Neil Young once sang, ‘Like A Hurricane’. Fair enough! But Jeff and Teresa Davidsmeyer sing from the calm eye of the hurricane. Songs From The Cabin is an absolute moment of acoustic folk song solitude midst tough and turbulent times. It’s a musical balm in the quietude of nature’s folky (and very acoustic) soul.
‘As The Sun Goes Down’ starts with a clever acoustic guitar figure and is framed with sympathetic percussion (Thank you, John Gardiner!). Jeff’s languid vocal conjures the breezy tone of Jesse Colin Young (He of ‘Come On People’ and Youngbloods fame!). And Teresa’s voice creates a halo of harmony. The lyrics evoke quiet volumes: “It’s just me and you with nothing to do/I see the light of the moon as the sun goes down”. That’s pretty much the gist of this entire album. It’s a song Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) would have written if Emma (aka Christy Smith) hadn’t left him with a very dumped and shattered Wisconsin heart.
Then there is more of Henry David Thoreau’s “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”. By the way, this album was written in a cabin on the Illinois River in Pike County. Now, there was a late 60’s and early 70’s “urge for going” when everyone was getting it together in the country—any country retreat which would, indeed, inspire a buckskin truth in a world of complex suits, ties, (a whole bunch of) lies, and, as Graham Nash sang, “Military Madness”. This album haunts that idea.
Oh my! ‘Almost Heaven’ spins with the folk serenity of (the great) Bill Staines in his pure and acoustic wonderous Just Play One More Tune Folk-Legacy period. That’s big praise. And wife Teresa’s harmony vocals continue to dance with beautiful ghosts—ghosts who really love pure blooded folk music.
‘Old Lonely Road’ wraps its slow melody around a nice waltzed car ride with Jeff’s dog Molly. Now (true confessions!), I am a sucker for any tune that gives a glance into the eyes of a faithful canine companion. But the song travels “a road to nowhere”, which gets (almost) metaphysical in its slow-danced acceptance of The Band’s Robbie Robertson’s comment that his song ‘The Weight’ was about “The impossibility of sainthood”. Sure, the tune does something like that. And, quite frankly, the song conjures the quietude of the very great Jesse Winchester (he of ‘Brand New Tennessee Waltz’ fame!).
Two songs stretch into tough folk fiction. ‘The Ballad Of Jimmie Rawls’ is a harmonica-fueled Christmas Eve murder ballad with a modern mental illness twist. One wonders if Lord Randal’s “sweetheart”, who killed him with “fried eels”, perhaps, should have seen a psychiatrist – or at least have consulted a culinary expert on the dangers of certain fried foods! Then, ‘Life Of Innocence’ really slows all the up-beat love ethos of the rest of the record. The song floats with the ashes of a condemned man who will sing his innocence into eternity. John Mock’s tin whistle haunts the tune. No name is given—perhaps the victimized “he” is anyone from anywhere. The opening line, “He wore a suit of cotton” suggests a tough truth, which is edged into an eerie vibe by Ben Cordes’ electric guitar. The song touches a sad aged time. It’s just an idea, but these darker tunes serve as a reminder, amid the calm tones of the album, that a “hurricane” still revolves out in the void, and with a weathered warning, forecasts a time where we will, as Neil Young sings, “get blown away”.
But the dark gully is redeemed with several (thankfully) fully blown infectious songs. ‘I Don’t Mind If You Don’t Mind’ ranks just (slightly) below David Mallet’s “inch by inch/yard by yard” ‘Garden Song’ and Paul Simon’s ‘59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)’ on the fairly accurate pleasantly hummable song-o-meter. And ‘This Life Is Beautiful’ (again propelled with percussion) perhaps, catches the joy of a Neil Young moment when he touches a “heart of gold”.
‘Hold On To Faith’ has a Celtic soul – and glance to the music of Colin Linden’s Canadian roots soul. That’s a big complement.
‘Storm On The Illinois’, once again, sings with the compassionate comfort of Bill Staines, and Teresa’s vocals paint with the colourful depth of any great American river. And Andy Leftwich’s fiddle adds grace to the tune.
A nod should also go to Don Johnson for his upright bass that pulses like a kind heart throughout the album.
The final song, ‘Florence Bridge’, is a eulogy (with an evening shade glance at ‘Amazing Grace’) to everything that should be etched onto any tombstone in any forgotten American cemetery that still watches, saintlike, over any gospel-laced bridge—a bridge that sings with harmonium certainty about a tranquil ride –a ride that always takes us all back home.
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain details a beautiful scene in which Huck and Jim – both runaways from the “sivilized” folk – are safe in a cave while a “summer storm…rained like all fury” and “the thunder let go with an awful crash”. But the twain (archaic pun intended!) are safe and warm, and our Huckleberry says, “Jim, this nice,” and “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here. Pass along another hunk of fish and some hot cornbread”. Now, The Everly Brothers named an album Pass The Chicken And Listen. Well, Songs From The Cabin simply cooks up and passes some fresh Illinois River fish, and then it quietly drops its stylus (for all to listen) into very old-fashioned “hot cornbread” vinyl folky grooves.
Artists’ website: https://jeffdavidsmeyer.com/home
‘As The Sun Goes Down’ – official video: