. It's actually quite nice and it's what enabled her to offer a beer recently to a man in Portland who heckled her during a show and told her that her songs made him want to kill himself. He wouldn't take the beer, the small act of kindness that Hunter - Will Oldham as a missus - offered as an olive branch, saying that it too might make him want to kill himself. It should be that getting closer to that which causes our blues actually makes us comprehend them more wholly and allows us ways to rid them from our days. The heckler should have listened closer and taken that damn beer.
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