There’s a Place They Call Lonesome

Posted: April 28, 2009 by Mike Estabrook in BLARE -- music, POP - pop culture
Tags: , , , , ,

All she had was her music. Connie Converse recorded at home in the ’50s but was never discovered. Following this frustration, Converse headed into seclusion in 1974. She is now getting the exposure she deserved long ago. How Sad, How Lovely is a collection of Converse’s self-recorded, acoustic tracks. The bare presentation correlates Converse’s isolation in an era that wasn’t ready for her.

Converse represents everything ’50s society and music did not. While most women wielded an apron, Converse plucked away at her guitar. The sugary, blandly generic hits of the decade have no presence in Converse’s music. She incorporates honest emotion, creative storytelling and poetic ambiguity. It’s impressive today, but Converse’s initial appeal suffered from this anachronism.

The 1950s taboo topic of expressing loneliness pervades “Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains).” Converse’s disregard for cultural expectations drove her to obscurity.

Converse’s beautiful stories in “Johnny’s Brother” and “Down the Road” would have been refreshing to an audience accustomed to simple song structures.

Converse wove dark themes, rebellion and complexity when these were far from in vogue. “We Lived Alone” alludes to Converse’s independence in a masculine world. She writes, “We lived alone, my house and I / We had the earth, we had the sky / I had a lamp against the dark, and I was happy as a lark.”

Converse extended her gender rebellion to religion as well. In “Father Neptune” she sings, “I’m not a pious Christian and I do not go to Mass.”

Her intelligent lyrics also invite interpretation worthy of any great poet especially with “Man In the Sky” and “There Is a Vine.”

The elegant “One By One” can be streamed at NPR accompanying a great profile of Converse.

What’s so intriguing about Converse is the opportunity to hear brief snippets of a perpetually stifled voice. Converse’s music was the only way she had to get people to listen to her. But no one did. Wherever Connie Converse is, people are listening now. It’s sad, but truly lovely.

~ Mike Estabrook

Comments
  1. […] 28, 2009 Check out my article on long-forgotten ’50s artist Connie Converse in JERK Magazine, Syracuse University’s […]

  2. Katie says:

    Sounds really interesting. Good find.

  3. […] life, she instead finds that things aren’t exactly as they seemed and that the culture of the 1950s doesn’t seem to allow for all that she wants. This transitional time in her life brings her to […]

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