Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Not everyone does it the way that the Parson Red Heads' Evan Way does it. Not everyone sets out on a personal journey to get closer to themselves. Not everyone gives enough of a damn to look at and break down where the err and where they've done alright with their lives. Most just like to see the water go under the bridge and the crumbs and dust, the pieces of glass get swept under the rug. The rug might be bumpy and awkward to walk across, but they pretend that they're not noticing that there's anything funny about the rug beneath their feet. Way writes songs the way a way who still appreciates and reveres the way days pass people by does. He's impressed, always, with how quickly we can get caught up in the loopiness of living and how quickly all of it can get away from us, where we're suddenly sitting in our rockers at 70 or 80 and realizing that we've been old and sore for decades now, the clock ticking louder and faster than ever. We could go at any day.
Way, the lead singer for this Portland-based band, goes down the road (or many roads) of painstaking dissection and conclusions. He infuses into the people in his songs the qualities of being out there, with weakened limbs and limping eyes, exhausted with the missteps and the successes. There are more of one than the other, but everyone can claim the same numbers if they were being honest with themselves. What we hear, as a result of all these maddening hours of seeking and finding, is an album like the tremendous full-length the band released last year entitled, "Yearling."
The soul of the album comes in the form of the song, "Seven Years Ago," a gallop and a lilt of a story about a transformation - about someone who had tried to run away by escaping what he had and what he was dealing with to the country and changing his name. Way sings, "I thought that I would find you there/But all I found were trees that were laying bare/I thought of starting over/But I didn't dare/Thought I could make it on my own/Yeah, I tried to walk on/I tried to move along/I tried to sing my song/With no one at my side." Later, he tries to sing his song with oceans at his back and the man is portrayed as a lone wolf, now forced to suffer for what he felt was a chance to escape, or to attain some kind of betterment. Look where it's gotten him.
With every step he takes, he gets further away from everything he thought he knew, but closer to what he's hoping to know about himself. It begs the question: At what price? Though, maybe no price is too high for such clarity, even if it does bring with it a heaving and cleaving solitude. The Parson Red Heads, completed with drummer/vocalist Brette Marie Way, guitarist/vocalist Sam Fowles and bassist/vocalist Charlie Hester, bring us closer to our own mid-life crises even we're way too young to be experiencing them yet. It's rusty poetry from a guy who has very little tread left on the bottom of his shoes and he's always going to feel like he's better off for it.