I have had one of those days that was so bad it wasn’t a case of me eating dinner late, it was a case of me not eating dinner at all. It is 9:00 p.m. and I’m too worn out to care.
Despite all this my desire to write about music lives on, like a corpse’s fingernails, long after my brain has turned to mush…
Or not. That first bit is what I wrote last night before I curled up on the couch and fell asleep watching a bad Chinese action comedy. Sometimes even my corpse fingernails need a break. With a bit of sleep under my belt, and daylight (at least as much as winter will allow) seeping through the window, I’m ready to give it another shot.
Disc 943 is….Only As the Day is Long
Artist: Sera Cahoone
Year of Release: 2008
What’s up with the Cover? An eagle on a bouquet of flowers. I imagine there was a garden wedding and the bride closed her eyes and tosses the bouquet high in the air only to have an eagle swoop down and carry it off. No bridesmaid would find love that day, my friends, but all is not lost in the world of romance: eagles mate for life.
How I Came To Know It: I don’t actually remember, but since I took this album from my “new music” section it can’t have been that long ago. I think I read an article about her in a songwriter magazine and looked her up on line. Finding her albums locally was impossible so…I asked my local record store to order them in! Old school! Support your local record store!
How It Stacks Up: I have two Sera Cahoone albums (she has three but her eponymous debut is devilishly hard to come by). Of the two I have, “Only As The Day Is Long” comes in second. It may yet come in first, but I have a feeling that “Deer Creek Canyon” is going to edge it by a nose.
Ratings: 4 stars
This somber and thoughtful record was the perfect soundtrack for my last two days, giving me a quiet place for introspection as life presented a series of challenges, as life is wont to do.
Sera Cahoone is one of those “indie” acts who blend folk, country and rock elements. She reminded me at times of both Blue Rodeo and Cowboy Junkies and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was secretly Canadian. She’s actually from Washington State, which is about as Canadian as America gets. Like the Cowboy Junkies, Cahoone falls closer to folk and country, with songs that feature soft guitar strumming and touches of banjo and steel guitar drawing a melodic line through the slow roll of the guitar strings.
Cahoone is a late bloomer, making her first album in 2005 at the tender age of 30. “Only as the Day is Long” came out three years later and it shows the wisdom and craft of a musician who has been at it for a while. At their core, these songs incorporate very old country and bluegrass structures but Cahoone makes them current, juxtaposing classic steel guitar runs with meandering melodies that sound dreamy and disorienting at times, but always walk you safely home in the end. It’s called “resolution” and many indie bands that choose to end their songs with clashing and clangor could learn a lot from Cahoone’s songwriting skills.
Cahoone has an accomplished background as a drummer (even playing briefly with Band of Horses, which is a bit of a thing in the indie world). The drums aren’t high in the mix on “Only as the Day is Long” but the way Cahoone uses percussive sounds in general shows her understanding of its importance. The beats serve the songs, and the guitar is played in a way that sometimes enhances the percussion, sometimes replaces it, and sometimes plays off it, as the song demands.
She has a breathy vocal style that makes you feel like she does a lot of her singing while staring at the rain. She sings with an edge of sadness, but there is a lot of soothing, reassuring qualities as well. A good example is “You’re Not Broken” a reassuring song to someone who is being weighed down by life:
“All this wondering how and why
Has made me lose a little heart
Oh you got it right
You're just still there aching and there's nothing I can do
“I don't mean to sound unkind
But it's driving me mad
To see you walking so slowed down”
This song also shows how adept a songwriter Cahoone is. Its foundation is a five note guitar piece that walks you down but feels like it is missing a couple of notes. It isn’t jarring so much as…incomplete. Later, violin and guitar pieces offset this with full melodies, underscoring the song’s themes of damage, and the promise of hope and restoration.
Many of the songs are about relationships, particularly ones where there is trial or trouble. Things can be rocky at times, but as Cahoone notes on a later track, “I’ll just keep tryin’ to make things alright.” At times it’s probably not a good idea, such as on “The Colder the Air” where she admits:
“I know, I know
What you got, it ain’t nothin’ I want.”
Sometimes it feels uncomfortable because you’re getting such a clear look into her fears and insecurities, and sometimes it is uncomfortable because it feels like she’s looking into yours. It’s OK, though; Cahoone’s soothing voice and keen understanding for how a song should unfold will give you comfort in whatever darkness you might find yourself.
Best tracks: You Might As Well, Baker Lake, Only as the Day is Long, You’re Not Broken, The Colder the Air, Seven Hours Later