Valley Maker – “Yes, I Know I’ve Loved This World”

Perhaps Crane’s most brilliant work to date may leave you sitting still.

Cameron Barham

out of 10

Valley Maker
Yes, I Know I’ve Loved This World
August 10, 2013

You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
‘And how long is that going to take?’
‘I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
‘That could be a long time.’
‘I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.’
-Wendell Berry, “Jayber Crow”

Austin Crane of Valley Maker has some questions to which this current collection of songs on Yes, I Know I’ve Love This World delves without necessarily providing a host of neatly packaged answers. Some will find this disconcerting and try to read too far into what it ultimately means. This is a dangerous proposition given that fact that Crane is not declaring a confessional manifesto but is instead seeking to engage a broader conversation in which what the listener brings to the table by way of interpretation and feeling is as important as what he meant when he wrote and sang it. It would be very tempting to draw firm conclusions from some of these songs, however, I think it best to feel their weight in the ground of oneself recognizing that questions of this magnitude concerning life, place, identity, love, suffering, death, and beyond deserve deeper cultivation being allowed to grow and be pruned over time. These lines from “Take My People Dancing” seem to shed some light: “So please hear me, when I tell you all I how much I love you and I need and I want to see you living, You ask, ‘Austin tell us what you mean now’, ‘Nothing’, I say, ‘I just want to feel good, Tell me when you feel good.” Yes, I Know I’ve Loved This World is an invitation to engage the uncertainty and mystery while not forsaking all manner of certainty and hope.

The 10 songs were recorded over a 4 day period at Archer Avenue Studio under the direction of Kenny McWilliams. This is Crane’s 4th record at this studio. Valley Maker’s lineup includes Austin Crane, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, piano, and vocals, Amy Godwin, vocals, Nathan Poole, electric guitar and percussion, Caleb Weathersby, percussion, James Gibson, upright and electric bass, and Kenny McWilliams, piano and percussion. One of the beauties of this record is how musically spare and subtle it is at times allowing plenty of space for the lyrics and vocals to find purchase much like many of the great folk records from the ‘70s from the likes of Cat Stevens or Neil Young. Another key element is the fragility and grace of Amy Godwin’s vocals over the whole of this record for which words are insufficient to describe and headphones are required to appreciate in full. The overall tone of the record is one of hope in a minor key in which all 10 songs are significant.

Valley Maker – “By My Side (Everlasting Life)”

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Yes, I Know I’ve Loved This World opens powerfully with “By My Side (Everlasting Life)”, a love song of sorts in which Crane requests: “When the sun lights up your face, don’t give me time, don’t give me space, just give me something I can taste, like you right by my side.” Crane’s gift for a turn of phrase and tangled poetic meaning is further reflected in his questions from “Only Friend”: “Living in a foreign land, have you lost your eyes to see, have you found the garden tree, well if I stayed within your tree, I don’t know who I would be.” While it is tempting to make assumptions as to what these questions mean, I suspect that the truth is far more complex and in process than what the words meant when they were written and even what they may mean now. The beauty of this quality of not just this song but the whole record is that it beckons the listener back again and again to wrestle with its delicately crafted thoughts. The weight of this is felt most palpably on the lament “The Mission” in which Crane looks back longingly from a new vantage point and wonders what and who he will miss someday as he achingly promises: “I’ll let you all in, when I find my keys, friend.” Yes, I’ve Loved the World closes delicately with “Goodness” in which Crane wearily muses: “Yes I’ve hoped for things unseen, Yes, I’ve hoped for things unseen, Yes, I’m unsure of so many things, Unsure of so many things, I will not keep, I will not stay, I will not keep, I will not stay, Oh goodness, won’t you come my way? Another place, another day, Yes, I know I’ve loved this world…”

Yes, I’ve Loved This World is a work of paradoxical simplicity and complexity at multiple levels that warrants repeated engagement. Sink your senses deep in its soil and reap the fruit of your own experience recognizing that some questions take time and then some to answer.

-Cameron Barham, August 8, 2013