Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The stories that Justin Paul Lewis tells are the ones that have been stuck in his craw for days. They're the ones that he can't dig out. They've lodged themselves into one of those sensitive areas and, even after some sort of extraction is made, the agitation in the spot where the offending alien object was jammed, will still be acting up. He'll be rubbing or itching that spot with vigor for some time, just as the tongue runs over that canker sore in the mouth every five seconds, even when every voice in your head is just saying to let it be, you're only going to make it worse.
The stories that the rootsy songwriter finds illuminating are those that carry with them a greater history, one that's fraught with many more implications than any old person could recognize. They are stories built by people who are so ensnared, so intertwined with one another, that a separation would be more like an amputation without a tourniquet available anywhere. The bleeding with just beget more bleeding. The stories are put together by people who are well aware that nothing's going to be easy and they're preparing themselves likewise. Lewis sings, "Those hard times will fuck you up." What he really means is that the hard times will fuck us all up. It's a blanket statement. Nothing's going to be easy and the hard times will only exacerbate the problem. He sings, "I know it's not gonna be easy/I know it's not gonna be what I want/I just wanted the rain/I only wanted the rain." There's plenty of salt in these songs that make you feel as if the well ran dry and there's nothing to drink but the highest proof stuff that was found dusty in the cabinet. It's going to have to provide the heat that the furnace can't since the power company cut off the juice, during the middle act of the hard times.
"This House Is Ours" is either a song about rebuilding, or it's one that's built on a wish, on a wing and a prayer - something that he might be waiting a very long time for. Lewis sings, "I've been gluing all the pieces/I've been hammering all the nails/I've been building us a bookshelf for all the stories we're planning to tell/ This house is ours and only ours." You get the sense that he might not be sharing the house with anyone, but fuck, that's just us being pessimistic. Maybe the hard times have passed at that point. Maybe they're gone.