I didn’t think I’d heard of Doug Paisley until I found out about this release—for that matter I hadn’t heard of quite a few artists, some country, some singer-songwriter, until Oldham introduced them to me via some of his 7” singles, though Paisley’s a contemporary, a Canadian and apparently his last album Constant Companion from 2010 made Mojo magazine’s top 10 albums of the year list. The irony, however, is that Oldham has worked with Paisley before, when the latter contributed backing vocals to Oldham’s “I Am A Floozy” released on 10″ in 2012 for the Ashley Macomber artbook project. The praise from other print luminaries like Uncut and Rolling Stone along with the timeless quality of these songs suggest that it won’t be long before I land myself a copy of more of his work. So, Will Oldham lends his voice to Side A of this release, singing lead vocals on some verses and backing vocals on the chorus, while regular Oldham collaborator Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang plays guitar on that track. The B side has what I presume are Paisley’s backing band−details available on the reverse side of the sleeve. The No Quarter website refers to Paisley’s music as a “unique take on 70s American folk rock” which is an apt enough description of what I’m hearing here.
Until I Find You… uses two voices, Oldham’s and Paisley’s, and two guitars, an acoustic and electric, and the song’s beauty, of which there is an abundance, is entwined somewhere between the delicate guitar melodies and the two voices. Paisley sounds more C&W to my ears, slightly gruff, a touch of twang—a twang that Oldham generally eschews even though he can pull it out of thin air on occasion. Paisley’s opening line is chewy—“I’m not an easy man to be / Pushed into life / They’ll drag me from it, surely.” So he’s a reluctant narrator, difficult, stubborn perhaps, resistant, but sensitive. He tells us he’s not an easy man to be with either, but it doesn’t take much to make him feel regret and inward sorrow. Someone, playing a role of “ceiling and the sky” for Paisley’s narrator has collapsed, which “broke me down.” In a later verse, the line about being dragged from life is echoed by Oldham’s line, “I’m not an easy man to kill / I keep coming back.” The central premise though is this idea of waiting life out “until I find you.” Quite who “you” might be is left unclear. A woman? A deity? A mentor? In any case, the narrator, as played by both men mingling their voices in the chorus, is going to hold out hope, or just hold out with whatever it takes to “find you.” It’s about here I’d like to find a way of drawing some kind of analytical parallel between the guitar melodies and the theme, and if I’m able to do so, it exists somewhere between the lovely delicate floating notes and the downward strums that anchor them. Like, each time the song begins to float−and it certainly does on the first chorus where Paisley and Oldham’s voices soar together in perfect harmony−then there’s an opposite force, a bass note, a strum, a heavier electric guitar melody, pulling the lighter notes back down. The longish instrumental break between Paisley’s verses and Oldham’s is where the song’s twinkling truth expands and dissolves with the fading resonance of a vibrating guitar string.
Everything Is Made… calls to mind Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence.” It opens with a chiming descending melody on guitar before a strum takes over, and Paisley’s rich plangent tone fills the space. A flute-like note fills the air in the break between verses. From the title we glean a faint creation theme emerging, “everything is made,” which begs the question—made by whom? Is this an ode to structuralism? “You go to the church to pray,” sings Paisley, but “I work with my hands all day.” Is he drawing our attention to the divide between humanism and creationism? Examples given include “the shining waterway,” “the bridge across space,” “each grain of sand” (calling to mind Dylan) and “each weary face” – these things are all made. The final verse brings us back down to earth quite literally: “When I’m sleeping in the ground / No mortal trace ere be found.” Only the leaves singing “everything is made” are able to give testament that the “I” of the song once existed. And that’s its message, short and bittersweet, what is born must die, and why this is so is a mystery for which even the answer must surely fall under the umbrella term “everything.” Everything is made, even the myths that give rise to our understanding of existence. The melody is simple, pastoral and spring-like, although perhaps just a touch too familiar to leave a deeper impression. It treads a close line to sap and dew, although I can’t help being roused by it, so I’ll end my piece here and refrain from saying anything negative.
Definitely one of the better 7″ singles I’ve heard this year with Oldham’s name attached, and there have been quite a few. Earlier in the year we had “New Trip On The Old Wine,” a bit of a dud that one, then “We Love Our Hole” which was better, then a couple from the Sailor’s Grave-A Sea Of Tongues album. So, after browsing the No Quarter roster on their website, I’m thinking this is a label I need to investigate more fully, and all thanks to this piece of vinyl. Groovy.