Though War & Peace is Shannon LaBrie’s sophomore endeavor, the singer-songwriter sounds as though she’s a veteran of social and political consciousness with her latest record. The Nashvillean touches on troubling internal problems as well as the domestic level at large, a portentous and cautionary album with LaBrie’s gorgeous vocals at the helm.
LaBrie reminds one of an early T Bone Burnett – nudie suit, snarled lip and all – with the sensibilities of Jenny Lewis. LaBrie doesn’t get caught up in all too much in the poetry of what she is conveying; War & Peace is just as concerned with the message as it is the solid landing of Americana music it presents.
“At times I was unhinged from reality and lost as a woman in every way,” says LaBrie. “These songs are small doses of the war I feel inside and the peace I long to find.”
LaBrie certainly presents the views of a wayward America, most notably on the track, “It’s Political.” Prescient and perfectly acerbic, LaBrie’s musings on the unhinged state of politics in the nation could not seem to arrive at a better time.
LaBrie also faces internal turmoil on “Crumble,” an elegant yet haunting response to her own personal tragedy prior to recording the album. LaBrie becomes part of the wailing organ and the thunderous drums as she croons. Akin to a melancholy Neil Young ballad, LaBrie expresses personal disdain while addressing the problem at large.
War & Peace is capped off with that LaBrie calls a “straight up love song” on “Then There’s You,” featuring Gabe Dixon. LaBrie considers it an important conclusion to the album in that it may address some of the more pressing issues of romance, it still ultimately champions a positive phenomenon.
For more information on LaBrie’s album and how to pre-order, visit her site. LaBrie will be performing at the Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC on April 22, The Opening Bell in Dallas on April 29 and will be performing an album release show at The High Watt in Nashville on May 4.
– Jake Tully
As an extra special treat, LaBrie has shared her track by track commentary exclusively with Elmore. Check it out as you listen to the album!
“It’s Political”: “Hysterical, you’re just another average TV show, a team of writers and a pot of gold, you’ve never had to pay.” Politicians today make President Lincoln look like a fairy tale. Everything I see on TV feels manipulated and untruthful. Today’s politicians are in a game against each other and I honestly don’t know if they give a damn about the American people. They are after a pot of gold and in the end we will have to pay for their greed. Just another millennial longing for the voice of honest Abe. “I’m gonna move back west, bury all my hope in Kansas.” It’s the weakness in myself that wants to give up. Go to the center of my country and bury my hope of ever having an honest President that stands for what is right. I love my country, I hate politics.
“For You”: “Write a new song, help me move one, cause today I don’t know who I’ve become.” This song is about expectations and failing to meet them. I got so caught up in what others expected of me that I lost sight of who I actually was and who I’d become. At some point, I had to look myself in the eye and say, “I can’t keep living my life based on the expectations of others.” I have to do what I believe is right, regardless of the backlash, both personally and professionally.
“Took My Whole Life”: “From the start I wanted power, but it was quick to fade.” Hosea is a story in the Bible about a woman who keeps running away from her beloved. Her husband loves and cherishes her and yet, she keeps running away into prostitution where she treated like a dog. I relate to this story a lot. I’m constantly fighting love and running away from it. I think I’m powerful, but in reality, I’m afraid. It was a beautiful moment when I started to take the risk and rest in love as apposed to fighting it.
“Heaven Crashed Down”: “It took a toll on me, oh the things I’d pray, angry is not the word, it was more like rage.” This song is a literal depiction of losing my Dad to cancer. In a way, it’s also a confession to losing a belief system. They’d say, “he’s in heaven,” and “we rejoice with you.” As a kid, those statements felt more cruel than comforting. It was hard to process the slow decline of my Dad physically and then finally, to watch him exhale his last breath. “I hated everything but time, especially those dark green stairs. They’d be the last stairs he’d ever climb and the first stairs he’d ever come down dead.”
“American Dream”: “American Dream, close to me like the air I breath.” There have been recent moments when I’ve looked around and been overwhelmed at the goodness of life. I have so much to be thankful for. Endless possibilities at my fingertips. Failures and successes on the horizon. Most people aren’t born into the American Dream. I don’t want to take it for granted. Every step along the way has been a step towards a dream realized.
