SOUTHERN GOTHIC Lindsay Fuller

If you’re a believer that
there’s catharsis and the redemptive
light of art in even the darkest fare, the Alabama-raised songwriter’s future is
pretty damn bright.

 

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Maybe as we near the Mayan Armageddon we’ll find a bigger
audience and general appreciation for the death-preoccupations of musicians
like Lindsay Fuller. On You, Anniversary, her first release for Dave Matthews’ ATO label and third overall, the
Alabama-raised Seattle native shoots for the same dark poetic fires that make
female artists like Carla Bozulich and Thalia Zedek such incandescent and
memorable figures.

 

Fuller’s songs are less shy about their pop and Americana roots, so a
more accurate music parallel, especially on twangier cuts like the shuffling
opener “Everything I Ever Had” or melancholic waltz “One Can Only Hope,” would
be Lucinda Williams. But there’s less relationship woes and more Southern
Gothic in Fuller’s songwriting, which is why the bleak-but-redemptive works of Nick Cave
are another touchstone you hear in conjunction with Fuller.

 

Still, though there are keys aplenty here (supplied by Jebin
Bruni, with bassist Paul Bryan on mellotron), this is primarily a guitar LP
full of beautiful grind-it-til-you-find-it moments and judicious reverb tones
that come courtesy of studio ace Chris Bruce (drummer Jay Bellerose rounds out
the band). The record was also recorded live over just three days, and because
of that this set comes across as Fuller’s most urgent and organic.

 

 


Lindsay Fuller – You, Anniversary by ATO Records

 

That suits the narrative, as do the specters of late poets,
writers and friends that haunt – sometimes explicitly, sometimes not – these
songs. Besides the W.S. Merwin poem that inspired the LP title track (featuring
a duet with Indigo Girl Amy Ray) and the (bones of) Edgar Allen Poe name-drop
in “Circa Never,” the mortality-occupied storytelling can’t help but conjure
images of Southern artists from O’Connor and Faulkner to 16 Horsepower and Vic
Chesnutt as our transience and frailty play out in Fuller’s lyrics.

 

After the “eulogy written in the blackest ink” of “Circa
Never” (featuring a character who “starved herself to death last year”), Fuller
captures the mixed emotions
following the suicide of a friend on “One More Song.” Over its blend of sad
mellotron strings and angry guitar feedback, she laments her friend for the
loss of life’s beauty – “there were stars in the sky but they couldn’t stop
you” – but is equally peeved by their being “far too young to have enough
regrets to justify that kind of exit.”

 

The title track’s conceit is equally doomy. Merwin’s brief
poem, “For the Anniversary of My Death,” asks us to celebrate life by
contemplating the notion that yearly we pass the day that will eventually serve
as the anniversary of our final one. Alternating between hushed acoustic
moments and maelstroms of tremelo’d guitar and pounding drums, Fuller draws us
a no-bones-about-it funeral vision: “There’ll be ushers and wood pews and
bouquets of flowers/and my brothers and sisters will sit in dismay/and the body
that held me will be on display.” For the Anniversary of My DeathFor the Anniversary
of My Death

 

Moments like these are truly bracing for their unflinching
look at what’s coming down the road for us all. Sure, the unrelenting gloom —
and Fuller’s quavering voice, which threatens to veer into over-emoting on
occasion (she even sounds like Nicole Atkins on “Sound of Regret” — casts
such a dark pall by the end of the LP that the meek will probably be reaching
for the Prozac to keep from reaching for the noose. But if you’re a believer
that there’s catharsis and the redemptive
light of art in even the darkest fare, Fullers’ future is — against all the
odds she’s singing about — pretty damn bright. At least until it’s all over,
anyway.

 

 

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