Sometimes life happens, and sometimes E3 happens. But while we’re waiting for Fallout 4, we’ll take it down a notch and settle into a selection from Gregory Alan Isakov. Sometimes the best way to change things up is to dive in head first – no preconceived notions. Such was my introduction to The Weatherman, but I wouldn’t say it affected my experience of the album. If anything, it caught me off guard, and taught me lessons beyond the music.
I’m blessed to have friends who are every bit as interested and involved in music as I am. Most people will toss up songs or albums at a time in hopes of something sticking, and then sharing the experience. I tend to listen to a wide variety of music, but I’m unfortunately narrow in what I find myself returning to. What better way to break out of that shell than by soliciting a recommendation for something I wouldn’t normally find myself listening to? I’m sure we all know someone with a vastly different music taste, so your homework this week is to leave your comfort zone.
Anyone would be a little anxious to listen to something that they were expected to enjoy. But those nerves were dashed from the first note of the first track. The Weatherman is a cozy, folky record consisting of the typical gang of acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, and delicate drumming while being punctuated by Gregory’s honest low baritone voice. The Weatherman was recorded and mixed in a way that truly brings out the serenity of the music. Indie albums tend to be more dynamic, and it’s always a joy to be able to really feel (not just hear) a song rise and fall. Gregory’s voice is fairly forward, and never lost in the swath of roomy reverbs that give depth to the instruments throughout the album. Albeit simple, the tonality of the record can be described as simply as soft, but don’t let that undermine the music, as the two are married well.
A quick research trip on Mr. Isakov revealed some insights. A touring musician since he was 16, Gregory is a well-travelled man, and his music is a transparent reflection of that. The Weatherman is an incredibly genuine album. There isn’t a note that feels out of place, or a lyric added without thought. It’s a mature album from a wise soul to a yearning one. Second Chances is a quaint lullaby of a song that serves as a token of Gregory’s experiences:
I’m running from nothing, no thoughts in my mind
Oh my heart was all black
But I saw something shine
Thought that part was yours, but it might just be mine
I could share it with you, if you gave me the time
I’m all bloody knuckles, longing for home
If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone
There really are too many outstanding lyrics to quote in this space. The one that struck me most is the final stanza of the album. Although very subdued, The Weatherman isn’t a sad album. There are tongue-in-cheek moments and somber lines, but She Always Take it Black brings absolute closure to the album. After a record’s worth of missed opportunities and wishful thinking, The Weatherman closes with the lines:
You search the world for the milk of the pearl
Oh she always takes it black
But you’ll love her ’til it all goes dark
You’ll love her even after that
I can not say more about the delivery of those lines. I’ve never heard an album build to such a finite point. If you don’t think music can give you chills, I challenge you to allow yourself to be engrossed by the fluidity of the track list to have it culminate in the way it does. The way the entire album seems to set up those lines is remarkable.
I’m still not 100% sure where to place The Weatherman. Half of me hears the album in the despair of a City And Colour album, but that’d discount its true merit. It’s a happy album for a rainy day, or the first few groggy moments when you wake up in the morning next to someone you love. Gregory’s soothing voice delicately wafts, and his guitar follows suit. There’s longevity and variety in the music itself, but there’s a depth to some of the lyrics that will leave a lasting impact long after the album finishes. It’s optimistic, and doesn’t ever stop to wallow in itself. Sometimes it pays to take a fresh step into uncharted territory. Wake up early, make yourself a coffee or tea, and let this album permeate your morning, and I can promise your day will be better for it.