Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording by Ian Harris, Words by Landon Kuhlmann
It takes only the first few lines of a Twain song to understand that his lyrical imagery is unrivaled. Accompanied by his guitar or piano alone, the biggest ideas are pouring out of the smallest possible band. Twain delivers his stories and prophecies through a vessel that us as humans can comprehend: the venerable folk song. The songwriting is focused and assured, armed with the diction and foresight of a prophet. But all this genius comes with an undeniably humble cadence; it's like the voice of a weary traveler you bring into your home during a snowstorm, only to find that they've just gotten back from the furthest corners of the earth and the deepest chasms of the human psyche.
There's this ring, this twang, to his voice. It makes him believable—it makes him honest. It also makes him inimitable. Someone else equipped with the same voice might act erroneously upon it, but Twain matches it with instrumentation that denies pomp and flashiness-for-the-sake-of-being-flashy and fits the tone of the song in a way that can only be understood through listening.
Twain seems to understand things about life and humanity that should be obvious to everyone, but aren't. Whether he's considering the different ways we valuate love, or dissecting evil and desire, he's mixing fact with fiction to create a parable the size of a tapestry.
Despite all this serious talk, Twain's music is also just pleasing to listen to. You could put it on in the background the next time you're sitting around with some friends—but don't get upset when they start to ignore what you're saying to listen in a little deeper to the music.
Twain Official Site