A rainy week in Boston, and so some Rainy Day Music. This song is from an album called “Departure and Farewell,” and if that’s not good Rainy Day Music subject matter then what it is? Only a few of the songs (mostly written by Dan Messe) directly address this theme, however; the majority feature an obscure personal symbolism that includes many references to birds and water. Still, the loping, lullabye-like melodies keep the mood focused on quiet desperation. The music is primarily piano-driven, but throughout there are interesting instrumental choices, dobro, glockenspiel, even an entire chamber pop orchestra on one song.
Rainy Day Music often involves a Sad Girl, who in this case is named Sally Ellson. She has a pretty voice and a calm, reassuring tone, warm but not overly emotional, like an Americana Mazzy Star. This is the person you want next to you in the ambulance.
Calm can get dull over time, though, and I find that except for three or four standouts this album fades into the background a bit. “Traveler’s Song” may not the best on the album (that’s probably “Tourniquet,” despite the unfortunately obvious title) but it’s the one that always pulls back my attention. It has a Randy Newman feel, stately 19th-century piano chords framing a simple but affecting statement of dislocation: “In a stranger’s town, I have stayed too long/With the same old sun, where the light is wrong.” The singer in her sigh of a voice admits to missing her home and family, and then the song ends, abruptly and without build, a fleeting fragment of reflection before the singer moves on to whatever responsibilities keep her in this place where she doesn’t belong. Rain isn’t mentioned, but you just know it’s out there.