LOOKS LIKE RAIN: ALBUM REVIEW
Looks like Rain conjures up its own weather. Between every song, and even in the background sometimes, the sound of pattering rain creates the atmosphere for Mickey Newbury’s masterpiece. This pitter-patter of rain, a chilling backing choir, the soft strum of a guitar and the soft hint of bells, give this album a constant feeling of melancholy. This melancholy changes the feel of the instruments backing Newbury and colors his voice to a degree where he feels like a physical expression of the rain he sings about.
The album begins with the seven-minute “Write a Songs a Song / Angeline” ballad. Newbury’s voice barely raises above the volume of a whisper. This odyssey of a song immediately lets you know that you are in for a ride through sadness. He sings, “Heartache and sorrow And sadness, unendingly find Wings on her memory With them, she flies to my mind.” Eventually, his vocals and his guitar become almost part of the rain. He begins to slip into the background, becoming the sadness he sings about.
Looks Like Rain is also a journey through the heartbreak of a breakup. The often-covered song “She Even Woke Me up to Say Goodbye” begins with the lines, “Well, mornings come and Lord, my mind is aching. The sunshine standing quietly at my door Just like the dawn my heart is silently breaking And with my tears it goes tumbling to the floor.” This song especially demonstrates the genius of his songwriting. The simple and subtle poetry he waves through his desperately sad lyrics is so powerful, especially when paired with his almost monotone and calm voice. These songs are not the type that knock you over with emotion, instead they seep into your brain and hit you over the course of the rest of your day. Everything about this album is quiet and understated, but for some reason, that just makes the emotional capacity of the album stronger.
“33rd of August” is what originally attracted me to this album. The first few minutes of the song feel like you have entered a different universe. Once the lyrics come in the trickling chimes in the background collide with a soft choir and highlight the haunting nature of Newbury’s voice. He sings “I’ve put my dangerous feelings under lock and chain. I guess I’ve killed my violent nature with a smile.” In all of his songs, Newbury creates a tension between the beauty that he sees in the natural world and his own melancholic nature. These contrasts appear everywhere in his work. Each sad feeling is accompanied by a beautiful image. Every breakup comes with a sunrise, and every violent urge comes with a smile.
The song “San Francisco Mable Joy” showcases the storytelling talent of Newbury. He tells the story of a Georgia farm boy, who leaves his love when he goes to jail. The way that he tells this story, we know that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but again, we see the beauty contrasted with the sadness of this story. He sings, “Laughter found their mornings to be the meaning to his life Now the night before she left sleep came And left that Waycross country boy.” Again he pairs the happiness of laughter with the sadness of leaving his loved one for what turns out to be forever.
The melancholy nature of this album makes it perfect to throw on during any late-night storm. The beauty of his words just grow over time and grant a feeling of somber peace at even the most stressful times. Mickey Newbury is a legendary figure and Looks Like Rain showcases the full extent of his talents.