How We Want To Live, the Massachusetts singer-songwriter’s fifth album is a collection of songs informed by an absent father and her recent divorce The former, who she’s not seen for eight years, is the subject of ‘Never Gone To You’ a simple organ backed, pulsing drumbeat number on which she’s joined on vocals by Rose Cousins where, contemplating their fractured relationship, she sings “there’s a time to let it go, he’s just a man with problems and it’s not your job to solve them”. But such is the natural bond that, reflecting that whoever’s fault the distance between them is, she concedes “maybe he’s gone but he’s never gone to you”.
The idea of making something positive out of something sad applies to the breakdown of her marriage too. Here are no bitter recriminations or accusations, rather a sense of needing to put the past aside, accept and move on with your life. As such, ‘Silver Line’ is about the need to end a relationship that isn’t working no matter how much you want to hold on while the slow-paced title track reflects her dawning realisation that, arguably as a child from a broken home, her dreams and her relationship couldn’t co-exist (“you said you needed to feel love, I said I needed to feel free”).
Bastoni says that the discovery of a book of guitar notes by her late grandmother in which she realised that even her marriage wasn’t always perfect helped in the understanding that others go through the same things, a line in the book inspiring the first song she wrote for the album, the closing contentment-themed track ‘Pocketful Of Sighs’ on which she and her guitar are accompanied by just Sean Staples on pump organ and harmonica.
While there were inevitable regrets, the sense of liberation the divorce brought gave rise to several songs, the pedal steel stained ‘Take The Wheel’ was inspired by a weekend catching up with old high school friends, the simply strummed standout ‘Dogs Of New Orleans’ is about being in the moment while album opener ‘Nearby’ and the bluegrass, fiddle accompanied ‘Walk A Little Closer’ capture the moments when love feels right.
As such, clearly having had to make tough decisions and show some steel, written for her daughter, the slow waltzing ‘Beautiful Girl’, which has Staples on ukulele, is a tender mother’s reassurance that “it’s all right to be gentle and it’s all right to be kind and it’s all right to be brave and scared.. it’s all right to be angry, it’s all right to change your mind”, a song about having compassion and understanding that “ see there’s enough for you and there’s enough for everyone”.
She includes one cover, a thematically resonant cover of Dylan’s ‘Workingman Blues #2’ on which she says the line “I got a brand new suit, a brand new wife, I can live on rice and beans” hit home about having the courage to do whatever it takes to start over and, as the title says, live how we want to live. There are lessons here.
Artist’s website: www.lisabastoni.com
‘Silver Line’ – live: