Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
One of the things that I like to imagine, when I listen to Adam Arcuragi records, is a placid and majestic body of water. It's one that, if a person had the kinds of instincts or knowledge, they could reach down, touch the soil encircling the lake and feel the residual warmth of deer hooves, where the skiddish animal had just stood moments prior, sipping out of its lip before shooting back into the trees for cover, thirst still not quite quenched, fuming. We can picture this place, protected around its entire perimeter, by a swath of dense pine trees - a covering of orange nettles lining the walking areas, glowing an old gold. There would be nothing else to hear, in these parts. It would be a vacuum - a plot for escapism and tranquility, somewhere to run to when the going got tough or ugly. It would be a place that we would worship some in our heads and chests when we were there. We would mythologize about it and we would opine that it might be a place where we'd retreat to someday, carve out a little space and build a cabin, just big enough for the small family we've made. It's a place that can be dreamt about and believed in. So, as we've settled into this image - with the record playing in the background - we then hear a rustling, the approach of bare feet on the fallen nettles and a leap from a bluff, right into the center of the body of water. It would be Arcuragi, cannonballing with a soul alive, clapping against the surface with such a might that the echo would stretch for miles and knock that retreating deer onto its back, wherever its new loitering spot happened to be. This violent, but joyful outburst would do nothing to destroy the mood. If anything, it would enhance how the earthy singer and songwriter from Philadelphia processes what he does and who he is, loving the loving of life.
In his songs, Arcuragi seems to take us on spiritual tour after spiritual tour, exposing us to the smallest of observations that - below the surface - have roots that reach yards and yards into the soil, holding there like as a man would, were he clinging for and to dear life. He gives us over, into the arms of old men who are hardened and wise. He gives us to embittered days that just need to be smoked away. He gives us to people, other people, the people that he might feel live within him. But, most of all, he gives us something like hope. It's a hopefulness that resides in the generous idea that things can work out - that we can learn, that we can be taught - that if we will good things, they can find us even in the darkest of travel and circumstances. He sings in "Botton of the River," from his latest album, "I Am Become Joy," "Spending my time where old souls go to die." It seems as if this is time well spent, gleaning some of that charm out of an almost expired, but valuable body and soul. It's as if a dance, a slow dance to the act can be done when the act is completed. It's all part of the cycle. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his extended essay about nature, "It has been said that common souls pay with what they do, nobler souls with that which they are. And why? Because a profound nature awakens in us by its actions and words, by its very looks and manners, the same power and beauty that a gallery of sculpture or of pictures addresses." It applies to the way that Arcuragi sees people and their noble struggles, his noble struggle and when that beauty shows itself, he cannonballs into a metaphorical lake, making sure that he captures it all on his tongue before he jumps.