Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Leslie Stevens' sadness, pain and melancholy are the sweetest things you'll ever hear in all your life. She makes them sound like a showdown between time and resiliency, or is it a collusion between the two, and there's a string of lovely lights and blissful tears, within the blistered retellings of what all failed during the nights in question. She makes her sadness sound as if it were sitting there right after a deluge, a great afternoon thunderstorm that cleans everything in its way. The sadness was sitting there - likely bringing the storm in the first place - and it's still a little grumbly from the shower and now, the wet clothing, but the sun's poked out and it's back to being the sunny day that it was prior to the change in weather. Before long, without even thinking about it, the clothing has air-dried and no one's thinking about the stuff that fell not all that long ago. Hence, the sadness has evaporated itself right out of the air and it might even be up there, dancing around as a rainbow, with those sunbeams beating holes through that moisture. Stevens offers us the pain of failed relationships, those that make us double over, but also gives us some foresight into the feebleness of considering the world to be crashing in when someone leaves. On "My Tears Are Wasted On You," the Los Angeles-based singer, begins her story recounting a man who used to write her poetry about love bigger than oceans and feeding her the bloated lines about how something that powerful can't be moved or altered. Boy, does that ever feel nice to hear when you're in the thralls of it, but it's all just marshmallow and decoration. It's easily taken back or forgotten about entirely. Nothing's immovable or unable to be changed, most of all a fleeting little thing like love, especially when it's people who are, or think they're in love. Nothing's riskier or less certain than love. Ask anyone. Stevens gives us the struggles of men and women with their chests wide open in the way of those old-timey country and western songbirds, but also with the inflections and attention to soft melody that the women out in the Laurel Canyon hills were so keen to in the 1960s and 70s. It's as if she's taken lessons from Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips and woven them tightly with the teachings of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. She sings to us sweetly, but it's like we're listening to her as we're both bellied up to the bar. The lights are quite low and there are peanut shells crunchily littering the irregularly swept floor. The sad stories come out of her - those about the men and those about old times - and there's no misery that needs symphony. Instead, we clink drinks and order another round.