A while back, a man with a voice perfectly suited to the heartbreaking material he sings about released Elegy, his first collection of songs. It brought to mind images of a barren, dust-blown town in the same vein that it brought to mind the sadness of dealing with the dead.
Shawn Crowle has just recently released his second album, A Drink Before Going. It builds on his previous material, and somehow manages to increase the sadness even more. Arrangements are again fairly simple, usually a guitar with the occasional harmonica and keys. The songs deal with love and loss, but the album doesn’t completely fall into the territory of melancholy.
Still, the heartbreak and loss can be heard uniformly in Crowle’s voice and the slower pacing of guitar chords. “Walking in the Rain” conjures an image that can easily be thought of- walking through rain, thinking about the person one loves. When Crowle sings a line describing that very action, its emotional impact is huge. “Ain’t no one missing me tonight,” Crowle sings in the album title track. The emotion is as raw as it ever will be.
Some songs show happiness in shielding others from adversity- “A Cold & Bitter Wind” is a short song in which Crowle sings about protecting someone else from the cold. “Against the World” is a more positive-sounding song, about two lovers ready to meet any challenges that might have come their way.
Of course there is still more heartbreak to be had. “Sad Songs” tells of an old man reminiscing about someone he thought “could be the one.” “The Same Old Scene” tells of taking a woman home and making love, but from the tone of voice one knows it won’t end well.
Heartache is a universal pain, and it’s what makes A Drink Before Going a decidedly pertinent piece of work. The album can be streamed in its entirety and purchased via Crowle’s website.
Top Tracks: “Burden”; “Against the World”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)