“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.”
Oscar Wilde’s reflections on music came to mind as I was practicing a Chopin prelude earlier today. What he describes is part of what I love about music — its power to communicate emotions that burst through the confines of mere words, to transmute sorrow into something beautiful to be shared.
South Rail’s music has that power. When I put their self-titled debut EP on, I’m swept away by Lara Supan’s rich, dusky voice, which is captivating both alone and in harmony with Jay Byrd, who plays guitar. South Rail’s sound is part folk, part alt-country — think Neil Young meets Wilco meets Eva Cassidy. I saw South Rail over the weekend at Gypsy Sally’s in Georgetown, and I’m excited both for the future of the band and the new live music venue.
South Rail typically performs as a trio with Ben Potok on drums, but they were joined by bassist Wes Christenson for the evening. Watching the quartet banter during sound check, it’s clear that these guys love music and love performing together (they met when responding to a Craigslist ad for a band that they didn’t join).
Up-tempo songs like “Everybody Knows It” made me wonder why nobody was dancing (my excuse — knee surgery). But the song that really caught my ear is “Wandering Soul,” which Lara introduced as a song about being on the road and reflecting on the life that you’re missing back at home. The song opens with keyboard and unfolds slowly and deliberately, with Lara’s soulful voice interspersed with plaintive guitar solos. Combined with gentle percussion, “Wandering Soul” evokes the image of a weary traveler, the color of his clothes made indistinguishable by dust, placing one boot in front of the other, following the railroad tracks back home.
This is a song about long winding roads and finding home in a face and an embrace. “I spend my days dreaming of what’s yet to come” — but even in times when we don’t know where to go, a good song can remind us that others share this seemingly lonely road.
South Rail is about to start recording some new music, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this band. In the meantime, if you live in the DC area, sign up for their mailing list so you can catch one of their local shows.