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“Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, Act III,” Waylon Payne

By Adeem Bingham, Editor

As if to intentionally showcase the reckless movement of time in the year 2020, we are somehow already up to the third installment of Waylon Payne’s quarterly EP: “Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me.” This went live last week, and I was immediately drawn in. Cutting vegetables on a Friday evening, I stood at the kitchen counter with a lump in my throat, “That’s how it feels when you’re born to lose,” resonating in the deepest parts of my soul.

The first song on Act III, “Born To Lose,” is the stand out of the collection so far. Trembling strings in the opening feel like they’re a warning to brace for the lyrical impact, and when it hits, it hits hard with a magnificent three-minute build. The interplay of that pedal steel in the first refrain with the tragic certainty of the lyrics feels so much like the destructive inner dialogue of a depressive episode. It’s exquisite. On the second pass, and leading into the bridge, though, there’s more of that Bobbie Gentry sound, like a choir from the past, and it almost feels like the sound of healing.

On “Back From the Grave,” Waylon takes all of the redemptive energy from that swell and gives it language with swimmy electric guitars and a steady backbeat. “I’m back from the grave / I’m among the living / Look at all of this light and life and love that I’ve been missing.” He describes his heart of stone being rolled away like the stone that covered the tomb of the crucified Savior in the Christian mythos, and he says it with such conviction that it’s palpable: He’s found salvation (whatever that means to him.)

This short collection wraps up with “After the Storm,” a tranquil and vulnerable reflection. The opening feels like you’re sitting right there in a screened-in porch listening to him play something he’s been working on. But when the band comes in, they come in tight, with a spacious and vibrant production that props up Waylon’s voice like beams of light in the ascension. 

In the long and ambient fade out, it’s easy to get lost reflecting on the sense of peace that the lyric, “Here I am after the storm,” is awash in. It’s a song that offers the most relaxed space of the album so far. It’s also a beautiful place to pause in expectation of the full length which is due out on September 11th (Carnival Recording Company / EMPIRE) and promises to be a poetic and moving collection of songs.