My Brave Love sounds like K.D. Lang with her own traveling band, if she wrote most of the songs herself. They have a handle on longing that won't let loose. This album can make you want to love again, even if it is unrequited.
My secrets cry aloud.
I have no need for tongue.
My heart keeps open house,
My doors are widely swung.
An epic of the eyes
My love, with no disguise.
~ From the poem "Open House" by Theodore Roethke
If k.d. lang had a real band and wrote her own songs most all the time, she might sound like My Brave Love. Michele Wismer is the alto soloist in this band. They have that timeless sense of longing right down pat. I get the sense from this album that unrequited love might break your heart, but it may just give you a reason to live. It's the love you give that heals you. I've never liked that phrase much, but I'm warming up to it listening to "Heaven In Your Arms." These women know more about real love than all those bare midriff babes on your radio. Seen it come and go, raised children and owned property. Love still means this much to them they sing about it with the clarity of the god's honest truth. This album tells me what it means to be young and full of hope. I wouldn't take that from some kid with a voice and a management team.
The style of music on this album is mostly country, but that takes it to the threshold of classic pop with offbeat handclaps right out of Motown. If k.d. lang is too country for you, you might not have enough of a heart to process these songs, and God help you for being so narrow. There's heaven on earth just out of reach in these songs, which makes them love songs that meet my own experience and give it meaning. Michele Wismer's vocal solos float over a bed of music drenched in warmth throughout this disc. I can't write smart about this music. This music hits my heart like a sucker punch.
The poet Randall Jarrell once said that anything you want more than life itself you can't have, but when you don't want it anymore it will be at your doorstep. There must be a reason for that. I had a great time exchanging emails with this band. I was in a slump and we talked about the process of writing and quite a lot about heroes and validation. My Brave Love has it's heroes, and we chatted about what it would be like to have the approval of these respected songwriters. I had a father wouldn't say, "I love you." I thought all I needed for years in my life was those three words. It kept me working hard. One day a mean trick happened, my father said those words. Did it just about right. And it didn't change a thing. I didn't need it anymore. And I knew anyway. While waiting for approval from that songwriter this band dearly loves, they have built a fan base of folks who love their songs. I hope they never get the approval they were looking for. It won't change a thing. This band has found it's own way to move an audience, and it's all theirs. The only proof of music is what it does to an individual human heart. These three women have that to the core. I have no resistance to them. They are a great band, but don't tell them that. They are doing fine without thinking they've become somebody important. Keeps 'em honest.
What knocks me out about My Brave Love is in the drama of their songs. There's a repeat playing right now on my iTunes saying, "Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why, tell me why [repeat and fade]." Now, I had a little breakup long overdue several months ago, and that was the very question that haunted me. I did a little survey of bar patrons and songwriters -- That same question everytime. These songs know the secrets cried aloud and never miss a chance to deepen the experience with a violin, or a pedal steel, or a banjo, or a note held until it's about to break. Add a pair apiece of Blues Brothers shades, and you've got a helluva band.
Go ahead and take the challenge. Listen to this album and try not to long for someone you once knew, or someone you hope to meet. It's the condition of mankind to long for that thing will complete us, or the place where we fit, or the love just out of reach. I don't know what music is really, but I like it when it reaches my heart somewhere I haven't been for a while. Sometimes I think I'm living in a 20,000 square foot heart, spending most of my time in the little computer room out back. I've discovered some real estate I didn't know I owned with this album. It's pretty dusty there, but there's a fireplace that works. I think it might be just about the warmest place in the house. Didn't know it was mine. That's what this album gave me. I should get out more.
HEAVEN IN YOUR ARMS describes that perfect moment on the dance floor seems like heaven, but it don't last long. "It would be so easy to get lost inside of you / And you know that's something, yeah that's something that I shouldn't do / Or was I dreaming, just for that one song / I don't see how it could be wrong / Just for that one song I could feel you next to me / Just for that one song it was just the way I wanted it to be / It was in heaven / It was in heaven in your arms." Everyone was watching, but "I didn't care." Sometimes what you can't have is all that you need.
OCEAN BLUE offers a look at the shoreline as deep as Shakespeare's observation that the sea was "still moving, still so unmoved." The subject has nothing much to do with the water. "You hide behind yourself / Too afraid to be known to anyone / Though your hair is made of sand and sun / There are tears behind your eyes / Ocean blue, do you think that I can't see that it is true?" The depth of the sea and that trick it plays on the horizon makes it present and distant. "Sometimes your silence scares me." The song begins and ends with the thunder of waves. Everything comes in waves. It's all we have and all we are. Water everywhere. Within you and without you. It's always passing through. Never at rest. Floats to the surface when it freezes. However deep we look into it, we never see beyond the vanishing point. "I see behind the words into your heart." Go a little deeper. "Can't you give me a chance? Can't you put your trust in anyone? I don't want to own you. I don't want to hurt you. I don't want let you down. You know I will be around." Ocean blue.
I WANT TO KISS YOU is a pop love song from the land mass somewhere near Warren Zevon's "Carmelita," with a faster lighter touch and the same sweet honest warmth. "One time you asked to go on that long drive down to Mexico / It felt like we were miles apart / You never knew you were breaking my heart / And now look at you there with the moonlight dancing in your hair / I'm gonna do what I should have done there / Though I may never see you again." That k.d. lang voice takes a turn for Karen Carpenter in this one. It feels like a story not quite told as true. Feels like the story that should have happened. "Please don't walk away / This is hard for me to say." One chance lost, and a lifetime to remember.
