I’ve covered a song! A song near and dear to me, I might add, by a duo I am thoroughly devoted to: the inimitable Penny and Sparrow. I asked my very talented friend and fellow-musician Scott Mulvahill (who plays bass in Ricky Skaggs’ band) to join me one afternoon in Nashville so that we might recreate the tune, and he glibly accepted. The song “Gold” is off of Penny and Sparrow’s latest album, Let a Lover Drown You. The whole album is marvelous from start to finish, but Gold stood out to me from the start as being especially beautiful. Its ebb and flow, brought to life by rich and intimate imagery, and the sense of wistful mystery which imbues the song - lending a certain irresolution to it - all strike me deeply. I admire Andy Baxter’s and Kyle Jahnke’s manner of songwriting, both from a melodic and lyric perspective, and consider this song to be a masterpiece which stands on its own, unique and unaffected.
When I first heard it, I figured right away that it was written from the perspective of someone looking back on his or her greatest love: I recall you, I recall when. The words are very visual and stark, bringing the listener immediately into the most intimate realm of lovers - that realm of embraces which are silly, child-like, tender, and unselfconscious: pulling your shirt up over your head/laugh and get stuck, stuck in bed. . . this gentle reverie is broken, suddenly, by a jolt forward into the present-tense: All that I do is a shadow of you and the lights you make. All that I do, now, is in reference to that past Springtime of love, when we were together and free from the burdens which overtook us.
The song continues from here on a darker, more somber note: the words come from the perspective of someone who now lives his or her life in the shadow of memories, and who has evidently lost the great love of their life and with it, has lost levity of heart: but not without gaining a sense of resolution to honor and safeguard the memory of the beloved.
If you do some research, or if you go see Penny and Sparrow in concert (which my fiance and I recommend highly - great date night!), you’ll discover that Gold was inspired by a series of science-fiction novels entitled “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown. The song focuses on a specific husband and wife in the books who become embroiled in the corrupt government which tyrannizes them and their people. The wife is killed by someone in the upper echelon of society, and her husband sets about avenging her death by-way of infiltrating high-society, one connection at a time. (Penny and Sparrow aren’t the sort to write through rose-colored glasses, nor are they nihilists who insist that futility has the last word: that’s part of the reason why I love them so. They give a frank but doggedly hopeful look at life, relationships, sexuality, God, forgiveness, failure, healing, and many other needful subjects.)While I haven’t read the books myself, I can’t help but be intrigued by the figures represented in this timeless and unusual song, and it is a joy and honor to sing it each time.
I hope you enjoy our cover of “Gold,” and if you feel so inclined, consider tweeting it in the direction of Penny and Sparrow. ; ) And then, go buy their entire discography. Your life and thought will be the richer for it.