House in the Weeds (2001)


Self-released record of demos. Only two thousand copies were made. The song “Your Side” was featured in the film Blue Car.

Lori Carson has always approached her music from the standpoint of telling the truth as she sees and hears it at the moment. No matter how that music has subsequently been judged either by critics, the public, or the artist herself, this fundamental element has been consistent. Carson has never made music in a vacuum it’s true, but neither has she made music with an ear or an eye for the marketplace. Hers has been the long, lonely road of listening to the human heart as it encounters, accepts, and learns to live from its brokenness; she reflects that in various nuances, styles, and in a singular elegance that is graceful and eloquent no matter how elusive or powerful the emotional, mental, or spiritual state she is trying to give voice to. House in the Weeds is a thoroughly homemade affair; it’s a set of demos and first takes that have become a record that’s not even for sale apart from her website — and may not even be repressed once it has sold out of its initial print run. But Carson’s vision has never been clearer or unfettered in its view that life and love are indeed messy, and that’s why they are so precious. This gorgeous record can be praised in the same way one can praise a razor–or the fineness of its slash. The softness here, the heartbreaking tenderness and acceptance in the grain of her voice are given weight by quietly shimmering guitars and the minimal intrusion of percussion, basslines, or swelling keyboards. This music is imperfectly performed; it was recorded for the sake of the immediacy of emotional and poetic accuracy. It’s wonderfully imbalanced; it doesn’t feel mixed and certainly not mastered. There are ambient sounds that haunt its close spaces: birds, the sound of wood scraping on a floor, perhaps a chair, singing that foregoes any notion but approximate pitch, and the sound of guitar strings squeaking under slippery fingers. On these ten songs, Carson discusses the tentative hope that happiness, a fleeting gamble anyway, may indeed be present every day if only for a few moments. She acknowledges the important part brokenness plays in the making of a life, and especially in the life that makes art and a life with someone. On “Dream of the Oceans” she speaks of dreaming as both an abstract reality and the very thing that is missing, the thing that informs the subtler actions in life and the very thing that allows people to risk their hearts on the long shot. There is no point in discussing the music here, or the kinds of songs that appear here. These are all love songs, they are all heart songs, if fact, these songs are more like kisses, brief as snapshots: they’re eternal, but barely there. Their fragile beauty is nonetheless tensile, marvelous, full of the wonder of looking through the window and knowing that the world is still there, waiting for everyone to get up and take it in. On the last track the most profound truth is spoken, though it may have passed Carson by in the recording process. In the refrain of the last track, she sings repeatedly, “I’m always on your side.” But it isn’t her voice or the voice of the song’s protagonist (who may be one and the same, but the jury’s out there) that is speaking. The voice that speaks though Carson’s instrument is that of the heart speaking back to Carson, echoing its sentiment as if in prayer. The music here on House in the Weeds, simple as it is, defies categorization; it isn’t any specific kind of music as in rock or folk or pop, but is a music made up of all of those and more, and exists as none of them in any given moment. It is one that instructs morally, emotionally, and spiritually, simply because it doesn’t desire to, it just reports — it takes things in and allows them the freedom of a poetic, gentle utterance that carries in its subtle colors, textures, and happenstance atmospherics the transference of feeling and psychological notions so big, so vast, and so sensual in what they communicate that all they can do is whisper. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

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