Many legends have it that we as humans have more than one person living within us. Some cultures today think we have two, some think we have more. Regardless, it is hard to argue against the premise, all of us swimming in different levels of fear with every step. Fear of death. Fear of life. Fear of success and failure. It is a well we fall into on occasion, the vast majority of us fighting demons we neither recognize nor understand. It is not constant for most, but it is there. And it controls us whether we think so or not.
I see it in the desolation of alone presented in the video portrayal of a young girl chased by spirits which do or do not exist in a wilderness of uncertainty until she screams.
I hear it in the almost medieval approach of “Raven” and “Shadows of a Man.” I sense it in the delicacy of “Tumwater” and “Fireflies.”
Whitney's vision is not hopeless. Though she struggles to breathe at times there is always hope--- the hope of the scream if nothing else. The bottoming out which brings once again a breath of life. They are not all demons, these spirits of the wilderness. Some are sympathetic and kind, such as Whitney's grandmother who appeared one night.
“I remember one of the darkest times,” Whitney says, “In the middle of the night, I was sitting on the couch, trying to get my mind out of a well-worn spiral. Then I imagined my grandmother’s face looking at me with full compassion when my own mind was saying so many other things.” That look, one that had comforted Beth in childhood, struck a balance for the songwriter, giving her the strength to go forward.
On The Wild Unrest, she delves beneath the surface--- sometimes far beneath--- trying to find... something. What she creates during that search is haunting and eerily beautiful. She has an unerring sense of phrasing, that something which many folkies and vocalists do not have. The rests between voices. The whispering and broken tones. The cries beneath it all. The intake of breath at just the right moments. I have listened to music for years and have found a number of voices as good, but none better. That is what phrasing does for you. It is also what phrasing does to me. It brings an ache to my heart and at certain moments, a tear to my eyes.
I will be listening to this mostly in the very early morning with the lights down, probably exhausted from watching and thinking about what the world is becoming, maybe with a cup of coffee just for company. I will listen when I need melody and someone to sing how I feel. I will listen when I need hope, for as dark as a couple of the songs are they are hopeful. More than that, they are beautiful.
I give a nod to husband/collaborator Aaron Fishburn because music this good is not created in a vacuum. Everyone and everything is an influence. Fishburn is responsible for strings and, I assume, arrangements and let me tell you, they are very tasty, at times carrying the mood almost by themselves. The album would not be quite the same without him.
When I started writing this review, I somehow got sidetracked. Normally I would have started it with the following video. I seem to want to start at the beginning each time. Somehow it seems fitting that I move it to the end this time.
And this, my friends, is Beth Whitney. In her own words.