Ezra Carey - The Fire Keeps Us Warm - August 25, 2009
Portland native EZRA CAREY plays traditional Americana, laying down story songs of the utmost sincerity and poignancy. On his debut record The Fire Keeps Us Warm Carey tells his story of pain, loss, depression, revival and, ultimately, the acceptance of life for what it is: a series of events we have little control over. True to the tradition of great folk singers and privy to the advancements of modern instrumentation and production, Carey, along with several other seasoned musicians, uses strummed acoustic guitars, plucked banjos, droning organs and hallowing vocals to tell his story.
Beginning at the details of attending music school at both Oregon Sate University and The University of Oregon, graduating from music school in 2007 and teaching music thereafter, Carey’s story becomes far more remarkable once the real world enters it. It’s the world that forces him to play coffee shops and small bars to scrape by that makes his story so honest. It’s this same world in which his dad lay dying on a hospital bed for three-and-a-half years, taking his last breath on a Thanksgiving day, that makes his story so heart wrenching. And it’s the world that Carey made a hell out of for his lover by attempting to settle his inner beast with a daily dose of liquor and pills that makes his story so real.
At a time in life when all odds were against him, after dealing with more than one man could handle, Carey decided he would call it quits and take his own life with his “usual cocktail of white pills and booze.” After hearing Carey’s heart stop beating, his lover shook him awake and cried. Having done all she could do to help Carey ease his pain, his lover walked out on him and left him with the cruelest of all beasts, his own damaged self. It’s this world in which Carey wakes up, after expecting not to, all alone, and realizes that he not only has a life to live but he has a story to tell.
On paper the story shares the commonalities of a number of episodes of VH1’s Behind the Music, chock-full of boozing, drug using, fucking, fighting, dying and realizing to make even the hardest rocker cringe. The difference here, however, is EZRA CAREY’s story creates, rather than destroys, the musician amongst the chaos. Instead of ending his career, as such a lifestyle has done to so many musicians before him, Carey’s story turns his tragedies into a record’s worth of musical poignancy. Having realized his own potential as a songwriter and acknowledging the sense of presence and peace within him, Carey is able to find reason knowing that more often than not reason is more than enough.
Though The Fire Keeps Us Warm is drawn from a well of grief and self-destruction EZRA CAREY’s songs do not overflow with the self-pity and woe-is-me sentiments that they easily could given the trials of his life during the album’s conception. Rather, Carey takes confident ownership of his songs, as he does his life, with the acceptance of the anguish he has endured and the persistence to move forward.
Ezra Carey: vocals, keyboards, guitar, banjo, slide guitar, table stomp
Bryson Nist: chili bowl and maracas, drums
Sean Caldwell: bass
Brian Hall: bass, vocals, guitar, slide guitar, banjo
Mallory Posedel: vocals
Ruth and Brian Beck: vocals
Eric Carlsen: vocals
Brach Sprecher: vocals