There's always something so beautiful in the bittersweet moments of our lives. It's something that gets to us and we tend to secretly cherish it all a little more than maybe we even should. It might be that whatever had been gone through, the difficulties helped accentuate the good parts that might have come at the end, or vice versa - the sour ending might have made the earlier good parts seem unreal and, therefore, better. The bittersweet is what Adam Duritz and Counting Crows have specialized in since 1991. It's been what they do so well and it might just be why nearly everyone still loyally appreciates and loves them all these many years later. You can't help but encounter more and more of the bittersweet, the more years you rack up, the more people you know and who know you. It's inevitable that you are only going to feel deeper and more wrenching emotions, the more involved you are with a life that is reams and reams in length instead of just a few pages of loose leaf notepaper, with a few scribbles in the margins and a lot of empty lines.
It seems that Counting Crows can be even more appreciated now than they could be before - at least for many of us, were just getting through high school and college, when their first big singles were ubiquitous on so many radio stations. It was Mr. Jones and all of us and we heard "A Long December" (arguably one of the finest of all-time) and "Round Here," but we'd never been there. We'd never REALLY felt some of those things, so they were just words, it was just music and they were just songs that we stored in our memories and sang when they came on. But now, "A Long December," when it comes on the radio, makes me so damned melancholy, or is it sad? It just wails on me and when Duritz sings about the smell of hospitals in winter, about all the oysters and no pearls and delivers the blow, "And there's reason to believe/Maybe this year will be better than the last." It's a line that pummels you quite soundly. It makes you crumble and yet, it's that hope in the line - in the voice - that buoys you and makes you think that a happy ending is somewhere out there.
With the group's latest record - a covers album and the band's first release as an independent - Duritz, drummer Jim Bogios, guitarist David Bryson, keyboardist Charlie Gillingham, guitarist David Immergluck, bassist Millard Powers and guitarist Dan Vickery selected many songs that delved into these very moving and powerful split personalities of emotion. They all seem to have their dark storylines of sickness, craziness, loneliness, heartache and desperation, but there are always SO many rays of sunlight, hitting just right on these halves. There's a shine to them that makes them feel as if the weight could lift itself off, with just a little help, or that all will be better soon. The Fairport Convention song, "Meet On The Ledge," sounds like it's about ending it all -- jumping from a window and letting it just stop you cold. There's something good that might come out of it though, as Duritz sings, " When my time is up, I'm gonna see all my friends," before finishing the chorus with the line, "If you really mean it, it all comes round again." It might not be about any contemplation of suicide, just a reminder that we're all tired of whatever bullshit we're dealing with and that we've all got a screw or two loose that are causing rattlings that we can't stand sometimes. But we should realize that it's nothing terminal.