Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
One of the somewhat forgettable moments - or one that registers hard, if you let it, if you're open to thinking about it - is when you look into a child's eye to try and spot and extract a loose eyelash that's gotten itself between the eyeball and the lid, scratching annoyingly. You pull down that bottom lid and look around. The child's eye searches, off and into the distance, than juts back down to try and glimpse the probing finger in his or her eye and it strikes you how little those eyes have been working, how little they've seen so far. It's the first time they've ever felt that scratchiness that's unlike any other hindrance. It's a wonder staring into that curious white orb, seeing the uncertainty coming out of the head that it's attached to. It stops you for a split second and almost makes you cry, considering just how much they're going to experience some day, all those first sights and looks, gazing out at all sorts of newness.
It's heartbreaking knowing that there's no getting back to that and that we're already spent a number of our firsts. Ohio band The Lighthouse and the Whaler makes us think of when we were happily untethered, unweathered, just getting broken in, putting mileage on our joints and feet. They remind us of what it's like to have an eyelash poking at us and not being able to do a thing about it. There's a spectacular innocence to the music that these five men make, with it seemingly coming from a place of simple discovery and understanding. They bring out the joyous and spontaneous swaying and hand-clapping that little children cannot contain when they hear something in a piece of music that excites them. They light up and they are affected, immediately.
Lead singer Michael LoPresti, violin/piano player Aaron Smith, mandolin player Mark Poro. Percussionist Matthew LoPresti and all-purpose player Steven Diaz bring about these scenes as if they were autumn trees of Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire, whose brilliance, though seasonal and without fail, never disappoints or fails to take the breath away, as if it were being seen for the very first time. It's the kind of effortless folk-pop that reminds us of Freelance Whales - with lyrics that feel as if they're coming from a bookworm, painting the picture of true blue love and discovery - with the characters in the songs frolicking under a wash of a first snow, in a fragrant breeze of burning wood and dying leaves. The songs seem to be able finding out a little more about yourself and seeing where that leads next. There's a point during the session, when Michael LoPresti urges the unseen addressed that they should just fall in love. It's a soft pleading that feels as if it could be just like standing at the edge of a lake, not knowing how cold the waters are and just holding hands and saying, "Let's just jump, see what happens." And then they jump. There's a splash and the quiet air is broken with a review of the comfortability of the water upon their emerging from beneath the surface. Either way, it was probably a memorable leap.
*Essay originally published July 2011