Back in the good old days, when compact discs were all the rage, one of my favorite things to do after I purchased a new album was stick it in my portable compact disc player, wrap some cheap headphones around my head, and read along with the lyrics booklet while the tunes rolled between my ears. Hell had no fury like me when I opened one of those booklets—after spending 15 minutes trying to get the plastic off—and there were no lyrics.
With the aptly titled Fool Moon, released by Mama Bird Recording Co. in July, Widower has made an album for lovers and lovers of lyrics. The words found here are at times straightforward, at times abstract, but always heartbreaking, poetic, and darkly witty. Listening, you can feel the solitude it took to create: It feels like an album written by a man—singer-songwriter Kevin Large, who’s made music under the Widower moniker for almost ten years—who put a lot of thought into what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. Opening track “Jumper Cables” is the most upbeat song here, its shimmering electric guitar providing a musical bedrock for Large to sing about “ferris wheels of feelings” and “the aesthetic of a lover’s hand.” The acoustically driven “Oh Catherine, My Catherine,” a rumination on a night spent with a former love, dispenses the hard truth that “Some growing pains never go away, they only keep you up at night.” Touches of sparsely plucked banjo, speckled piano, and well-placed cymbal rolls provide ambience to the lovesick “The Antidote,” which will hit home if you’ve ever gone ocean-swimming with a significant other in the middle of the night.
The centerpiece of the album is the one-two punch of “Grasp,” with its immediately timeless groove and excellent imagery (“Darlin’, during downpours, you were my cellar door”), and the passionate “Love or Lack Thereof,” which turns on the rhyme of the title, a hook so simple and affecting it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before. The dobro- and piano-tinged “Thoroughbred” might contain Large’s finest line on an album full of them, as it opens: “She’s given me hell, so eloquently; she resembles the devil, goddamn it, so delicately.” The death-obsessed guilt of the rollicking “Two Tombstones” leads into acoustic closer “Almost, Always, All Yours,” a summation of the album’s themes of lost loves and past regrets that ends with the quick balls out coda of a guitar solo.
Fool Moon contains lyrical flights that are a pleasure to pore over, but the melodies and instrumentation (augmented by a host of formidable musicians) are also terrific. It is an album about the sway a woman can hold over a man, even when she’s wronged him, but it’s also about the regrets a man has about his own wrongdoings. A man doesn’t need a woman to be made a fool, but she can sure bring his foolish tendencies to light—as a fool in love, a fool for leaving, or a fool for falling in the first place.
Buy Fool Moon: CD or Digital
(Lyrics for Fool Moon found at Bandcamp page)
Full band performances of “Thoroughbred,” “Grasp,” “Oh Catherine, My Catherine,” and “Almost, Always, All Yours”:
Solo acoustic performance of “Grasp”: