Rivers'”Of Dusk”: An Invitation to Necessary Sorrow

A great philosopher once said, “Sad songs, they say so much. So turn them on, turn them on, turn on those sad songs…” Okay, so that is literally one of my least favorite Elton John songs. But, he was on to something there. Sad songs can say a lot. More importantly, they can mean a lot. They can impact us deeply… taking us to emotional places we need to go… helping us feel deeply and perhaps even heal from emotional wounds. There is something special about honest, vulnerable, sad songs. As I am becoming more and more acquainted with Rivers’ “Of Dusk,” I am once again experiencing the power of sorrow in music. As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop and have been listening to “Of Dusk” through headphones, undistracted by ambient noise. That’s how this album should be experienced, in my opinion. Isolating my focus and thoughts in this way has helped me to get closer to the heart of this music. And, that heart is broken. The first song on the album is “Weeping Willow.” It greets the listener with sweet harmonies, harmonies that welcome us into the story of a “forgotten” girl, whose story, identity, and value have been lost “in the branches of (her) family tree.” It is a truly beautiful and heartrending song. The band, vocally and instrumentally, portray the depth of the emotion in the lyric with precision and gentleness. Having my own issues with being “lost in the branches,” and knowing so many others who have experienced such things, “Weeping Willow” takes me to deep place of grief and sorrow, appropriate for the forgotten girl and for those of us whose stories resonate with hers. Perhaps my favorite song on the album is “Saudade,” a contemplative song dwelling on loss, longing, and loneliness. It speaks of its protagonist being “separated by a sea” of memories and desire for someone he can no longer be with. The longing in “Saudade” is almost palpable. The first half of the song provides the lyrical content, along with gentle guitar, bass, and percussion. However, the quietness of that part sets the table for a driving, building, and emotive instrumental climax. Additional strings and brass enter the story and the picture painted by the second half of the song seems to emotionally complete the earlier lyrical content. It is a beautiful song, and I find it engrossing. When I’m really paying attention, it captures my heart and reminds me of loss and longing in my own story. These two songs and the powerful lyrical, musical, and emotional content within are great standard bearers for the entire album. I have been captivated by the musicianship of all three members of the band: Colin Carey (vocals, percussion), Dexter Wolfe (vocals, guitar), and Pat Kuehn (vocals, upright bass), as well as the warmness, gentleness, and vulnerability I hear throughout “Of Dusk.” There is no instrumentation, lyrical content, vocal inflections, or other variable that does not fit with the emotional tone of these songs, which keeps their stories central and helps the careful listener remain undistracted and focused on the substance of what they are hearing. I am admittedly still getting to know this album, and I may have more to say about it as I get to know it more intimately. Having said that, I’ve heard enough to know that you can count me as a big Rivers fan. They have that magical mix of incredible musicianship, lyrical content, and emotional vulnerability. I invite you to get to know “Of Dusk” as well. When you do, take the time to listen carefully. Open your mind and your heart. Let the emotion that lives in you be triggered. Feel deeply as Rivers guides you deeper into your emotional world.

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