Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the week this year, which is just as well. It’s always felt like a bit of a manufactured holiday interested primarily in selling lots of chocolate, flowers and cards and making single people feel excluded.
First off, I’ve made homemade valentines for the past couple of years, and secondly, I always make an effort to include single friends in any fun things happening on Valentine’s Day. Regardless of what you decide to do – or not do – on Valentine’s Day, permit me to shine a rose-colored light on some of Maine’s finest love songs. From the sweetest of the sweet to the dark corners of bitterness, Maine musicians have love songs covered.
So allow me to wish you, for what it’s worth, a happy Valentine’s Day and share with you four of my favorite Maine-made originals along with one spectacular cover.
“All for You” is the last song on Lombard’s 2013 album “Headful of Bells,” and wow, what a way to end a record. Written by Adam Agati, “All for You” starts out innocently enough, with an acoustic guitar and Lombard’s gorgeous voice singing lines like, “When the world seems strange and the heavens change their shapes/Well you know I’ll stay/Just give me a reason/And it’s all for you.” Cello and violin come in, adding to the loveliness. A gentle electric guitar also arrives. The song is like a promise to do better, try harder in a relationship. It’s hopeful. Then it’s like someone doused the song with lighter fluid and flicked a match on it. At the 3 minute and 25 second mark, Lombard starts repeating the lines “Your heart’s a machine don’t leave me now/Your heart’s a machine, don’t leave somehow/Your heart’s a machine/Don’t leave me down/Your heart’s a machine … your heart’s a machine …”
I’ve been a fan of piano-based singer-songwriter Kate Schrock since I first moved to Maine in the mid-’90s. Her voice has soul to spare, and with each release, I’ve become a bigger fan. But I’m choosing the first Schrock song I ever heard from her 1994 “Refuge” album. It’s called “Mission Beach,” and I’ve listened to it probably a few hundred times over the past two and half decades. The song captures the essence of missing and longing for someone better than most I’ve heard. “I thought that we were too tough to let this world rough us up/Now all I need when I think of you is some kind of miracle to pull me through/And I miss you too much to speak of/Each day gets a little bit more/I’m writing the words of my feelings for you, wondering what I do it for.” With just piano and voice, Schrock slays.
In 2007, Jason Spooner released “The Flame You Follow,” and it’s still one of my favorite local albums. For real, every track on this record’s a keeper. For this love-song list, I turn to the album’s closer. It’s a duet with Cincinnati-based songwriter Kim Taylor. “Hover” is a sweeping, impassioned song set initially against acoustic guitar and piano. Spooner’s clean, clear, yet textured voice is heard for the first several lines, then Taylor joins in, and together they sing the lines: “We can look away from this disaster/If I cut my conscious in thirds/Watch the red sun sinking faster/It hovers like murder and words.” Taylor then takes lead on a verse that includes “We can’t pretend that it’s all still the same, sacred beginnings and what we became/Free from your cages I’ve flown/Into to the sun away from the days we’ve known.” The two voices rejoin, and it’s sheer perfection. The song bursts apart with strings and percussion as the vocals soar. Doesn’t get much better.
Toward the end of 2016, Megan Jo Wilson released an R&B-drenched EP called “Tin,” and it’s a turn-down-the-lights collection of five empowering and fiery slow jams. “So Good” opens with a thick bass and moody horn and the lines “Another night’s gone by and still you haven’t called me but I know you’re thinking ’bout it/I can feel it all around me.” The song’s mercury rises with each note, and Sara Hallie Richardson’s backing vocals help the cause all the more. Even if you’re alone, this song will make you stand up and start swaying. Wilson’s vocals are steamy and rich, and this song oozes with sensuality. It also proves the point that I don’t just like sad songs.
This song, penned by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and made famous by Bonnie Raitt on her 1991 album “Luck of the Draw,” is among the saddest songs ever written. Even all these years later, the song still packs a devastating wallop. I heard Raitt herself sing it on the Maine State Pier two summers ago, and it was quite a moment. But there’s another version of the song that is also worth your ears, and that’s the one by OHX on its 2015 “Places + Secrets” album. This one is an electronica take on the song, and it features the heart-stopping vocals of Loretta Allen. Allen has recently resurfaced with her band The Other Bones, which reformed to finish an album started years ago. Her voice is tremendous, and this version of the song is quite different than Raitt’s, but just as painful, and I mean that as high praise.