Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The part of southeast Wisconsin where Blessed Feathers hail from must be one where the majority of the state's spooks live. It's an area where you're bound to feel their presence long before you'll ever see them. They abound, but they're only leaving a few clues to be had. These might not be spooks, per se, but just the feelings of them. We're seeing tracks in the fresh snow that lead to nowhere, just near to things, close to doors and windows, breathing heavily. They're out there amongst the trees that we're now seeing sticking like losers out of the hardening ground, shivering and grayish brown. They're following the worried field mice down the plowed rows of corn stalks and roots, looking for some other place to sleep during the nights, someplace that's going to offer them a little more heat and a whole lot less wind. We could make a claim that Mother Nature is one of these spooks that gets into the songs of Blessed Feathers. Too many of us believe that she and her actions are living as much as any of us are anyway, behaving nastily when the mood strikes, impossible to reason with. She's the reason for that damned biting wind, the horrible, dry snow and the expectorating sleet and ice, but the early nightfall - those are all our doing. We designed our days to flame out before 5 pm, making it all the more possible that the only time any of us see the sun in its natural habitat is on the drive in to the office. It's all we get and it dawns on us as all of us bundled souls trudge to the car or the train in the dark, with the dinner hunger screaming out of our thickly covered bellies.
Even when Donivan Berube sings on "By Song Through Americas," about traveling through the southern states and feeling the sweat drip down the valley of his back, the accordion and the reverbed out vocals give us the sense that when he "spent the last of my money on a roadside bull ride," we think that he may have done so at gunpoint and under duress. It feels like it was a chilly time. It feels like he couldn't have kept that much-needed money if he had wanted to. The spirits were going to take it from him whether he wanted them to or not. It was going to fall from him, through the holes in the bottoms of his pockets or into the dirty dog operating that mechanical beast. We was going to part with his money. He was going to have to thumb it back to the grove of spooks, but at least they were his neighbors and he could fairly well trust them to keep out of his pockets.
Berube and fellow lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Jacquelyn Beaupre (along with Jordan Knowles and Steev Baker) bring the mischievous dusk into our hearts and Beaupre, in particular, makes us soften to its advances. We allow the "poisoned words" in through the front door and we listen as they tell us what they're selling. We think about buying, all the while worried about what we're buying and what we're doing here in the landing with this dusk that we know we shouldn't have let get so close to us. The cage has been opened, as she'll suggest on "Stinging Nettle, Honeysuckle," and we're going to have to see what's in there now.
*Essay originally published December, 2011