Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
This first Mynabirds album is all about people from the past, those who we no longer see anymore, those who we used to call baby and now we sometimes get briefly stumped when trying to recall their names, but never in recalling their touch or face. These are prisms of people - vivid reflections of the souls that we've shared beds and years with, not just passing flashes. These are the impressionable and meaningful people that, at the end of our lives, rest on a very short list of those who we just couldn't shake from our eyes and heart spaces, who though something was severed somewhere in the middle or tail-end of the relationship, there remains a sinking feeling that it should have never happened that way. And for all of that, all of the wondering and the sad nights of nostalgic dreaming - as a bottle of wine or two are poured and drank solitarily or a package of cigarettes are slowly smoked - these people are gone forever, save for the way they leave a bitter taste at the end of your tongue or make you cry just a little at the ends of these nights. Laura Burhenn, the Omaha songwriter who was formerly in another Saddle Creek band called Georgie James, writes these people as if they were still standing in the rooms with her, as if she were reaching out to embrace their outlines, the dearest parts of them that are not there any longer. But she sees them, as clear as day. She can still smell them and she can still feel them as if they've never disappeared. The people that she's thinking of and writing back into the present tense are as real as they've ever been, despite being as gone as they ever could be. Burhenn, who worked to make this record with the incomparable Richard Swift, made a record of treacherous recollection, one that turns you melancholy in a split second, for all of the good was taken away when that other person split from you. The good doesn't live on too well. It just burns away. She sings like a seasoned country songbird, bringing to mind a young Bonnie Raitt, as if these stories have been lived in so damned much that, while still significantly sad and depressing, they're more just the way life is now and there's no bringing these people back to her. These are the expired loves that never truly expire and can rarely be prevented. The song "Lemon Tree," which she records for the first time her, is a beautiful number that reveals a lesson about love, passed down through the generations, a lesson likely learned the hard way, yet hard to follow too explicitly. Burhenn sings, "When I was just a girl, my mama said to me, 'Go hear and learn a lesson from the lemon tree, but don't put your faith in love you see. It's like the lemon tree.'" She finds that bit of the sour that sends convulsions through a body, like standing next to a church bell would at noontime. It comes with the sweet, and in the case of those lemons, is the dominant aftertaste. The relationships have been rough ones, but no rougher than normal, really, for who doesn't taste enough of the sour love that their tears could be the seeds to sprout an entire grove of lemon trees? She sifts through the bruises and tries to find her mettle. It's all anyone can do, as she sings on "Numbers Don't Lie," "You said one and one and one and one is three/But I know my lines and my graphs and my math/Honey that ain't me/If you want it you can have it/All the lines on the cellar floor/Don't mean nothing just a bad dream/Even if you think it's more/You say it's black well it's bound to be black/You made up your mind and you see with that." Love seems to be backwards, so what's new?