Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
The life and times of love and the life and times of a songwriter are chronicled in Leo Rondeau's songs the same way. They are presented to us the same way a red-eyed little kid would tell us about a melting ice cream cone, mixed in the with the recollection of a middle-aged man talking about his lengthy list of regrets. The melting ice cream cone part of it is pretty self-explanatory. It's a little bit weepy, but this is country and western weepy and that's the good stuff. It's the kind of weepy that doesn't hang on the lids or the lashes of the eyes for very long. Those are the tears that barely leave tracks, even if they're the size of M&Ms when they roll out of them and traces down the cheeks. These are the kinds of tears whose liquid make-up is some unnatural mix of water, salt and the most rapidly evaporating solution known or unknown to mankind. Those ice cream cones...the kids will get over them and that stickiness on their hands will wash away, even without soap. It's that long line of regrets that provides for another dimension, but it's also not anything that is taken too seriously, for getting hung up on the things that weren't done, the risks not taken, the dreams not pursued and the girls not chased can only make for extremely long nights and no one has that kind of time. There are better things to be done, things that should home more of the immediate attention, if we're really keeping track. But there, in those regrets is the gravity, the place where the raw notes are hit, where some genuine melancholy is struck and it's what's always great about a real country writer: someone who can express real, hurtful and damaging feelings, but give them some kind of lightheartedness to them. The problems and the sorrows are given that added twist. There are the aspirations of the writer and the singer in "Washed Up Troubadour," sentiments that anyone who's ever slogged his or her way through the bar circuit, getting up on stage to play their songs in front of next to no one, night after night for peanuts and still felt as if they can't give it up now, having made it "this far." It's that chance that the fulfillment of the dream is just around the next corner, though Rondeau here acknowledges that the plight of the character in the song is one of something we'd call hopelessness, something that he's come to terms with. He's never made it out of the bars and he probably never will. He won't make it to the Grand Ole Opry stage and that is, mostly, okay. Or is it? It still stings like nothing else and there's so much loss involved there. Rondeau sings, "I played for some good folks and I told some bad jokes/Didn't always know the right thing to say/And when no one would love me I had to love myself/And I wasn't scared to go all the way." It's not total devastation, but it's close. Those are a lot of lonely nights and a lot of sad, sad ass hotel rooms or rest area snoozes. The episodes involving women are just as depressing, like a string of the wrong kinds of affairs and interactions, the wrong people catching each other's glances, falling for each other's lines and thinking that the odds have turned this time, finally. They should have known better, but at least there's a good story to tell the guys and embellish a little bit for the benefit of the next saloon or honkytonk. Rondeau and his characters know that they need a little help getting into their evenings, dealing with whatever demons or sadness they feel has become their lovable shadow. After a few beers, this are better and it can just get poured on.