A Season of Songs, Day 76: To Hell And Back

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “To Hell and Back” by Madeline from her 2007 album “The Slow Bang”.

You hold your head high while I just put mine in the sand
I could talk for hours and you would never understand
And I ramble about nothing
Oh I wish that you’d hold my hand
Oh lord, I’m overcome
And wanting what is wrong
But if my struggle is a sin
I’d go to hell, to hell and back again

There occasionally seems to be those periods where you discover some new band and then they keep coming back through town to play shows like every six months and you go to see them each time and then suddenly they stop coming.  Such was the situation with Madeline, who played Pittsburgh a good half-dozen times from mid 2009 through 2011.  She played a number of different venues from bars to coffeehouses to DIY spaces to living rooms.  Sometimes she played solo, sometimes with the full backing band.  Emma and I were lucky to play with her once at a house show with our little acoustic cover act Twin High Maintenance Machines (actually on some other occasions we have performed one of Madeline’s songs – “Bella’s Song”).  During that time she put out two LP’s – “White Flag” and “Black Velvet”, both of which we picked up. Since the last show she played here in November 2011, I’ve heard very little about her.  It seems like she plays some shows around her homebase of Athens, GA and does the occasional out-of-town show, but it doesn’t seem like she’s been touring or recording for awhile.  Looking at her website now, it looks like she did a little midwestern tour in the winter, but no Pittsburgh appearance.

Aside from the two LP’s worth of material, Emma must have tracked down these other handful of songs that we have on the ipod.  They seem to be 3 EP’s.  Today’s song claims to be off a record called “The Death of Madame Butterfly”, which I can’t find any information about, but elsewhere on the web it just lists it on the “The Slow Bang” LP.

Madeline’s music is a pretty straight-forward folk sound.  On the newer LP’s she is backed by a full band, giving it a fuller sound, but it still retains its folkiness.  Having grown up in Athens, GA, her voice has a bit of a southern feel; not a full on twang, but just enough of a southern inflection to give it some character.  Her lyrics mix up the folkiness and southern feel with a little bit more of an indie rock/rock and roll/pop sensibility.  She seems to have one foot in punk rock and feminism and another in the depths of classic country themes of broken hearts and such.  Seeing her live, she always projected a strong presence but listening to her music you’ll note her lyrics also express a lot of vulnerability.  A good example is the lyrics to “Please Don’t Put Me Down” — “Don’t put me down, you know, i’m not one of the guys / Just because it’s clever, that doesn’t make it any less unkind / Oh, I”m so crazy for you I’d jump if you gave the sign.”

“To Hell And Back” is another good example – a song about the struggle between what one wants and what one might think is actually good for you.  A simple strummed guitar and a backing vocal is all the accompanies Madeline’s voice.  A real, sweet, stripped down song.  A wonderful example of Madeline’s music.

If you were to ask which Madeline record to pick up, I think i’d recommend you go with “Black Velvet” first.  “White Flag” is worth it as well.  I haven’t heard the full albums from earlier in her catalog, but the songs from the EP’s we have seem to indicate that all of her music is worth checking out.

Note: Some of her earlier records are under the full name Madeline Adams.  Also, do not confuse “Madeline” with “Madeline Ava”, who is another woman who plays some folk ukulele stuff that I can’t really endorse.


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