Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
There's a fine line between hand-holding and holding hands, just as there's a fine line between sharing a bed and sleeping with someone. Sometimes the fine line is so fine that it's hard to spot and that's what causes most of the problems. Even when the line is observed, stared at and acknowledged, it can be ignored and then that's when the line gets thinner, when it makes you squint. The blur prevents rational thinking from prevailing, until two people just find themselves bubbling up and exploding or fading into the motions, the arms, the legs and the faces drooping with less energy.
It's the phenomenon of playing house, that Carrie Rodriguez sings about on this session. It's the form of coexisting with another and making it appear - for all intents and purposes - like the real thing, but knowing that you're surrounded by props and plastic food, cold hands and hollow feelings. It's that comfort of knowing that you're coming home to someone warm and not feeling the need to try to hard or to seek something or someone better. There's a wish, in most of these songs, for more effort, for a sense that the relationship isn't being built on sand. There's no telling, in many of these songs, if the two people actually love one another or if they're just holding their breaths for something better to come along.
Rodriguez sings, "Absence tells the hardest truth," and there's a feeling that it tells the truth that you've been fearing, the truth that you've been trying to cover up with excuses. She makes these situations feel as if they're steeped in history, as if these people are up to their knees in a sludge that they'll never get themselves out of. There's a woman talking to her lover in one song here and the impression that she gets is that he just sees an empty chair. She sings about a murder of crows on a maple and those blackbirds are precursors. There's sadness in the beauty of these songs for most of them remind us that, "Back in the day, we had something to say."