The leadoff title track describes love as if it existed in a spare landscape, where it could simply shift away from the object of desire and walk away.
Sachs sings, Love is love, I’ll grant you that, waving goodbye while tipping my hat. Especially erudite are the lines, Love is love, nail-bitten and blind / how quickly we lose what took so long to find / All good stories come to an end / to that first kiss to / “Are we still friends? The song, played with a stately, slow pace, provokes an infinite sadness.
Other examples of lyrical and imaginative brilliance abound.
“Every Mother’s Son” describes the loss of a gentle childhood spirit, wrenched away by military training. Then you learned to salute / and never lose a fight / how to run in desert boots / and wear a uniform for life … three tours of duty / now you’re home / cold and numb / to every mother’s son.
“The Killer Inside Me” explores the strange pull of a death row inmate upon a woman who recognizes their shared inner nature and leaves her home and family to be near him as he approaches the end of his life: The killer inside you / is the killer inside me too.
“Love’s a Hard Lesson,” told from a woman’s viewpoint, is a tale of a wife’s revenge on an abusive, alcoholic husband. It’s worthy of any song in the Steve Earle canon. Coincidentally, Sachs’ ever robust voice captures some of Earle’s gravelly timbre as he sings: Now I don’t regret the killin’ or a god damn thing / In a few years, I’m getting’ paroled / my mother says she’s gonna sell my wedding ring / Gave it to her to hold / I’ll be happy when it’s sold, yeah.
“All That Love Provides” is a tale of infidelity with a country flair that any Nashville songwriter would covet: Deception’s easy when it feels like bliss / You get addicted to a wayward kiss / Drank the wine, I took a piss / on all that love provides.
“No Man’s Land” is perhaps the ultimate tale of a dependency-prone young man’s descent into heroin addiction. In masterful strokes, Sachs’ lyrics take us on a tour through humanity’s darkest alleys. It spins its tale in the form of an imagined letter to the addict’s newborn daughter: Welcome to the world / my new little girl / Sorry daddy has no money saved / All the bills piled high / and your mommy and I / had to go our separate ways … she was the cheerleading queen of the homecoming team / and loving her just made sense / and I found the moon with a needle and spoon / but that Judas harpoon takes a toll …
“Boys Will Be Boys” is my hands-down choice for the jewel in the crown of this audacious CD, provoking many consecutive presses on the iPod replay button. The friendship between the song’s straight narrator and his gay best friend is expressed with an undercurrent of sad reminiscence. Paul sings slightly above a whisper and a lead guitar keens and sighs with understated sorrow: Cohorts from the misfit crew / back in 1982 … Turnin’ tricks, nothin’s free / back in 1983 / did it for the thrill and buzz / did it for the money / what creates also destroys / and boys will be boys will be boys … Best of friends was all we were / damn the dumb and narrow / inside a world of adolescent noise / boys will be boys will be boys. At the song’s end, the narrator sings of his friend’s demise: thin as air, brittle bones … hospitals and bare trees … Was he a she; a him or her / love’s a broken arrow / what creates also destroys / boys will be boys will be boys. At each replay my heart is in my mouth and water stings my eyes.
When I broke away long enough to pay closer attention to the album’s closer, “The Best Hope Can Do,” it vied for equal attention and probably comes in a close second for this listener. Again, I reached for the replay button, over and over. The song’s protagonist finds himself on shaky ground with the love of his life. Strumming with a steady pulse, Sachs, as narrator entreats his love to stay, to hold out, despite every uncertainty: It’s a new wheel on a used car / a prayer on a shooting star / the sheer wonder of where you are tonight / Better days will come / I’m barely holding’ on, my baby blue / with the best hope can do.
Every turn in life’s river seems to elicit new brilliance in Paul Sachs’ writing. We’ll no doubt be witness to more lyrical feats as he ascends ever higher in the ranks of great songwriters. Now the rest of the world just needs to listen. All radio DJs take note!