The unofficial fifth member of Billy Strings band is also the fiddler for Bruce Hornsby is also a published author is also curator of the Nashville collective, Forecast is also an accomplished composer and artist in his own right. John Mailander may not be a braggart so let me do that for him. The ways your body will move when you listen to John play remind me of his book, A Fiddler’s Guide to Moveable Shapes. Even if you sit perfectly still your soul will bend down to the water that John’s music fluidly provides. John Mailander’s new EP Look Closer is the next installment in his saga of music that reveals more soul-bending music with each new taste of his fiddle fond collective creative honey.
Look Closer was recorded over July 4th weekend, 2020, live in one room, with great safety precautions, masks, and distancing. Due to the pandemic, many of the Forecast had not had an opportunity to play music live with others in months. This four-day session was a joyous rediscovery and mediation on musical connection and purpose. Look Closer features the musicianship of Ethan Jodziewicz - Bass, Chris Lippincott - Pedal Steel / Wurlitzer, Mark Raudabaugh - Drums, Jake Stargel - Guitar, David Williford - Tenor Saxophone / Bass Clarinet, Kristina Train - Vocals, Maya de Vitry - Vocals. The music was arranged as a group collectively during the sessions.
The package arrived on an overcast Monday. It was still too cold to garden and my plants looked like they sorely needed to be outside. Ignoring their pleas, I popped on John Mailander’s Forecast new EP, Look Closer. Forecast has come to include his entire community of musicians in Nashville that intentionally bring their artistic vision to the composition. I was forecasted to sink into my listening chair and take in the whole musical meal for nourishment. With 3 songs on side A and 3 songs on side B it was just quick enough to keep my meditation in the cosmos, out of reality, but at 45ish minutes still planted in mother Earth. There is nothing more grounding than realizing whoops! It’s time to flip the record. The low crackle of analog gave way to simple plucks that pick up the pace. A taste of honey from the horn section formed sweetness and softly the melody marched in.
Socially distant and musically close, bonded forevermore in shapes of the sounds inside the grooves of the vinyl… The sounds these musicians make take the frequency of peace in a world that can be, well, overcast. These musicians overcame the foundations of fear to tear the roof off of the sky and try, no, succeed, in seeding and planting their intentions into our ears. The dobro for just a moment, oh no - oh yeah! We are returning - in all sizes, colors, and flavors. Look Closer! The opening track "Returning" sets the scene.
The physical copy of this album is simple. The cover artwork was painted by Megan Lightell Studio, whose art has become an integral part of the Forecast project and vision. The made in Canada sticker caught my eye as Forecast took on to their take of Borderlines by Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell is a prophet to me and her chapter on Borderlines speaks truth to those that seek simplicity. Kristina Train tapped into that power with her Northwoods piney vocals.
“Every bristling shaft of pride
Church or nation
Team or tribe
Every notion we subscribe to
Is just a borderline”
Out of the mist and carried straight through to the next track laced with Borderlines. It must have been a challenge to rise up to Joni’s pure passion poured onto a page. Every word, every lyric is so luscious with devout meaning. It leaps off the grooves of the vinyl from John Mailander and the Forecast. The tender violin chugs away from the battle onto the sunset of peaceful obscurity.
"But It Did Happen." The 3rd track is like the conductor tapping the music stand. The work is in process. On air. Keep time. Speed up. Do more. Growth for the sake of growth is cancer’s motive. This is growth for the sake of growing, blooming, fulfillment. The music rises and falls, builds and destroys, and almost completes the circle until it devolves into madness. No one is built for this box. Percussion is the prescription for presumption. It’s broken with passion, fashion, redemption, and asymmetry. Anarchy protesting the plastic genetically modified, not meant for this world until the puppet ripped off its strings. The sounds created a magical sorcerer that animated the strings to make their own song and dance, free from the tyranny of control and lies.
Time to flip the record.
The sounds of night swimming swirl you back into the music. Sneaking into the healing waters, the adrenaline that meets the cool soothing soak. The title track "Look Closer" begs your eyes to adjust to the darkness. It’s that moment when the panic attack passes and the blueprint is revealed. The plan to move forward sounds like rock n roll, you know, the swiveling hips that make dogmatic Christians uncomfortable. Splashing until the sirens flash. It’s got a reminiscent riff from Mailander’s previous album, Forecast. Sweet memories renewed as you grab your clothes and get the heck out of here!
Kicking down the cobblestone, "Song for John" is like finding Charlie Chaplin down the alley. He finds humor in dark days. The music is animated as if it were emotions from a silent film. It’s another beautiful musical conversation with the connection of electricity. I long to see this song performed live as I imagine there will be so much more to say.
Investing with full power, the only 2 songs with vocals on this album are covers from incredible women songwriters. To amplify the feminine, it’s time for tenderness with prowess and this album encapsulated with these songs? It’s like butter.
The album closes with the Forecast’s take on Lucinda Williams's song "Dust."
“You couldn’t cry if you wanted to,
Even your thoughts are dust.
Even your thoughts are dust.”
Maya DeVitry’s vocals are such a sweet raspy contrast to Kristina Train. With a fresh perspective, we can truly look closer and see the hummus beneath the trees. The ever-growing collective of Forecast creates a structure of stability and smooth-moving sounds.
The olivaceous Forecast combines lush tones of green and now blue for Look Closer. John Mailander can move from earth to water seamlessly soaking you in his compositions, like a horizon that goes on forever. These songs can devout your eyes to the stars while keeping your feet on dry land. This is truly another great masterstroke of Monet quality on vinyl. Lacustrine lakes of love pour over you within 45 minutes of the full spin. Take a dip in John Mailander’s Look Closer. You will not regret it!