Darkness to light: Gill Landry’s seminal new album

Tahoe Onstage

Gill Landry describes his new album as a map out of darkness.

Count singer-songwriter Gill Landry as another artist in a long, long line to write an album reconciling a broken heart, with his insightful new release, “Love Rides A Dark Horse.” Also, count Landry in a much shorter line of artists who can write a broken-hearted album that doesn’t feel broken at the end.

The emotional release after a breakup can be quite deflating. When it’s with the person who you thought you were going to marry, as was the case for Landry, it can be exponentially more debilitating. Your mourning for yourself, mourning for what it was you had together and mourning for the life you thought you were going to have.

Gill LandryThe singer-songwriter found himself holed up in the wind and rain of the Northwest for two weeks in a cabin on the coast of Washington, seeing how his feelings and experiences expressed themselves in pen and ink on the page. Landry continued his process over the next couple months in Nashville, living over at the house of friend and fellow splendid songwriter Nikki Lane. The result is “Love Rides A Dark Horse,” an album that Landry has described as “a map out of the darkness.”

The album is an exquisite offering of lyrical poetry and graceful musicianship that intertwines to tell Landry’s story of heartbreak and how he found himself out of it. The album opens up with the haunting gleam of “Denver Girls,” the ominous line “If it’s not paradise now / Tell me what you’re waiting for / Don’t you know there is no evermore?” foreshadowing Landry’s eventual despair over a stoic, cowboy soundscape.

In press for the new release, Landry has said the core of the album deals with characters who “find themselves disappointed with the reality of relationships due to their false idealizations.” Those sentiments are explored in songs such as the heart-wrenching “Bird In A Cage,” slow burning “The Real Deal Died” and pained but tender “Scripted Love,” which slowly meanders to the end like the last golden leaf from a tree drifting to the ground, signaling the switch from Fall to Winter.

The music is refined and purposeful, allowing the lyrics of the song to dictate the sound. The album exists in this brooding cowboy folk atmosphere, where golden-hour light shines through the dust kicked up walking the fields of Landry’s mind as he looks for clarity. Fiddler Ross Holmes, keyboard player Skylar Wilson and drummer Logan Matheny are deft musicians who help craft Landry’s vision. He also receives contributions from First Aid Kit’s Klara Soderberg, Karen Elson and Odessa.

But this album isn’t about wallowing. It’s about finding out what is real again, after the facade of love has been destroyed, and focusing on that. “The darkest moments can be treasure,” Landry sings on the relatively bouncy “Berlin,” the momentum of the beat heading toward the light instead of from it. He’s wry and dry in the uplifting “The Only Game In Town” and there is a future for love and connection in the sentimental “The Woman You Are.” Reconciling and reflecting is an important thing to do, but Landry seems to understand that moving forward is the only real solution to heartbreak. In that sense, “Love Rides A Dark Horse” provides a beautiful map for the rest of us to follow when we find ourselves in the darkest of times.

-Garrett Bethmann

  • Gill Landry
    ‘Love Rides A Dark Horse’
    Release: Oct. 6, 2017
    Label: Norman Records UK

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.

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