ANOTHER SOUVENIR is the song of the other lover, the first runner up, the better road not taken. It's a lush slow love song. "As the days turn into years / Will you still remember me? / I kept it all inside. / This longing and desire for you / A heart so completely loving you / Loving you / I'm the one who loved you too. / And I don't want to be another souvenir." Love is eternal, but it seldom lasts. "Take me out and look at me / I'm the one who loved you true / I still do." Eternity in an hour.
UNREQUITED LOVE The rhythm of this lyric dances over the song like Ray Davies' words over the dissimilar music of Lola, but the comparison stops there. This song doesn't have any tricks up it's sleeve. "I love you but it's plain to see by the way you're acting you don't love me, baby. You don't love me. And round and round and round I go / Where I stop nobody knows / You don't love me. No." Ah, the cycle of obsession grinds slow but sure. "And it breaks my heart when I realize / There's someone else in your arms tonight, baby." This love is maybe a little more distant than arm's reach. More like no mutual sparks across a crowded room. "I guess you told me without saying a word. . . . Unrequited love." Love the one you're with? "I'll call someone else if I can't have you." Reality check: All love is good love. Even when you may be dreaming of the one that got away.
I'LL GET YOU reads like a Joan Jett song, but has the musical sense to soar above the power chords and sound effects in an unchoked voice like a bird in flight. The stalker sensibility of the lyric is undermined by in-studio laughter that must have been a moment. "I'll get you / I'll never let go / You'll have nowhere to run / I'll get you / I've been waiting too long / So vulnerable / I'll get you." Now that last vowel is held in a pure tone until it breaks up an octave. We are all stalkers, except for the actual stalking part.
TELL ME WHY asks the unanswered question that torments just about anyone who lost someone. "I say I need you. I say I love you. I say I can't live without you." The wreckage of every painful breakup I've lived through or heard described leaves with one big question: "Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why, just say why, tell me why [repeat and fade]." It does fade. I promise. Takes time. Hurts like hell. It does fade. I promise.
AM I WRONG has the pace and honest feel of an Old West murder ballad, but the subject is doubt not death. It's like those songs in Ken Burns' "Civil War," that say how it felt better than all the other words on the subject. "You know I have no right to feel this way / I've denied it to myself for far too long / I'm not sure who I've been trying to fool / So tell me if you think I'm wrong. / If you think I'm wrong." There's just never any right to feel anything, is there? But feelings don't always match up or fit right. The strings! Oh, the strings have a homespun brilliant Appalachian feel. Oh brother, where art thou! Am I right? "Tell me if you think I'm wrong." If certainty is the enemy of truth, My Brave Love should fall on the side of the angels. Last words, "Am I wrong?"
IF YOU LET ME builds as a song with a tinge of disconnected sorrow, until the three-part harmony of the chorus absolutely soars: "If you let me / I'll be your lover, I'll be your friend. . . . If you let me I will make your dreams comes true." Like a rock on a mountain top, potential energy seems to vibrate through everything. It could be an avalanche of love. It could be "if you let me." Could be. Potential energy may be longing in the physical world. "Suddenly the chaos all seems to make sense." The second law of thermal acquaintance says two hearts can occupy the same space. With permission, of course.
COMIN' DOWN TO LOVE may be the one song on the album might describe a little good news in the course of a relationship. "I tell you now I feel / You can't look at me / I have no secrets from you / No shroud of mystery / There is nothing that I want from you / There is nothing that I need for you to do." This song lingers on the brink of expression all the way through to the chorus: "Now, it's coming down / It's coming down / It's coming down to love." The build on this song is just beautiful. After the first chorus, they can make you wonder a second time, but it comes down again the same way. "It's coming down to love." All that hesitation makes it real.
YOU sets the stage in a hesitation rhythm that spells the passage of time. A journey song. "I was drifting / Lost at sea / Tossed and sinking / Could not break free." Then a new lyric cuts right on through. It's like out of the blue. The march of joy in this song is earned by some deep observation. This song is an anthem building to harmony. "You / You make me / You make me want / You make me want love / You make me want to feel love." God help me but that dancing Tom Tom makes me want to dance like Bono on the stage at some world wide benefit concert. "In this life / You're on your own / You get no map / To guide you home / You find your way any way you can . . . You read the stars in the midnight sky / You search your heart for that answer . . .
You make me
You make me want
You make me want love
You make me want to feel love
It's always you."
Love at last. I feel something. I know, because my eyes are starting to drip. It's beautiful. I'm a sucker for this band. If I ever grow up, shoot me.
MY BRAVE LOVE:
Michele Wismer - vocals, acoustic six string guitar, percussion
Kathy Nichols - bass, vocals, percussion
Lisa Hammack - drums
David Morgan - recording and mixing
All original songs (11 tracks) written and arranged by Michele Wismer
Strings arranged by Milo Deering and George Anderson
Guest artists on CD:
Milo Deering, George Anderson, Jerry Matheny, Mike Dawson, Dan Robins, Tye Robison, and Johnny Case