Singer-songwriter wades through sorrow on latest record
On “Sorrow,” singer-songwriter Maryn Jones questions the amount of influence the human emotion wields, especially in her own life. “If all we are is what we've felt, then I guess pain is mine,” she sings on the track, which is as lovely as it is melancholy, with rich vocal harmonies atop minimal guitar.
The sentiment is a fitting theme for the whole album, Black Dog in My Path, which Jones released in October under her stage name, Yowler.
“I feel like it's such a weird struggle when you are dealing with mental illness, [with] your brain trying to defeat you in this really messed up way,” said Jones, who moved to Philadelphia from Columbus and will return on Friday, Nov. 16, for a performance at Big Room Bar. “It's just like, ‘Well, you don't matter. So why are you even bothering? Why would you try to do anything?'”
In excavating those darker corners of her mind, Jones, who grew up in the Mormon church, also grapples with sin on “Holy Fire,” which breezes along, guided by gentle vocals before the startling crash of electric guitar near the end. “I won't behave no more,” she sings.
“Grizzly Bear II,” a sequel to a track on an older album, Gift, finds Jones acknowledging her ability to do harm to others.
“The original song is written from the point of view of the person who was hurt,” Jones said. “I just realized that that perspective wasn't really as realistic for my life anymore. I feel like, generally, I'm the person that's perpetuating pain on other people.”
Black Dog is not without its lighter moments. “Angel” is a positive, comforting opener, while “Where is My Light” offers a potential path out of darkness. “[It's] remembering that the things that are most important to me are just having new experiences in the natural world,” Jones said.
With “Aldebaran,” named for a star, Jones gets out of her head and recognizes the vastness of the universe. “I wanted to try to write a song that had lyrics that weren't about me,” she said.
One of the most beautiful moments on the album occurs on the brief “(Holidays Reprise),” which features clarinet and references “Holidays,” from her first Yowler record, The Offer.
“When I was going through some hard times when I was writing this album, I would often have the original song, ‘Holidays,' pop into my head as this weird comfort,” she said. “I wanted to put that on this record to kind of pay homage to it and almost thank it.”
Jones said she is motivated by the possibility that her music could help others in the same way. It's a thought that occurs to her even at her lowest moments and on her darkest tracks.
“If we make it through these times and more sorrow is all we find,” she sings on “Sorrow,” “I hope I can at least leave something behind.”