Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are a myriad of ways that one grows older, but not all of them are equal. You see the old men, whose wrinkles are thicker than gutters and whose hands are harder than bricks. You find the soft twinkle in their eyes, shooting out from the crow's feet and across a leathery face that's seen a full day's sun every single one of its life. It's in those sorts of men, where age is just a concept that came upon them and means all kinds of different things. These men accept age as the state that they've always felt like they've been in, the state that's chased them. It's been hard work, all these years and it's likely never going to end.
The men that the five guys in the Charlottesville, Virginia band Sons of Bill write about are these sorts of men - those who see nothing special about old age, except that it's still coming to them - they're still getting older. It's what's catching them. It's something they've not yet been able to defy and they are fairly sure that they're now finally fine with it. They'll take the slower walk and the lonelier hours, they suppose. The three Wilson brothers - all the actual sons of an older man named Bill - sing about "draggin' your life across the sands of time" and it's that dragging, that very physical thought of not carrying, but pulling it along somewhat sluggishly, reluctantly. They sing, "We live and die as we dream all alone." It's not meant to be a depressing thought, I don't think. It's a statement that gets them to where they feel they are, or where they're imagining the tracks are leading.
A long life is most full of those moments when no one's watching, when you're "on your honor," as Sons of Bill mention at one point and that's when time is working hardest. You're just trying to do right and be strong, provide for your family, love smartly and then you leave it up for luck. Humor wears thin and you rely on old melodies for grip, for balance. They sing, "You're weary but carrying on/Don't you march to the beat of a heart that's been beating too hard for too long," and it's one of those hard-beating hearts that thumps sense and humble sighs.
Sons of Bill Official Site