My parents were in town for a Lowland Hum show at my Washington, D.C. group house several years also. They made conversation with my friends before the music started and paged through Lowland Hum’s signature handmade lyric books song by song. My love of music comes from my dad, so I assumed they’d like it enough. After the show I asked for their impressions. “I liked it,” my mom said, “but what does it mean?”
Have you ever posed this question to an artist? I did once, and, because of their unwelcome response, still regret it. Often, they don’t even know. It meant one thing, then something else later. Or maybe the true meaning is too personal to share. I still find myself pondering it as I listen to music, though. I think this mystery is part of music’s magnetism.
Along with the release of their new album, Thin, Lowland Hum shared a track-by-track explanation of the stories and meaning behind the songs. The folk duo from Charlottesville, Virginia has been an open book since day one, often leaving time and space for audience questions during their live shows. Perhaps this lifestyle of authenticity and self-reflection is what allows them to shed light on the meaning behind the result of their creative process. In the article, Lauren Goans says: “A big part of what we hope to do with music is to create vulnerable spaces. There is such a pressure to come across composed and if you can’t pull that off, then there is pressure to put forth a sort of mussy nonchalance. I wouldn’t describe us as very cool people and I would definitely not call us composed and so we feel we have an opportunity to share in a way that doesn’t result in us coming out on top of things.”
I have to admit that knowing the “why” makes me appreciate Thin all the more. And the album’s simplicity, just guitar and percussion accompanying two voices, leaves room for the listener to observe the honest and thoughtful songwriting that Lowland Hum is known for; to sit down for a meal with this couple that is very transparently working out how to be people in this world abounding with both beauty and ugliness. They’re asking “but what does it mean?” too.