‘Songs From Bonnett House’ is a slow burn – a bit of a sleeper that quietly creeps in while you’re not paying attention. The album is an audial embodiment of, if not isolation, then a two-steps removed sense of the gentle acceptance of solitude.
“It’s not for everyone,” warns Bonnett House’s Clinton Charlton just as I’m listening to ‘Fool Me Twice’, a track that is ironically reminiscent of a very low-key version of ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, the massively catchy early 90’s hit from Deep Blue Something.
Having just barely shaken off our thoughts of hibernation, it’s not hard to see New Brunswick winters as a time of quiet. ‘Songs From Bonnett House’ goes further than a season of being snow bound. At first listen, the album seems to tell the story of an injury that leads to seclusion, and a descent into depression, addiction, madness, and possibly death.
“I spent six month locked inside / while healed the bones and raged my heart / the OxyContin burned my brain / and loneliness tore my soul apart,” writes Sandy MacKay in the track ‘Broken Birds’, which we’d hope would explain the crux of the album.
Curiously enough, the album is constructed in parts, and what might be mistaken for a loose narrative is actually the disconnected work of several songwriters. Bonnett House band members Sandy MacKay, Clinton Charlton and Bill Preeper share in a handful of songwriting credits, but the majority of the songs inspirations come from unrelated incidents.
‘Manitoba’, the album’s opening track, talks about roads that will never be walked down again. It seems easy enough to relate that to a foot injury, except that ‘Manitoba’ is about the passing of Charlton’s father and dealing with grief, while ‘Broken Birds’ is about one of MacKay’s friends who had passed. Neither are related to the song ‘Spiderwebs’, which sounds like a growing obsession with the walls of room, like one might experience during a long convalescence. So we might be forgiven if we see the lyrics of ‘Help You If I Can’ as a logical conclusion: the experience of disembodiment after a long addiction to OxyContin.
“Those are of the body that you have left behind / and you are / trapped between two worlds / your passions make you blind.”
The album wraps up with ‘Sleep, Come Rescue Me’, a song unsurprisingly enough, about the release of slumber. So either the band are pulling our collective leg, or they’ve created something greater than they’re aware of. With the exception of ‘Come Whenever I Call’, an innuendo laden blue-grass song, breaking up the album, the haunting tale of a life unravelling through injury and addiction is beautiful and engrossing. Or maybe I’ve had too much time to think about it. You know, that sort of thing can happen when stuck staring at the same four walls…