Englishman's Andrew English finds that there are easy worries that can roll in on a body even when everything is seemingly comforting, even when there are few elements of jaggedness or concern. English lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and the songwriter who writes in a style that reminds of old Grandaddy and All-Time Quarterback material, with a steady steam of gorgeous melody and layers of detailed sounds and beats, is able to feel safe and conflicted at the same time. It might just be a feeling that's as naturally responsible for anxiety as any other in history: the thought of premature loss of one's self or of loved ones and friends, not to mention the accompanying and less significant, but equally terrifying feeling that we're older and we're never getting that old, youthful life back.
Many of his songs feature a general sensation that a life, or a few lives, are being chewed through and lord knows where the years have gone, how so many nights and moons have come and gone without recognition. There are the scenes of a man looking hard onto a porch, looking hard into a pair of eyes on, warming up the truck on a cold morning, nursing a bit of a hangover as the sun's just coming up over the horizon. It's a calm and cooled piece of agitated nostalgia that continues with a thought of the bones that the man had found under the stairs long ago, wondering if there's a chance that they could come back to life.
Then there's a determination that he doesn't care and that life has to be forward-looking, even with the sadness of losing so much to the past - the color of paint and the posters on your walls, the people whom you now miss uncontrollably and the scenery that's running other errands. It takes a good and strong hug or steeling to keep on persisting and English sings, "I will carry myself well, with my arms around my friends" - and it sounds as if it might be enough, in the end. It might be enough to be just as strong as you think you can be. It will have to suffice. He tends to take a survivalist mentality toward memories too, whose disappearance is always another slice of obituary. He sings, "What won't burn will only fade," and we're sort of reeling with that small truth. We eventually forget everything and then holding your friends in your arms is close to nothing, because we stop remembering who we're supposed to be holding. In some ways, the music on Englishman's album is a love letter to impermanence, even if it's love that's not necessarily welcoming. It's an ode to the swiftness of being a child to being a wreck of an elderly person, hanging on to fewer and fewer threads as the world closes in around. English sings, "God, raise up old men in taxidermy," on the song "Ugly Rainbow" and it's what we're left to admire, a thought that we could all live as forever visibly as a brown bear stopped in mid-attack or a raccoon, stunned on a spruce branch.
*Essay originally published May, 2010