Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Raina Rose _ When May Came


I have a confession to make. When I reviewed the album End of Endless False Starts here, the album had actually been out a while. So it was fifteen months later that Rose put the wraps on her new one. And here it is.

End of Endless False Starts described a turbulent relationship, but ended on a hopeful note, as the title would suggest. But soon after, Rose left her boyfriend and even lived in her car briefly. When May Came tells what happened next. The songs may have different narrators in somewhat different situations. But, as with End of Endless False Starts, there is still a narrative arc here. What is described is the mourning process for a relationship.

The album is divided into three sections. The first four songs are ballads or midterm numbers, and all feature narrators at the end of relationships, but still hoping that they can stay together. There is a dramatic tension in these songs, a tug of war between sorrow and hope. If You’re Gonna Go starts with the words, “If you’re gonna go, go now.”, and the last verse starts, “So I’ll go, and I’ll go lightly.” She seems to have given up. But the last line of each chorus is, “So just stay with me this morning.” These songs are not emotionally tidy, but they shouldn’t be.

The music features the guitar here and throughout, with other instruments adding color. Rose produced this one herself, and the musical textures are not as varied as last time, but that suits the material well. Rose’s voice has lost much of the sweetness that was there last time, again, as suits the material. Here, Rose sounds like she has done a lot of crying, and not many tears are left. This was perhaps the biggest surprise to me on When May Came. I didn’t know from last time that Rose could sing like this.

So, I mentioned that the album has three sections. The next two songs provide a breather. Desdemona describes a literal or figurative road trip taken by two women who start the song as strangers. To me, this one had a Thelma and Louise feel. Nashville describes the hopes and fears of a musician trying to make it in the town of the title. The song has no illusions, but sounds a hopeful note. These two songs are uptempo numbers, and provide a bit of relief from the relationship songs.

The last section is five songs long. Here, the narrator finds a way to accept what has happened and try to move on. The emotional tug of war is between denial and acceptance. Pretty Good Today trying to deny the hurt and say she’s fine. In What Do You Bury?, the man has died, and the narrator tries to say she never loved him, as she reviews all of his flaws. But it is still hard to let go. But finally Heart Broke Open and Bluebonnets, she is ready to say, “Yes, I still hurt, but I am ready to try to love again.” I found Bluebonnets particularly moving. The song is a promise to a lover that she has made mistakes, but will try to do better. Will she succeed? Perhaps Raina Rose’s next album will tell us. Or maybe Rose will decide not to be so personal next time. Either way, I look forward to more fine word craft and storytelling. And I look forward to Rose continuing to impress with the range of expression in her voice.

Raina Rose: If You‘re Gonna Go

Raina Rose: Bluebonnets