Alone Together, by the Harrisburg Virginia collective Dr. How and The Reasons to Live is an album about life and death. Literally. The twelve songs that comprise the record were written during the time that one of the singer/songwriters, a Howdyshell brother, found himself constantly going to funerals, seeing people all around him leaving this world for another. And he documents these experiences throughout Alone Together, sometimes in a way that is sweet and heartfelt, and at other times in ways that are powerfully meaningful on a humanistic level.
The reason this works so well is that Alone Together is a steeped in that soulful folk and Americana that lends itself to such a solid background for dealing with death and tragedy, in a way that so many other styles of music cannot. Take for instance the ribald and rather catchy opener “Remember the Ground” which at first sounds like a sweet head bobbing bit of folk perfect for listening to as you sip iced tea on the front porch.
But then you start to dig into the song and find it’s not full of much sunshine. Even on the tongue and cheek following track “Raging Sun,” a big and full band swell of classic Americana, eeriness still pervades Howdyshell’s lyrics. He does this even on the happier bits of songs such as the twangy and upbeat “Porch Swing.”
But even with all this death looming in the background, Dr. How and the Reasons to Live still has plenty of fun rocking out. Take the spastic and raucous “Deep Down Twirl” which is an excellent example of the strong musicianship the band has. And despite the darkness of the title “Fear of Death” is a swanky honky tonk addled hit that will keep listeners entranced as well as the jaunty, reggae-styled funk of “Money and Happiness,” and even the beautiful gospel music inspired “Die Alone.”
Art and death will forever be linked because art, and in the case of Alone Together, music is used as a tool to help try and heal the pain that death causes the people who are left behind to deal with what comes next. And although the record may not be able to stop death, it certainly helps to put life in perspective and acts as way to begin healing.
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