Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's funny how certain parts of certain things and completely unrelated bits of information somehow get to sounding somewhat pertinent - or there's at least some kind of stretch that can be made, a tendon of similarity that can be latched onto and pulled on, dumping all of the bits in one scattered, tangly downpour. They become relative even if they have no right to be such a thing. After reading the first half of Loretta Lynn's famous autobiography, "Coal-Miner's Daughter," last week en route to the Pop Montreal festival, listening to Thieving Irons' debut full-length record, "This Midnight Hum," brings to mind a specific passage, where her beau and very-soon-to-be husband Doolittle makes a false move at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Those living in Butcher Holler, where Lynn was raised near Van Lear, were used to going up to lakes and streams and just throwing their slaked tongues and months into them for refreshment. Dying of thirst as the money-strapped family was traveling, Doo rushed from the car and against the advice of his parents, cupped his hands, dipped them into the lake and took a gigantic gulp only to get very sick to his stomach. It's an example of how this could turn out poorly for a gent, but where the thought leads us is to what it could have felt like - what Doolittle had hoped it was going to feel like - bursting from a cooking car, short on hydration and diving with opened mouth and gullet head-first into a cool lake. Such a thing could have been transcendent. It could have swept a person completely off the face of the earth into another stratum, where there is a high, maybe the highest percentage of wish fulfillment imaginable. Nate Martinez, the man behind the lush and beautiful Thieving Irons, has made a record of rustic gorgeousness that makes one feel as if they were stooping down with those hands cupped, reaching for that fresh body of mountain water - not tainted or tampered with - and drawing it up to the mouth, feeling quenched as you've never been quenched before. "These Shaking Walls" is a song that takes us into the basket of a balloon, soaring slowly, just barely above the houses and well below the clouds. It's a humming and moving verse of exhaustion, of a man who needs to get to that cold water more than anything else, needs to feel it on his lips and chilling his throat from top to bottom as it sinks down in its gulping travels. Martinex sings, "I count the creeks/I count the leaves/I count the times I think of thee/If it's late please wait for me/I'll cross the land and swim the sea/And when I shook my body weak/My heart is strong/I cannot speak/This day is late," and we're put squarely into a setting of crunching brown leaves, dropped to the floor for a second covering that welcomes a changing of the seasons and temperamental temperatures. Thieving Irons songs are coated with the kinds of pieces of life that are similar to those feelings of holding hands with a new lover - that hesitant touching of skin to other skin - and then of getting really quite otherworldly comfortable with them. It's this middle place where Martinez takes us, even when visiting some of the devolving parts of the relationship, when times have started to get tough. We can still taste that freezing water entering us, framing the meantime in the lovely shivers.