Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley at Futureappletree Too
Laura Stevenson sounds like a woman who has had some scares in her life. She sounds like someone who has had things taken from her, you know, ripped right out of her hands. She sounds like a person who has watched someone she loved deeply fade away or, worse yet, walk away. She can retrace the way they moved, the way their feet fell against the ground, the way that they looked back over their shoulders a few times and, while still seeing her standing there watching them do it, they didn't change their mind. She sounds like a woman who has been to more funerals than a normal person has - more than she'd like to think about, more than she's needed to go through. None of them have been easy. She's seen the end of faces and she seems to appreciate how special it is to be lasting, to still be around these parts, having to put up with all of the details and wrapping up the loose ends.
Stevenson sings, "It hurts to be the healthy one," and continues about the difficulties of burying all of the ones you love. The most striking aspect of the song is that it sounds like a frolic. It feels like a Sunday drive. Those who pass away in the song are struck with ailments that shouldn't be life threatening and maybe they're not. There are mental and emotional blocks that lead to a form of death that doesn't necessarily mean caskets and eulogies. There's the mother who's caught a fever and the father who's planning to leave her. You smell the infidelity in the air and the death that happens is a symbolical one and there's that feeling - or that realization - that maybe you're the only one who's not mad, who's thinking straight. It just could be and that's a lonely and hurtful, albeit comforting state to be in. The song is what we think would be playing as the smart kid with the good heart buys a small bouquet of balloons from the peddler in the big city park and is suddenly carried off on the breeze. It's a minor tragedy, but something still sort of amazing and pretty.
*Essay originally published June, 2011