I Speak Because I Can
Outside of Joni Mitchell's Blue, I don't really "do" acoustic solo folk. The lyrics tend to be hyper-poetic, something I've never been a big fan of. For all the praise shoveled on Leonard Cohen, with the exception of "Hallelujah" and "Diamonds in the Mine," I've never gotten it. This is music populated by lines like "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in," which seems deeper than it really is. I feel that way about everything he wrote, even those I enjoy, such as "Dance Me to the End of Love." It's full of the sorts of general, broad, intentionally obscure lines that other writers get belittled for scribing. The idea almost seems to be to make the lyrics so general and so meaningless that everyone will assume them to mean only the deepest things. This is, of course, only one man's opinion.
There's a line in "Made by Maid," the beautiful second track on I Speak Because I Can, where Marling says, "On the hill where I was born, there is a rose without a thorn. They cut it off each year and give it away." I have no idea what it means, but it's lovely, and, unlike when I listen to Joni Mitchell or Laughin' Lenny, I don't feel like Laura Marling is judging me for not knowing what it means. Perhaps it is the canonical pressures attached with listening to Mitchell, Cohen, or Dylan, but I've always felt like I'm a lesser listener for their music not meaning anything to me. It could be that they all take themselves so damned seriously.
I know why I love "Diamonds in the Mine," on Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate; it's the sound of Cohen having fun, something he's really only ever done the once, something Dylan's getting better at as he gets older, and something Joni Mitchell has never been accused of. I bring this up because Marling, whom I realize I have barely mentioned in a review of her own album, sounds as though she's enjoying herself. She is serious, she is astonishingly mature for 20 years old, she has a gorgeous voice and is a formidable guitar player, and her words are clearly invested with more meaning than most, but it doesn't get in the way. I don't feel like she's judging me for not knowing what she means when she talks about the rose on the hill. And for that, I am more willing to try and form my own interpretations.
This review is admittedly premature. I've only listened to this album three times, twice on Saturday and once last night, and I don't believe that's enough time to digest anything. I will likely be driven to reappraise this album in the coming month.