Laid up after a rollerblading accident, Selis took time to take stock of why she was making music, especially given that, after eight albums (nine if you include her Christmas collection), she had still not broken down the crossover wall between a loyal following and wider acceptance. It also allowed her to take a look at her life. The result was See Me With Your Heart, a collection of songs which, she said, allowed her to “face the wounds without flinching and learn to celebrate the scars”, and which are linked by the concept of unconditional love, of herself as much as anyone.
As such, the titles often speak volumes, kicking off with ‘Fearless Heart’, a punchy Petty meets Lucinda country-rock swagger about finding the strength and courage to let down your defences and take a step into the unknown as she sings “one day I’ll embrace the weakness that has caged my soul, I’ll surrender to the grace and freely fall“. Likewise on the metaphorical journey of ‘Still Have A Long Way To Go’ where she rolls out the southern gospel blues while producer Kenny Greenberg supplies the wailing guitar.
It’s one of the few songs here that cranks up a gutsy noise, the others being the tribal bluesy stomp of ‘Little Wars’, a song about pulling back from confrontation in order to save a relationship, and the Stonesy country strut ‘Slow Down’, its chorus of “Slow down let me catch my breath, shorten your stride so I can match your step, take your time give my heart a rest” sharing melodic kinship with the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Slow Hand’.
In keeping the introspective mood, the majority of the numbers are ballads. The title track (actually written as a submission for an animated film of The Little Prince) is a yearning plea for emotional rescue that tellingly sits alongside the equally aching and openly vulnerable country-torch ‘Can’t See Past Myself’ where “the mirror of my pride is hiding the reflection of all that I could be if I could see that I am you and you are me.” The theme carries over into the shimmering and soaring ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ (“I used to try to bring you down, and then I stepped inside your dream and I found out there’s so much more to see”).
That need to look beyond the external is also there on ‘The Man He Never Was’, a painfully poignant song in which she seeks to reconcile her childhood memories of her father, her ‘shining knight’ with the reality that she felt there was something missing when she sings ‘did he know how much I needed him. Was he holding something back or was it all he had to give.’
In the slow burning ‘Already Gone’ there’s the recognition that, if you’re not ready to give all of yourself, sometimes things cannot be saved or changed as she sings of a broken marriage where “She thought it would last for forever When they promised and gave their vows……she didn’t say the words he wanted to hear, she thought love could hold back his fear so she listened for hope and realized it was already gone.” However, this is a rare moment of defeat in an album that, generally, looks to break down the walls that hold you back and live life to the full, as powerfully encapsulated in the slow waltzing southern country gospel blues of ‘While The Night Is Still Young’, a refusal to go gentle into that dark night (“Whether I roll like Willie or crash like Hank, I wanna pull into heaven with an empty tank”).
Appropriately, given the album’s swings between determination and hesitation, between hope and uncertainty, but its belief that an open heart can bring healing and change, it closes with ‘Love Has The Final Say’, a song that, underpinned by piano, opens on a downbeat note of resignation as she sings “what happened to our dream the passion we once knew. You smile and look away but your eyes betray the truth. The crashing of the world the disillusioned crowd has broken us like stone and left us shattered on the ground”, but, while tears can’t wash away words spoken, it builds to a soaring capital-lettered climax of “AFTER EVERYTHING IS SAID AND DONE IT’LL BE OKAY THERE’S NOTHING TO EXPLAIN BABY, KEEP THE FAITH ‘ CAUSE LOVE HAS THE FINAL SAY.”
In the sleeve notes she says “these songs have changed me forever and allowed me to be whole again. My prayer is that they might do the same for you.” Amen to that.
Artist’s website: http://www.eveselis.com/
‘See Me With Your Heart’ – live: