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New Music: Caleb McCoach - Songs From An Empty Shore
Posted March 26, 2013 by Rob Peoni
WRITTEN BY
Rob Peoni
ON
March 26, 2013
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Caleb McCoach MFT Page

(Listen while you read!)

 

Depression and loneliness are two rare words in the English language, definable only to those that have known their company. They manifest differently in each of us, fleeting for some and a life-long burden for others. They shape our experiences and relationships. We process everything through them like some kind of ubiquitous camera lens. For most, these pangs of anxiety and melancholia are feelings we hold close to the vest, wary of those seeking to catch a glimpse.

Caleb McCoach pulls the listener in close on his debut LP, Songs From An Empty Shore, offering lurid snapshots in the form of deeply personal confessions. At times, the material can feel voeyeuristic. The listener is given a bird's eye view of this tragic space that we invaded unwittingly when the window flew open. We don't have any right to these stories, but they're too compelling and honest to ignore. The 10 tracks that comprise Songs From An Empty Shore prove powerful enough to move the listener to tears for their stark beauty as much as the pain it took to pen them.

Religion, and McCoach's capricious relationship with it, is all over this release. It casts a shadow over the broken yearning of "Need Him So Badly." It informs the hymn-like structure of "Be Thou My Vision," and the childlike acceptance of "Thank You Danny." It charts the various life paths of "Some Men." McCoach and God seem to circle each other on Songs From An Empty Shore, with neither reliable for support when the other needs it most desperately. Despite all of this, McCoach appears content in the fact that no matter how distant or tenuous their relationship may grow, his acknowledgement of something bigger and willingness to continue the conversation is enough.

This album is completely devoid of adornment, to a near obsessive degree. We hear the creak of the floorboards on "Some Men." The sigh and throat-clearing cough at the end of "Need Him So Badly." Every exhaled breath and pluck of the guitar on Songs From An Empty Shore is on display in its purest form. By the time a restrained piano line and maracas find their way into the production on "With A Song," the arrangement feels as lush as a symphony. Yet, the album is never lacking. The barren landscape or "empty shore" is the only suitable setting for these songs.

I want to be clear that McCoach has crafted an album on depression and not a depressing album with Songs From An Empty Shore. It's almost as if he braves these dark corners so the listener isn't forced to go it alone. He bares the burden for the rest of us. The danger becomes that we often prefer that our tortured artists remain tortured. I don't know McCoach personally, but I can't imagine it was easy to let go of these songs. It takes courage to invite your audience into such a personal space, and if six months from now McCoach decides to push back, we'll have to accept that.

For now, we are fortunate to have this terrific batch of introspective songs. McCoach recently expanded his solo project into a three-piece. My hope is that the new format will steer the singer toward some lighter fare, for his own betterment if not ours. The backing band should provide ample room to grow and a more dynamic live sound. McCoach's message is too often lost amidst the clinking glasses and disinterested drinkers of Indy's bar scene. Fortunately, we now have Songs From An Empty Shore to let us know exactly what we've been missing.

 

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