Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Some people, we're always disappointed to find out, are very easy to understand. They can be mapped within minutes of having met them. Oh, sure, they might have a quirky hobby, interest or two that we couldn't possibly know about just then, but these small potatoes wouldn't do anything to shatter the review or the conclusion that we've already made up. They can be sussed out in a pinch and it leaves us nothing further to ever find. We feel a great sense of despair when this happens and we often are repulsed. We recoil and slink away as if we've just touched or stepped in something we shouldn't have. We're gone. Then there are the people who are less than apparent (and we try to mimic them to the best of our abilities, so as not to fall into the ranks of the latter, which we've already unhappily discussed), whom we are mesmerized by, taken aback by. They leave us with only fragments of ideas or such muddy waters that we cannot help ourselves. We keep coming back to their banks, time and again, to stare into that thick, murky water, just hoping to see something make it to the surface, anything that we can make out as a familiar sight or idea - the flopping, flapping back and fin of a fish or grin that means something other than happiness, for instance. We value their mystery and when they turn out to be songwriters - like Tom Waits or Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell - and we're able to do our best to read into their words to try our damnedest to comprehend the littler pictures within their sometimes veiled bigger picture, all the better. The best songwriters are those who take the unapparent and still leave you with enough of the riddle to always want to come back for subsequent visits. It gives you all but a few of the dots to connect and those missing dots present great leaps that a thinker, someone digesting the messages and meanings, must take.
Neil Haverty and the rest of his Bruce Peninsula crew are lovers of these missions, ones that leave us fulfilled, but just as foggy after a good sitting with them. The songs that this band writes are a long way from solvable and they force you to call on the skill set you would bring with you into battle with William Faulkner or "Blonde On Blonde," and they test you in beautifully strange ways. Haverty, who over recent months has been battling a beatable form of leukemia, must be learning some new things about himself that he never knew where there and - though he could have most definitely done without having to be death-defying to have seen them come to light - this must thrill him as much as anything, to see new factors of himself. The songs played on this session are intense discovery pieces, powerful little films of people in compromised situations, where there are hundreds of doors they can choose to walk through and none looks any better than the others. Lines like, "Damn your love, damn your lies," and, "Temperatures run wild at terrible times," are examples of the kinds of situations that we're dealing with here, where everyone is vaguely aware of who they're dealing with, but no where closer to a final synopsis. Haverty offers what comes across as a fictional autobiography in "Shanty Song," when he sings, "Oh I come from a line of crooks/Of bitter and brittle men/So I won't be around when those wedding bells ring/But I'm mean and marked up enough/To give you my hands with none of my roots showing/So leave me with a little privacy/Don't call, don't you come around at all/Leave me a little decency/And call off all your dogs/Or the collars are coming off," but one gets a feeling that nothing's ever too fictional here, not if it's uttered. And yet, who's to know?