“When the room is dark, how come I see so clear?”
–“The Lights Are Out,” on Sparse by Vince Tuckwood
Vision is Vince Tuckwood’s obsession.
What is visible, what can be seen, how we connect or disconnect based on what we see.
And where the journey takes us.
In his new compilation, Sparse, you are not simply getting his take lyrically on sight and insight. You are getting a meditative musical landscape populated by bare-bones acoustic guitar, delicate keyboards and a gentle lead guitar solo by John Fries in “2 Pieces.” Eric Lichter and Josi Davis also make guest appearances in some songs on piano and backing vocals, respectively.
The bare-bones image of tree branches against a winter sky on the CD cover, shot from a view straight up in his backyard, captures visually the longing for connection in his words and the sturdy tone to his sweet voice.
Most compelling is “Be Still,” a plea for someone close to stop talking incessantly and pay attention. Vocally assertive in a gentle way (“Be still, just breathe, just be,”), the only instrument, guitar, is as hypnotic as it is clear and — here is that word again — delicate.
The fourth track, “Untitled,” could be called “Directed by Me,” since that refrain reflects imagery from film directing and a deeper calling, the calling that underlies all of these songs: the longing to affect others. If the songwriter cannot command stillness, well then, more subtly, as in “2 Pieces,” he might touch you while drifting, colliding, accidentally. Here melody takes over as “these two become one” — and pieces become people walking together and connecting, side by side. It recalls Rainer Maria Rilke’s description of marriage, not as two people staring into each other’s eyes, but looking out together in the same direction.
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them,” Rilke writes in Letters to a Young Poet, “if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
In this expansive vision, Tuckwood’s vision, relationships are not easy. But they are worth the trouble. Two people, or the world, take your pick. In either case, the journey demands looking beyond surfaces: “walking the backstreets in the rain, … hoping you’ll see past the blame.” So in “Footsore and Weary,” this difficult, taxing trip must be undertaken, even as we weather storms, precisely because we must weather them.
Influences include Radiohead and Pink Floyd, Tuckwood notes in an email.
If he borrows anything from these bands, it is a haunting, marvelously consistent tone, tenderly rendered, and infinitely appealing, like a fine sherry.
There are moments when Tuckwood seems to be reaching vocally, as he turns up the volume, moments that wouldn’t be so noticeable if it weren’t for the lovely, sparse nature of the work. However, given his goal of uttering “the loudest of whispers,” the strain of his voice fits, as if he is yearning to deliver his message in a way you’ll never forget.
Ultimately, this is an intimate work by a self-described “Brit-transplant who has come to rest in Waterford, CT.” Makes you want to get to know him better — which is inevitable, if you sit still long enough to absorb his vision.
Conceived as the first half of a two record project, Sparse was recorded with Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Recording Studios, Chester, CT in late-2012. A sister release, Dense, is scheduled for late-2013. To get the CD, or downloads, which feature three extra tracks, go to vincenttuckwood.bandcamp.com.