Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
This afternoon, not all that long ago actually, the majestic Rocky Mountains were all around us here in Salt Lake City. It's been years and years since I'd seen them and they looked as good as I remembered them looking. That doesn't really say much. We don't see each other all that frequently and memories regarding the distinct characteristics and wellness of such massive objects might get fuzzy. The place we come from - somewhere in the nearly blank canvas between Chicago and Denver - is mostly flat as a tabletop. It was ground down by a slowly moving glacier (or glaciers) millions of years ago, leaving behind some incredibly fertile soil for our seed corn and a visibility that goes on for miles and miles. Daniel Martin Moore, Ben Sollee and Yim Yames (formerly Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk) come from a Kentucky and an Appalachia that's completely foreign to us in that we've seen it even less than we've seen the Rockies. Their mountain ranges are, however, changing. They are being blasted to bits and pieces by mining companies through a controversial practice called mountaintop removal, to get at some of the coal that resides inside those awe-inspiring fixtures - or should-be fixtures. It's one of those "is nothing sacred" feelings in reading about such commercial-minded and destructive activities and with this record that Sollee and Martin Moore wrote (produced and played on by Yames), we're left feeling even more crestfallen and desperate for some kind of immediate change of heart among those with no minds for hearts, just pocketbooks of disproportionate heaviness. The songs on "Dear Companion" are of incomparable eloquence and of a spirit that could make even the most destitute and soured man feel as if the clouds were going to part in little time, the morning sun is going to awaken them refreshed and contented with a new lease and the juice waiting for them in a kitchen they never knew they had would be freshly squeezed. These songs, though inspired by a ghastly pillaging of the irreplaceable land and the helpless people of their neck of the woods, are to make us believe that we should be better than that and that this should be a want for those other than ourselves. Sollee, for one, has a young son, and a mention of his boy appears in the incredible song "Only A Song," when he sings, "I'm diggin', diggin' deep in myself, but who needs a shovel when you have a little boy like mine?/This ain't the world that I want to give him, people racin' round in cities you can't even walk across." He's imagining what he's going to leave for his son - maybe when he's gone, but really, much sooner than that even. He's worried that this experience of living, of growing and living happily - which both Sollee and Martin Moore seem to cherish in intimate and poetic ways in each song they write - won't be his son's experience and that's possibly the greatest nightmare that any parent could ever have. In the song, Sollee sings about freedom and providence - over his lovely cello playing - while still thinking about root beer floats and the Harlem Globetrotters "dancing like mosquitoes with a basketball," or the likely scenes from a childhood that was intensely enjoyed. Sollee and Martin Moore are wonderfully paired on this record, sharing songwriting and singing duties, with the latter adding the more mournful, or gospel-like, numbers, where we are in a reminiscent mood, with a sad eye to what's become of us and our beloved. Something in the way that these two men sing of it makes it feel like a beloved can once again be, that all is not yet lost, but as they note, "We all live downstream," and time isn't standing still. Faith can't do it all for us. Though, neither can we.
Daniel Martin Moore Official Site
Ben Sollee Official Site
Sub Pop Records