On Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, Waylon Payne shares the journey through his own personal hell as he ascends from the ravages of addiction and shattered family relationships to the restorative waters of love and hope in a riveting story cycle.
The album opens with the bright country rounder “Sins of the Fathers,” featuring Mickey Raphael’s blaring harmonica and Jedd Hughes’ screaming guitar. With a canny nod and a wink to the title phrase, Payne quotes it not only to indict the father whose drunken and violent behavior shaped the son but also as a message to the son to resist the sins of the fathers and make his life his own. In the chorus Payne loudly affirms: “But, oh-oh, the sins of the father / Are never gonna hang around me no more / Oh-oh, the sins of the father / It’s time for me to lay ’em down and let them go.”
The sonic spaciousness of “Dead on a Wheel,” floating along shimmering guitar and harmonica lines, captures the emptiness of our lives and the ways we often fail to connect with those around us who might be hurting. In the midst of this emptiness, Payne offers hope: “Hey, what if we started leanin’ on each other / Remember that it’s faith, and kindness, and love that helped us make it through / Yeah if we all started learnin’ how to love one another / Maybe it could get better.” In the walking blues “All the Trouble” the singer pleads for an end to the despair, loss, and turmoil in his life, while the arid and somber vocals of “Born to Lose” shiver with naked, raw heartbreak.
The album turns from the raggedness of loss to the velvet smoothness of joy in the jaunty singalong “Back from the Grave.” The bright tune takes an infectious folk gospel groove, celebrating joyously a return from the claustrophobic darkness of addiction and despair. Payne’s canny lyrics reveal the moment of his resurrection when he once again sees the light to which he’s been blind and embraces the love that his jaded self has been missing. The album closes with haunting “Old Blue Eyes,” an ethereal air that Payne creates with spare instrumentation and his poignant vocals.
Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me washes over us like a cleansing wave, carrying us along into valleys of human emotion, searching every corner of the human heart, peering into the shadows for glimpses of light. Every song on the album glitters like a multi-faceted gem, cut by a master jeweler.