As much as we might rage against it, it is an inevitability that all things must come to an end: seasons, relationships, life itself. Yet at the same time these changes can bring about growth and renewal.
Matt Rigsby Smith, the songwriting half of London folk duo Mouth 4 Rusty with Emily Davis, has always had an eye for these contradictory nuances in human experiences, and here on their fifth album, Must Take More Care, that eye is focused on the battle of the sexes. Or rather, what happens once the battle is lost: How you piece yourself back together again and, more importantly, find the courage to open yourself up again.
Whether dissecting bitterness (That I Couldn’t Have Done It Better Doesn’t Mean I Wasn’t Right) or offering conciliatory advice (One Hundred and Forty-Nine Birds), Rigsby Smith’s poignant observations are perceptive and cut deep. Album opener After sets the tone with a rumination on heartbreak and healing set against plaintive acoustic strumming, offering the philosophical viewpoint “after the loving, comes the grieving, comes the growing”, albeit with the caveat “if you screw me, I could rise to be a vengeful one”. Elsewhere, If You Were My Punishment wrestles with the proportioning of blame in a breakup as eerie Nick Drake-esque strings whir in the background, laying blame on one side then the other before recognising the shared responsibility for creating that situation in the line “If we were our punishment, then let it be over”.
With a little help from friends and frequent collaborators adding embellishments, these explorations of heartbreak grow from the ragged core of Rigsby Smith and Davis’s twinned vocals and guitar into gentle, but effecting vignettes. Doleful piano and dramatic horns lend Women and Children and Men’s bitter tale of distrust and adultery an air of bar room drama, while the optimism of the Davis lead track The Last One On Your Mind is lifted further by rising strings and chirpy whistling. Ultimately though, it is the contrast between Rigsby Smith’s rugged whisper and Davis’s lilting call, ringing sharp and clear as a bell, that draws you in as they wind around and echo each other, as if offering both sides of a long overdue conversation.
Must Take More Care is full of hard truths spoken with a soft voice, and as summer’s glow fades and the nights draw in closer you could certainly do worse than cosying up with this quiet gem over the coming autumn.
Review by: James MacKinnon