Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Goodness, the woman does redemption the way it stands to be done well. Clare Manchon of Clare and the Reasons seeks things in her days. It's not that every single day needs rescuing, but the ones that do, believe us, she breaks out her jaws of life, or an intoxicating bottle or two of her finest wine and she snatches those days from halfway down the gullet of the beast. So many of the songs on her latest album, "Arrow," remind me of a photocopied inspirational poster that my father had tacked to a corkboard in his office when I was younger. It featured a pelican or a stork - it was hard to really tell - that was trying to eat a frog. The little green creature was fully engulfed in the long-beaked birds mouth, with its legs sticking out sideways. Also sticking out from the far back of the bird's mouth were the frog's arms and with its webbed "hands" it was trying to choke the life out of the bird to save its own and at the bottom of the cartoon the caption read, "Never give up." Manchon might have the same sense of perseverance as that doomed frog has, believing that there's a way to not be so doomed. She seems - in her soft breezes of spring singing - to believe in the power of positive thinking and in good friends, a good night's rest, a full belly, something wonderful to drink and a clear sky. She might believe that nothing else matters, for the love and the comfort will surely follow if those basic needs are met on a regular basis. In her songs, we get rocked, like a child - held as it were, as if we were in her arms and she was trying to wipe some wet tears from the corners of our eyes and just tell us over and over that everything was going to be just fine so no more crying. Just look around, she would say. Things aren't so bad. We can, after all, just choose to be happier. We really can. There are still those fascinations with needing loving and seeing it take all kinds of peculiar shapes and guises, but there's a sense, for instance on "Wake Up (You Sleepy Head)" that there's always a little bit of good news just up and around the bend, even if that may only be the promise of a kick ass omelette on your breakfast plate. She sings, "Morning comes just in time/We will have omelettes/There will be parties/And there will be people/Who make us laugh/You don't have to be better/Or have to be greater/Or have to be charming/Or have to be all of the other things." It's a come-as-you-are-friend sort of invitation, not unlike the party that the protagonist in The Dismemberment Plan's "You Are Invited," where Travis Morrison sings about a piece of mail that came to him, with no return address that read, "You are invited by anyone to do anything/You are invited for all time." There are so many of those uplifting moments - of getting by in the face of adversity or just a headache and mean people - on "Arrow" and Manchon delivers the good news, or the potential good news, with a sweet fragrance and a hop in its step. It's music for these lean times, when so many things have been lessened, so many things are harder and more challenging and yet, most of us can still afford the ingredients for those morning omelettes and some night wine. She sings later on this session, "Our money's short but love is long/And I got a feeling/I'm not missing a thing," and that's just where we're living these days.