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The breadth of material featured in the set reinforced musical lessons Marquard has applied with both Dear and the Headlights and Gospel Claws. "I've always liked variety," he says. "It sucks to put in a record and have every song sound the same. I think I learned that from Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I remember thinking, there's so much variety here; I have to incorporate that [into] my own songwriting."
Though the record is firmly rooted in black gospel traditions, Marquard says he had no intention of performing in musical "black face."
"It never really entered my mind, I guess," he says, with a laugh. "Maybe I don't really hear it. I've kind of treaded on that territory with 'Don't Let It Die,' which is almost more African-American-[inspired]. I remember being interviewed once, and they asked what genre of music we were, and I said 'Negro Spiritual.' That's kind of what it is, you know?"
The record cover features Marquard cradling his baby son, Hamilton, and concludes, following a specifically nonreligious spoken-word piece, with a sample of "Wonderful Peace," recorded by Marquard's father, Don, in 1967. The record could be read as an observation of family traditions. "It's really interesting once you have a kid, man, trying to figure out what you [believe]," he says.
Though the songs of his latest project might not spell out Marquard's beliefs entirely, his own orthodoxy is made clear during "Peaceful Valley." Over a moaning, reverb-drenched slide guitar line, he speaks, in his characteristically slow drawl: "The world can be rough, sometimes / And friends can be few / But if you wear your joy on the outside / You know they'll be true / Well, my friends, I'm here to tell you, there's no reason to be blue / Find joy in the little things, and you'll make it through."
It's a reassuring message, considering such a messy source. The kind of sentiment Marquard appreciates.