Carry Illinois – “Electric Charm”/”Sea Inside”

 Carry Illinois – “Electric Charm”/”Sea Inside”

Carry Illinois – “Electric Charm”/”Sea Inside” – Single Review

In order to properly review and address the content on the new single from Carry Illinois…there’s an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed…

When I was thinking about what I wanted to review this week, I ended up checking out several bands that I’ve enjoyed in the past through reviews here at SBS…artists & bands that I’ve made an established, lifelong connection with through their music and friendship…bands like Swami Lushbeard, Aztec, and here today with Carry Illinois.  This band definitely falls into that category of artists/bands that have transcended the music and into real-life…a life I enjoy and do my absolute best to not take for granted.

I was not…and I’m still not always like this; I just do the best I can to enjoy the ride for what it is.

As has been documented here in the history of these pages times-over I’m sure…I’ve battled serious depression my entire life; it took me a long time to understand what I wanted to personally achieve, contribute to and expect out of life…and like I mentioned – still not really sure I always get the ‘point’ of it all myself.  In fact…I was recently extremely comforted by reading the words of a young Henry Rollins from his novel The First Five which chronicles much of his early youth; I came across a relatable piece of writing that talked about how we should all be able to acknowledge that sometimes…whether it’s internal or external…what we feel can be too much and that sometimes we all experience that feeling of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’  Reading those words made so much sense…I’ve felt that way…I understand what’s being said there and I certainly agree with the sentiment that a lot more understanding from us all in knowing that this is actually an extremely relatable but isolated and hard set of feelings & emotions we all truly share and experience at some point in time.

Earlier this year, in March of 2016, the bass-player for Carry Illinois, John Winsor, tragically chose to end his own life.

I wrote that sentence and stared at it like it wasn’t real…but it is.  It certainly is for the remaining band-members of Carry Illinois; you can see through social media just how much they loved, supported and embraced their musical-brother and how much they continue to miss him to this day.  You can tell by the fact that they collectively went on to finish the final two recordings that feature John’s gifted talent for music and truly honor their band-mate…their friend…their family.  How we treat each other in life is one thing…but how we remember a life-passed is another – and I think the fact that this band summed-up the courage to honor John’s memory in tribute with these final recordings speaks volumes about the people & players in this band and it’s an incredible testament to just how important he truly was to each and every one of them.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed Carry Illinois…but I’ve never stopped listening and they’ve never stopped getting better and tighter as a band.  As difficult as it was emotionally to push play on these two songs not exactly knowing what to expect…”Electric Charm” immediately brought a smile to my face.  I’m not going to lie to you…you hear that rhythm in the bass and that smile becomes a bit of a sad-smile; definitely a talented musician and certainly gone too soon.  Knowing the history of the music on this one almost makes it tough to not hear the bass more than any other element in these two tunes…BUT…you really CAN hear the grooves on the bass that had him become a pillar of the Carry Illinois sound clearly.  Whether on the smooth rhythm of “Electric Charm” or the rubbery & playful bounce of the bright groove he’s latched onto on “Sea Inside” – John nailed these two tracks perfectly and the band has got these two tracks mixed in the exact way YOU yourself would want to go out being remembered for.  Credit to names like engineer Sean Rolie, Alex Lyon’s mastering and Chris Smith with the production – all hands involved handled these two tracks with the professionalism, respect and genuine sincerity they deserved.  Somewhere out there…John is listening…and I can only imagine he’d be extremely proud of Carry Illinois like never before.

Proud of the beautiful way that Lizzy Lehman opens the two-song set with her gorgeous vocals and sweet acoustic tones.  Proud of the crisp snap of the drums from Rudy Villarreal, proud of the solid keyboard solos & fills of Derek Morris, proud of the perfect way that Darwin Smith accents the melody with his electric tones on guitar.  Proud of the way that these songs came out as stunning, focused and beautiful as they truly have; the effort put in here speaks completely to the genuine love they have for their fallen band-mate, but also the strength they have to carry on.

Something about the music Lizzy Lehman has made throughout the years has always found a way to remind me of R.E.M. in their early-days through the freedom, melody and passion in the songs she writes.  There’s something in this first tune from Carry Illinois; “Electric Charm”…like…almost like a “South Central Rain” vibe if memory serves me correctly that you can hear flowing through the rhythm and melody in the music through the verse – and Lehman leans towards a Chrissy Hynde-inspired, soulful, strong & powerful set of tones that come out sounding confident and completely as gorgeous as I’ve come to expect from what I consider to be one of the most reliable artists out there in the independent music scene today.  Whether solo and on her own or with Carry Illinois – she’s always managed to make beautiful music and really make it connect to listeners through her commitment to performance – you’ll hear that magic spring to full-bloom even further with the absolutely stellar turn she takes on the microphone for “Sea Inside.”  I mean…C’MON people!  That rhythm and flow she’s created here in the vocal-melody is every bit the proof you need that it’s not just about what you can write, but also very much about what you bring to the performance that completes the full-scope of the ambition.  With one of her best performances to-date on the microphone, the vibrant energy of LL’s performance on “Sea Inside” is highly memorable and possesses an incredible strain of pure strength, passion and confidence in her vocals.  Complementing the song perfectly, Derek and Darwin really fill in the spaces left within “Sea Inside” with really clever additions that warm the atmosphere while the rhythm-section also leaves nothing else to be desired through a stellar performance that has every beat & bar played with real heart and real passion you can hear.

As much as I like to believe that music can heal the entire world…the evidence speaks to the contrary here with John’s tragic passing.  What we all face as individuals might be shared in experience but truly has a different weight on each and every one of our shoulders.  I think that what might be fine for some can prove to be too much for others…but even in outcomes like this, that’s a choice that is personal and has to be respected, not ever ridiculed.  Even in the toughest of situations…when we really love someone in our lives we support them in both life and in death…and I really believe that Carry Illinois has proven that here with the amount of respect, care and due-diligence they’ve applied to these tunes.  As tough as every part of this adventure must have been – the end result and stunning melodies and performances that Carry Illinois has put into “Sea Inside” and “Electric Charm” finish this chapter of their lives and career on a musical-highlight and personal-lows…but I know there will be more to this story.  They will move forward…John would have wanted them to under any circumstance I’m sure – and I truly believe he’d be extraordinarily proud of the amazing music they’ve made here together, one final time.

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