You know you’re in for a great night of music when the first half of the show features Square Peg Alliance members Jeremy Casella, Andy Osenga, and Andrew Peterson playing in the round. That’s how the release show for the last album from JJ Heller, The Pretty and the Plain, started out. And the album lived up to the expectations set by that evening. I bought more copies of The Pretty and the Plain to give away as gifts than I did any other CD last year.
On Painted Red, JJ and Dave continue exploring the themes they’ve touched on in their earlier projects, as the opening lines of the first song on the album, “Save Me”, attest: Living / am I really living / or am I just existing / hiding away // Danger / the world is full of danger / but if I never try to go outside / my heart will waste away // Come and save me / You’re the only / source of all the peace I need / come and save me / come and save me. They’ve co-written with a couple other songwriters this time around, including Andy Osenga and Katie Herzig, resulting in a solid collection of songs.
I dropped by the studio one July afternoon for a couple hours while they were recording, and, reading through some of the lyrics, what stood out to me were the opening lines to “Back Home”: Don’t let your eyes get used to darkness / the light is coming soon. / Don’t let your heart get used to sadness / put your hope in what is true. But I think my favorite lyrics on the album are the closing words, the very last line in the last song “Painted Red”, written by JJ. It’s a short song, only 2:13, and the last 50 seconds of that is just “ooh-ing,” with Andy Osenga joining Dave and JJ, sans instruments, for the last :26 seconds. The last thing you hear before it begins to wind down is “Hope means holding on to You, grace means You’re holding me too”.
Indeed. “Hope means holding on to You, grace means You’re holding me too.”
Here’s the link where you can download Painted Red before the end of the month. Go download your copy and tell your friends. And be sure to check out JJ’s blog, The Lovely Little Things, for music and touring news, posts about JJ’s sewing projects, and stories about their new baby, due in a couple of weeks.