Lie Down In The Light
We may be heading for a recession but our usual touchstones of gloom and melancholy seem hellbent on taking us in the opposite direction. David Berman's Silver Jews are due to release an unusually positive new record and here Will Oldham follows up 2006's The Letting Go with an album bathed in weary resolution and renewed warmth. Both these artists have produced some of their finest work while struggling through their darkness and likewise both seem to project their new work from a well fought point of resolved insight. But the ultimate success of these two records come from a genuine wisdom that was born out of experience and a deep searching for a truth behind this human experience. They haven't just decided to make an 'upbeat record' but have allowed this new dawn in their understanding to shine on every word they utter and though these words will always be tinged with sadness they display an outlook glistening with light.
Oldham gently counts in the record with the retrospective Easy Does It. The whole feel of this album is encapsulated in this first song as it lovingly rakes over past beliefs and viewpoints to compare them to a newly acquired calmness and strength. "There are other ways, I used to think, to find my way around, the wood and the caves and the bad woman's ways that were always to be found." The whole song shimmers with this new "One Way" that Oldham refers to as he looks around him and sees the light shine off everyday wonders like the moon, friends and family and "good, earthly music singing into my head."
This album explores every range of Olham's vocals from the joyous country lilt of Easy Does It to the intimate whisperings of What's Missing Is. Musically it's just as rich from the clipped fiddle on Glory Goes to For Every Field There's A Mole's wonderful clarinet. Oldham's delicate guitar playing dances eagerly throughout the record but is also joined by colourful touches of lap steel. Dawn McCarthy's sweet harmonies shadowed Oldham's every word in The Letting Go and the duet role falls to Ashley Webber here with some beautiful results. You Want That Picture sees them assume the part of two accusing lovers while on Other's Gain they rise in harmony to majestic grandeur. The sense of loneliness is passing from every record Oldham makes, not only due to the company he keeps on the songs but in his words that fall so precisely from his mouth. On Other's Gain he tells of the importance to "Keep your loved ones near, and let them know just where you be," while Easy Does It describes "the wood and the smell and the word of farewell that I always had to sound."
This new embrace of the world and the people around him is at the very heart of this records warmth. Instead of the forked-tongue critic lurking in the judgmental shadow of the world Lie Down In The Light displays a new found knowledge of the artists place in this life and on songs like So Everyone he aims to declare it to all in earshot. But while this might be a celebration, Katrina And The Waves it most certainly is not. Lie Down In The Light might be the antithesis both in title and tone to one of Oldham's finest albums, 1999's I See A Darkness, but it's joyousness is delivered with patience and humility like one who has seen the light but is in no hurry to explore, opting rather, to dwell there knowingly in its warmth. Like Berman, Oldham's ability to describe joy as well as pain is giving new strength to his work and is transforming him into a more well rounded song writer and as this joy has come from pain its profundity is more striking and long lasting.
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