The first layer of most Aunt Martha songs is a combination of rusted pine needles, a fallen night and sunken spirits, along with a red moon that's looking down on a small, isolated place getting hit with the kinds of temperatures that make engines refuse to start. You're going to need a pretty thick coat to get through the outer parts of the songs, but by the time you've gotten to the middles of them, someone's made a nice enough fire that you'll be okay for a while, before reality sets in, we've all outstayed our welcomes and we know we have to drag our bodies back through the woods, back out into that cold, to get back to our cars - which may or may not start when we want them to. We've already been through that possibility.
The band from the rural town of Wilmot, New Hampshire, takes us to these cold nights out of habit and it takes us out and into the kinds of intense, but supple conditions that bring forth the feelings of inadequacy, or a general feeling of disconnection. We're out there in the middle of an inspiring chunk of land - with wood smoke as a fragrance and the hollow thrum of our worrisome thoughts and problems. With enough distance and time, we can be swept away in a sea of cumulative slips, gaffs, quarrels, loves and triumphs.
When you get out there, to those places that Aunt Martha and lead singer Tim Noyes seem to spend most of their time, you're without the artifice and you're stuck with yourself. You can think about the man or woman you've become and wonder where you went wrong and still consider the small things that you might have done right along the way, if you're willing to cut yourself any small piece of slack. You see those people that you grew up with - those who grew up in the same house as you did, those with as close to the same blood as you have and those who you met at the oddest of times. There are those that you still think about, wonder how they're doing, if they have a family now, wonder what their wife is like, or wonder if they finally got around to treating themselves the way they should have always treated themselves and started being with men who would treat them right, eventually getting happen. Then there are those whom you've forgotten about forever and the same goes for you in their minds.
It takes some time to become what you're going to become and sometimes it never fully happens. It just means that more walks are in order. It means more hours and more solitary confinement - of a sort - is going to be needed to work through all of the stinking questions that swarm and buzz. Noyes has obviously thought about the sunken nights and the people that he's known, loved and been since he can remember. Perhaps living in a place where everyone knows everyone - can't avoid them, really - allows you to delve deeper into the makeup of some people, yourself included. Maybe it's more important to do such a thing in places like that. "Bloodshot," is a song that stirs your soul. Its words so poignant that they should almost be quoted in full, to corroborate the beauty that a close look can bring out in a man. Noyes sings, "They tell me a man is just the sum of his parts/Well I'm body and blood and a terrible heart/And it all adds up to every different person I've been/I wanted to crash your party but I couldn't find your house/I wanted to touch your body and kiss you on the mouth/Bloodshot/What do you want?/I know that you see me as a younger man/But cities and countries they had other plans/And we all grow up, what do you think you're gonna grow back?/The people around me they're not my friends/You can do what you want/I'd rather pretend/Cause nobody should be lonely/Everyone needs people like that." Nothing can last here and "everyone you know is living at home in a gutted out basement," but what should anyone be running from if the only thing we really need to run from is our disruptive self and damn if that ain't an impossibility.
*Essay originally published December, 2011