“Crumble”: “You’ve stolen all my will, my fight’s gone.” This song is about resting. It’s about accepting life as it is. It’s about love, it’s about loss, it’s about freedom. So much of my life I spent trying to “get over it.” It wasn’t until recently that I realized I have to accept that I will never overcome grief. It’s part of me and I have to embrace it. I will never “get over,” the loss of my baby. I will never “get over,” the loss of my Dad. I will carry them with me for the rest of my life and that’s okay. There is freedom in accepting defeat. It’s good to crumble.
“Alcohol”: “Like a dead man holding me, we’re buried six years deep, I can’t escape from this disease.” Addiction is an infectious disease that affects everyone around it. You don’t realize it when you are in the midst of it, but at some point, you find yourself addicted to the vicious cycle as much as the one addicted to the substance. My addiction to trying to fix him was just as life altering as his addiction to alcohol.
“Against A Wall”: “All my friends, they don’t realize, I’m in my bed, only half alive.” This songs speaks to how easy it is to hide from reality. I went through several harsh years after losing my baby. My health declined and in turn I went into a deep depression. I could open my computer and write clever status updates, post out dated pictures and pretend my life was going great! While at the same time, be crying in bed, alone with my blinds closed. Looking back I feel that I robbed myself from being loved during the worst time of my life. Social media can’t touch you. It can’t look you in the eye and say “how are you doing?” Your “friends,” on the other end of the status line don’t have to look at your reality. They only have to look at the “reality,” you chose to portray. “I’m not dead, I’m just looking at you, feel my pulse, feel a touch of truth, against a wall, I can’t breath, something real is what I need.”
“War & Peace”: “Pull that bow back baby, pull that bow back tight, I can take it honey, let those arrows fly.” This song is about my better half taking me at my worst. The following years after we lost our baby were brutal. There were nights when I’d lose it. I would genuinely lose it. He would tell me, “there’s a point in the night when I look in your eyes and I know I’ve lost you.” I feel very fortunate that we made it through the past five years and that he so willingly absorbed so many of those nights. “Can you see it in my eyes, war and peace, damn the way I fight, so stubbornly.”
“Ain’t Just A Feeling”: “Feel the beat of your heart, safer than I’ve ever been.” This song was a bit of a milestone for me. After losing our baby, love was a far off dream. Feeling good, feeling like a woman, feeling beautiful wasn’t something that came easily, or, at all. This song was a result of a night that I felt good. I was able to step out of the sadness for a moment and just be happy. Even though I knew that the next day might feel terrible, that night, it was okay to feel good.
“Weight of Your Words”: “I wish you would have thought before you talked to me.” Words deeply affect who we are as people. Good or bad, we can’t take them back. When I say something hurtful to someone I love, they have to bear that burden. Our words can never be erased. They can either lift someone up or push them down. Words have weight enough to be burdensome. “Do you know what it’s like? To be here all alone? To live with all the weight of your words?” It’s easy to give advice over the phone when you’re a thousand miles away. It’s easy to have an opinion on someones circumstances when you don’t have to face them day in and day out. My personal experience, when I was grieving, words meant so much more. Good and bad. It just so happens, I remember the bad more then I remember the good. I was told several times that I wasn’t grieving the way I should be. That I wasn’t moving forward fast enough. What they didn’t know was, while they were giving unsolicited advice on the way I was living my life, I had been shriveled up in the corner of my room crying in the dark for the past week because I couldn’t make sense of why I should get up. It’s a good question to ask: “Do I know what it’s like? If I were in their shoes, would I want to hear what I have to say?” More times than not, I think people would rather have a person there to hold them in silence. Sometimes words just hurt to much. Good or bad.
“Then There’s You”: “There’s life, there’s love, then there’s you.” This song is a straight up love song. It’s about love and romance, but it is also about suffering and remaining steadfast through the hard times. The beginning of the song gives a day to day account of love. By the end of the song you have lived a long life together and have come to a beautiful conclusion that “life,” and “love,” are just words. It’s the one you love that gives those words life and meaning.