Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Place Kevin Devine out and in the middle of a forest, somewhere in world of the Canadian boundary waters, somewhere that you need help finding, somewhere that only takes cash and prayers, somewhere that's almost off the map, and see what happens. He could be isolated by hundreds of miles of distance and emptiness in all directions, surrounded by the kind of solitude that can wake you up and shake the chills out of you. It would just be Devine, the Brooklyner who really has really been without a home for as long as anyone can remember with the number of miles he logs on the road, cast out into the far reaches of the land, where civilization rarely, if ever barks, with his red beard, his guitar and his voice - maybe some books for company. Before long at all, with his move to sit down and write, to sing and play the songs that come out of him, a startling and magical thing would happen, if all were to proceed the way this head draws it up. Almost as if when, in an animated movie, a mirror breaks into a thousand little pieces, strewn about the floor, and along comes a fairy godmother, a good witch or a mystical sort there to be a benevolent protector of some character having a less than easy go of getting through the choppy rough patches. The magic wand comes out of the quiver and with a flick of the wrist, a soft splash of glittering dust pops from the tip and the shards of glass start to wobble as if they've all suddenly grown tickers and they begin moving, collecting back up and moving toward each other - attracted to the idea of being a whole reflection once again. It's a rebirth moment. For Devine, this splash of sparkle would attract - just by the din of his long-off voice resounding from the most remote fingers of the world - the people that he surrounds himself with every day, the people he meets and adopts as family in his wanderings from here to there, because they cannot be without the other for too long at all. It's an unnatural feeling to live apart in the grips of Devine's personal, moving and unwaveringly spirited songs, so wherever he'd be sitting there in the forest, through the branches and the sticky undergrowth would come these longing trails of affection and heart, finding him again, like a fuse lit and crackling back to the place where its other end is stuck. The pieces and the people would stream back to him like a spinning yo-yo, with their wide eyes and their warm arms, ready to embrace him and he them, coagulating back to the original form. Suddenly, or in no short order, things would be made right again and all of the care and practice of care would take back over and there could once again be the sing-along, the feeling-all-of-this-together existence that his music has always taken on. It's what Devine lives for, this community and this investment in each other to make everything else better and safer and more enjoyable/rewarding. He dreams about a paradise that will never happen, but any of the little strides that can be made to get closer to that ideal are worthwhile strides. He sings on his new album, "Brother's Blood," about being caught between all of these people sensing an apocalypse, maybe even hoping for it cause their lives can't possibly get much worse in "Another Bag of Bones." It's a song with countless dimensions and utilizes all of Devine's many talents - his ability to be gorgeously furious, to be devastatingly poignant and thoughtful, to be melodic and charming, to be a friend and to be a dynamic wordsmith - and he sings, "It's just another bag of bones for the gods to wake up and sort…It's not what we earn, but what we earned," getting us to that intersection where the people and their souls are sacred, but that's not how everyone sees it. It's a time to burn in this song and you can sense the sadness in Devine. He's good at sadness, but he's just as good at getting to optimism and hope. He is a champion for the dying of the light, thinking and believing that there's always some way to make it less dim, to turn up the glow.
Kevin Devine Official Site
Favorite Gentleman Records