Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Luke MacMaster sometimes refers to the lowlights as the highlights. It's not a dyslexic pattern that overtakes him, but simply this interest in when things start to break apart a little bit, when they begin to look less like they used to. He likes to throw that sweatshirt hood up and place the sunglasses over his eyes and let it all zoom at him, by him, through him and around him. It can hit him and either level him or turn the spot where the impact was made, a shade of pink. It will go away, it just needs a few minutes, but the memory of the sting might rattle around for a bit. He doesn't particularly like those mornings that get him up before he'd choose to do so, but then again, it's not always up to us when we have to get out of bed, nor what we're going to have to do that day. Even if he doesn't like those mornings, there are parts to them that he loves to think about. It's that haziness of mornings that he has a soft spot for. It's that array of clean newness, the way that it bleaches us all out with its brightness, giving us that flash, that reminder or just a blind view suggesting that what's the past is the past, even if we all know that - come the nightcap - there's nothing that we're going to be contemplating more. There's nothing that we're going to be dragging on more. There's nothing that's going to hold us and keep us more than all of the garbage that we determined early in the morning - when the sun was drilling a tunnel through our pupils, as we drove straight into it in the eastbound lanes - was going to get the heave ho or the cold shoulder.
MacMaster sings on the "Quicksilver Sundown" song, "Jesus Christ," "A lazy Sunday morning/Smoke filling up my lungs/Thinking that maybe someday I'll be the man they thought I was/And on my knees, begging please Jesus Christ/ Just a little love to get me through the night/Just a little love would get me through alright," and you can feel what amounts to a desperate plea for some good feeling to be slid across the table, or for a rejection of the pity that's being done. It's almost as if Jesus Christ is sitting across the table, and instead of MacMaster being down on his knees, begging please, trying to throw that shame away, he's trying to pay their bill for the dinner they just ate and the big man across the table is sliding MacMaster's money back toward him, telling him that he's got this one, that his money is no good here. It feels that there can be good out of what looks to be sorry and sad. It's that little bit of love that could get him through the night, but the lowlight part of the story is that it would just get him through that single night and it couldn't even last him 48 hours. The glow from a little bit of love, some shining face, some soft skin, a shared cigarette or a warm hand, couldn't make it through to the next day. This is when it becomes really sad.
MacMaster and The Romany Rye, his on-going personal project, is a document of the beatings that he feels his soul takes. He's all about the lonely road and the cold ground and getting back into the saddle. He sings about the pain in the way that anyone would if they weren't sure if they were gaining or losing ground at any point in their lives. When he sings on "New King Of The Mountain, "I keep my left hand on the scepter/I keep my right hand in chains/I keep a good eye on the devil/I know the kingdom/I know the pain," it's a little insight into the survivor mentality. You can continue knocking him down, but he keeps getting right back up and he gets smarter with each bloody lip.