Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
His is a name suited for a children's storybook - Corduroy Bear, The Mouse And The Motorcycle and the Velveteen Rabbit - but Los Angeles singer/songwriter Ferraby Lionheart is closer in spirit to The Phantom Tollbooth or Peter Pan than anything by Beverly Cleary or about a stuffed teddy bear. Though in person, he is soft-spoken and well, just kind of soft all around the edges as if he was ready to spend a quiet day in the den, snowed in and tucking into the corner of the couch with a mug of hot chocolate, sleep still in the eyes and a thick novel to get intimate with for the next five hours. His shoes look to be made of cloth and his boyish face makes him look like a whisperer and someone who might overly enjoy ice cream cones and firecrackers.
He's a young man who appreciates that he lives and walks beneath a sky and a cosmos that is greater than his imagination - you can distinctly hear it all over his debut full-length album, Catch The Brass Ring. He talks about a life and an experience of it that he actually lives and participates in - choosing his adventures and which flowers to smell - not one that lives all over him, putting him in mental debt. There's a surreal bent to his realities - or the realities that he chooses. He understands that certain things do happen, certain things aren't great, certain things are grand and he throws them out there like spring buds on the fingers of trees, slowly ripening into blooms. It's a gentle process that he takes with all of his music - a laze and dangle full of lukewarm guitars and piano etchings that hold your hand like an innocent.
Lionheart made a scenic record that calls to mind the ability to be somewhere that doesn't get touched by any big city's bright lights, that is not accosted by any of the little societal worries that when all that's wanted is peacefulness and seclusion catastrophic. He's made a place where the stars are as blinding and clear as headlights on high beam, where a dogs howl will travel for a hundred miles before it ever hits anything and where you can lose track of the day in a heartbeat because here, nothing matters but what's for dinner, what's on your mind and how much love you've got squirreled away in that self-preserving heart. There's ache for things, but it's mostly aching for things becoming more pure and less tainted. There's ache for change not wrecking things. There's an ache for that disastrous thing called mortality that eventually makes every pain and ugly day feel like the end.
There's much wishing and much hopefulness on Catch The Brass Ring, which occasionally feels like Lionheart's own version of Pan's Neverland, a place of idyllic existence, where growing up and dealing with all of the oncoming atrocities of grown up life stay on the other side of the fence, where the weeds grow and where the sun burns to scalding. Here, where he chooses to be, the handling of all matters is done with a tenderness that could incubate and hatch and egg. The songs - from the fuzzy and mood-setting shortie "Un Ballo Della Luna" to the closing "Put Me In Your Play," about someone pushed out of another's life just begging to be written into their autobiographical play at the very least - circle around your head like and antique carousel, the horses with pained, frozen looks upon their faces, the circus lions never able to just tear away from the round and round to maul again. The music lodges right in there as those critters and all of the striking colors rotate and rise up and down, mesmerizingly, tauntingly. It's a Neverland when he sings on "The Car Maker," "It's not that I don't see/It's that I don't want to see/It's not that I don't know/It's that I don't want to know." It's not outright refusal to face the facts, it's just the free will to insist upon that kinder fantasy that we all fancy.