HEAR IT FIRST: LUCY KAPLANSKY "EVERDAY STREET" by Kim Ruehl
There seems to be a trend lately of singer-songwriters turning their focus toward nature. While the natural world has always provided plenty of fodder for well-considered metaphors, it’s worth noting that this year, particularly, has been full of great songwriting about nature’s little efforts at balance.
The latest remarkable record in this thread is Lucy Kaplansky’s Everyday Street, out this week.
Kaplansky, who also has a PhD in clinical psychology, has a well-honed gift for making sense of the everyday, mundane details of life (“February morning, the news was on,” she sings in “Keeping Time”). Somehow when she sings these little notes, life’s apparently disparate dots connect, and we get an image that is equal parts heartbreaking, hopeful, and chocked full of humanity.
On the album’s opening track, Kaplansky sings along with her old friend Shawn Colvin, about their early days as singer-songwriters, and all wisdom they’ve gained in hindsight. The song is equal parts nostalgia and gratitude, told through vignettes packed with the kinds of details that hint at the truth without feeling the need to spell it out. (“Suspending notes that don’t belong / seconds and sixths, whatever we want.”)
Even her delivery of the world’s most covered song, “Hallelujah,” makes good sense here, as Kaplansky hews closer to Leonard Cohen’s original version than the more frequently covered Jeff Buckley recording. That small detail says much about Kaplansky’s interest in where things begin, the power only a folksinger wields.
The title track of Everyday Street is no exception. Indeed, it is somewhat of an ode on the mundane, with Kaplansky singing in her plain folk alto about just taking a walk down the street. Suddenly an activity that is so commonplace as to seem unremarkable in artistic statement becomes a treatise on how beauty is everywhere, we just have to look around (“Each flower, each leaf is calling you”).
The message should not be lost, in these trying times.
The pithy old curse stated, “May you live in interesting times.” And here we are. Thankfully we have artists like Lucy Kaplansky to draw our eyes to the small hints of beauty and promise around us, to remind us that hope is not a large, leaping, caterwauling thing, but rather a small bud on a fragile branch, trying in earnest to bloom.