The other day, after dropping my boy off at school, I headed over to Gordy’s with Matthew Perryman Jones’ “Land of the Living” playing in the van. I downloaded that album off of NoiseTrade sometime ago, and my wife and I love it. Much of the album was borne out of Jones’ experiences while dealing with the death of his father. As one might imagine, there a parts of the album that are really emotive.
While driving to the store, I listened to the last two tracks of the album, “The Angels Were Singing” and “Land of the Living.” “The Angels Were Singing” is a somber tune that begins with the lyrics describing the singer standing before a headstone at a cemetery:
Talking to stone,
Listening to birds
With no more to say,
I kissed my fingers
And touched the red dirt
The imagery is heartrending. For my wife and me, it speaks to our own loss that we have experienced in the last few years, especially the loss of my mother-in-law in 2012. As the song goes on, you can hear the grief and mourning in Jones’ voice, the music, and the lyrics. When I am really engaged with the song, it inevitably takes me to my own sadness, for both his loss and mine. I love that music can do that… Feeling emotions like that makes me feel more fully alive, and it is a wonderful dynamic when music takes me places like that emotionally. So, as I listened that afternoon, I let myself take it in and feel what I needed to feel.
One of the wonderful aspects of this album is how it ends and how it moves from the grief of “The Angels Were Singing” to the joy and hope of the final track, “Land of the Living.” “Land of the Living” is a veritable anthem of hope; the hope that death is not the ultimate finale, that there is more life on the other side, that the darkness will be “swallowed by the sun.” It’s one of those songs that builds and builds throughout, leading the listener to the climactic moment in which the singer realizes he is “coming home.” It is seriously beautiful. If you’d like to listen to it, there is a video on YouTube that accompanies the song with inspiring images and quotes (not an official music video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAkUppnVgMw. From one song to the next, the songwriter takes us from deep grief to overwhelming hope. I love that.
As I listened to these two songs that day, I was overtaken. In fact, when I got to Gordy’s, I had to sit in the van in the parking lot so I could listen to the rest of “Land of the Living.” I also sang along, very loudly, not caring who might hear. And, then as I walked the aisles, I couldn’t stop myself from singing the lyrics over and over again. Again, overtaken… I love it when that happens. I’m thankful for artists like Matthew Perryman Jones who bare their souls in their music. And, by doing so, they help me engage with my emotions, making me feel more alive.