Paul Marshall showed up exceptionally early for his first Daytrotter taping in the fall of 2010, having rented a car in Chicago and driven for the first time ever, stateside. He made the trip solo and gave himself plenty of insurance, leaving the big city about two hours earlier than he needed to, as a precaution, thinking that there was always a chance that something could go wrong. He got to Rock Island and stopped off at the microbrewery down the street from the studio, to souse his jangled nerves and all the anxiety that he had in making the drive. He left a message that if we needed him sooner than the scheduled time -- that he was there, and he was the man with the incredible mustache. Those were his exact words and said mustache was better than advertised. He's mentioned recently that he may have sliced the thing off this winter and for that, we ask for a moment of silence for the death of a formidable lip awning.
Marshall, who lives in Leeds, makes music as Lone Wolf, material that is stripped of its wool, music that looks like a fleeced sheep, black face the same, but its body suddenly struck by chilliness, pink and bare, shivering in the wind. A lone wolf, without a pack to roll in, probably feels a lot like a freshly shorn sheep, those natural enemies feeling as if they might have more in common than they ever thought they could. They stand there, with their knees knocking, knowing that they need to make he right decisions, or else. A lone wolf, that defiant beast - bravely defiant, without back-up - if we're talking about the animal in the wild, would likely be full of a lot more bravado than does Marshall's Wolf, a creature that is more a hologram than a real being. It's the idea of a lone wolf, as Marshall seems to tell the tales of men who have been around, who aren't whole any longer. They are ravaged. They may as well be riddled with bullet holes, like an old gas tank used for target practice. They are men who have been through wars - a few of those world wars that the books tell us about - and they are men who have in their hands these various pieces and they don't know where to place them. Some of these pieces they aren't even sure where they came from, but they look oddly familiar as if they do belong. These are men whose stitches and scars still itch a touch, even though they are decades and decades old. They should be forgotten about by now, but they aren't.
Marshall's songs are rich with the reactions of men to these situations of ever-present despair and not knowing with their bodies are here for, what they're actually supposed to be doing with them. There are stolen years and there are lost years and those in Lone Wolf songs know a whole lot about both forms of years. Marshall sings of being tired of the "mutes in my life" and of "this glass body." He sings of life as a war and as one big snow job - something that can only potentially be made sense of long afterward, when we're no longer stuck in the middle of it. We just keep getting tossed around, letting our instincts try and try and try to sniff out the right moves and Marshall sings of the process on "We Could Use Your Blood, "We could use your blood to paint this house red/We could use your blood to heal this whole town/We could use your blood before we pass out." We're here, damn it, and there's nothing that's too clear. We're just used to being used.
*Essay originally published January, 2011