Recorded by Comnes in Liguria, Italy, and Gawain Matthews adding keyboards in San Pablo, California, Uncaged comes at the end of what has clearly been an annus miserablis for her, one that saw the loss of her marriage, the respect of her parents, the support of her family, her visa and legal right to live or work in Italy, her money, apartment, many of the few material objects she had left to my name and pretty much all security / solid ground beneath her feet. It meant giving up on dreams of being a full-time musician, a mother and homemaker, understandably overwhelming her with grief and sadness. Then, just as she was getting back on her feet, the pandemic hit, putting paid to her planned annual visit back home and any plans for the year. However, in all this, what she hung on to was her ability to make music and it was this that brought her through, spending the three months in lockdown writing the songs that now form this album, figural, literal, metaphorical and real stories that ebody the remapping of meaning in her life and form an integral part of her healing journey to who she is now.
It starts then with the gorgeous tumbling fingerpicked and piano notes of ‘The Thief’ as, touching in images of childhood, she sings “If the love is scarce can you blame the thief?” It’s followed with the percussive guitar and violin of the English folk coloured ‘The Cage’, the title clearly indicating its train of thought about escaping the confines and about those “moments when you feel somehow/You were meant to be wild”, of how, when the gates are unlocked, some will flee and others remain in the safety of a prison they know (“Better off staying locked inside/Than to feel our way again”).
There’s an ethereal shimmer to ‘Protector’, the second song informed by the collapse of her marriage as, opening with the quoted line “she’d never do anything to hurt me” she proceeds to sings “So tangled up with you/Lost track of me” and declares “I won’t protect you” but wonders “How do I let you down easy?/So you don’t cancel me from memory”. It’s followed by the double-tracked vocals of the thematically linked ‘Jealousy’ which warns of its destructive nature (“I wanted you undivided…The burden of my pride is drowning me”) that fetters the wings of a relationship until it is no longer able to fly
Continuing along the same lines, sung in echoey vocals over darkly strummed guitar and a handclaps rhythm, the 60s soul influenced ‘Love Chooses You’ has a fairly unambiguous lyric about considering calling an end to a relationshp, moving from “you can’t walk away from the one, husband, father of your sons” to “I don’t love him anymore, I’m out the door/The flames that burned, will not be restored”, finally giving in to the need to let her “fluttering wings” take flight.
Accompanied by spare, simple piano notes, ‘Songbird’ returns to the image of the cage, of escaping what Paul Simon referred to as the ‘dangling conversation’ of a relationship that’s run its course (“We spoke about the things that have meaning in our lives/But the words were just proxy for our sin”) and being able to “look upon the world through your own eyes”.
The image of suffoctated communication is picked up in ‘Nature Girl’, a song about walking on eggshells, scared of saying the wrong thing, of once again finding freedom in nature, away from the meaningless small talk, “where the ferns grow high, no one round for miles”.
It ends, then, with the catharsis and epiphany of the 60s dramatic girl pop balladry ‘Queen Of The Sun’ as she defiantly proclaims “Pull out these arrows where I’ve been judged/Light up a fire and burn every one… Raise up a tempest to fill up my lungs/Shine from the inside” in a manner that had me thinking of Rita Pavone’s 60s hit ‘Heart’ or even Cilla Black’s ‘You’re My World’.
In the album notes she writes “If I, as a human being, in the face of my own soul death and grief, have been able to do even the first few passages, and that these songs may be meaningful in some way to others on their own journey, then I have done my job well.” She has indeed.
Artist’s website: www.luciacomnes.com
‘The Thief’ – official video: