Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Ian Grimble and Richard Matthews of Communion Music at 2KHz, Crouch End, London
The people that Al Lewis writes about are pretty rooted in what they're going to have to deal with during their days and nights. They're rarely delusional. They've made peace with the painful and the bittersweet tragedies and triumphs that they know will find them the way that the mail finds its way to the box outside their doors every single day. There's no stopping any of it. Some of it's good and some of it's bad, but all of it needs to be dealt with in one way or another. This could simply mean tearing it into a handful of pieces and throwing it in the trash, but it's still got to be looked at before doing that. These characters seem to like to look on the bright side of things, but sometimes they're turned around and mixed up and they're unsure of which side the brightness can be found on. They circle and circle and try to determine this, though a cloudy day can make the bright side just look like a muted gradient of a color. Sure, it might be brighter in some respects, just not necessarily bright. Some days, that's all that can be asked for and, as beggars, we try not to press our luck too much.
Lewis, a songwriter from North Wales, writes about loss, but not in the way that most people tend to. He writes about it in the way that leads us to believe that the person on the losing end didn't get completely totaled. They're able to get back to where they were. They won't have to dwell in it. They'll chew on the sadness, taste its sourness and then they'll spit it out onto the ground and walk away. The taste will linger for a little while, but it's not going to be permanent. The way that Lewis looks at it is that we're bound to be disappointed more times than we'd like to be, but the determining factor always seems to be the willingness to get up and toughen the chin for next time, even if we keep our hearts the same amount of tenderness.
We learn our lessons and still never learn our lessons. It's just the way that it goes and we're okay with that. He sings, "We are all violins and bows/Playing out the only notes we know/With melodies that linger in the air/Filled with notes of hope in our despair/But in three years time, will our lines remain/Will our minds have changed/Cause my heart is lost." These are vulnerable people who are familiar with the seeds of doubt that they plant themselves, as well as the ones that are planted by others, hoping that these vulnerable sorts will sow them. Battles are waged, scars are collected and there's never any foolish belief in Lewis' songs that there will ever be a final battle or the last scar. There will be more, so what's a body to do about it? One can simply keep going, treading water or actually using those arms and kicking those legs and getting somewhere. He sings, "Maybe all we need is a simple change of scene." Life is short and life is cruel. But that's not all it is.