Bluegrass troubadour David Simonett has been crafting fine folk music for decades as guitarist and lead singer of Trampled By Turtles, as well as releasing his own solo output as Dead Man Winter. Now on March 13th, Simmonett is releasing his first solo endeavor under his own name, Red Tail.
Simonett’s latest single of the upcoming record is “By the Light of the Moon.” The song is a gentle folk ballad, and very reminiscent of Wilco front man’s Jeff Tweedy’s recent solo output (the intro brings Sky Blue Sky‘s”Either Way” to mind). And like Tweedy, Simmonett proves here that he can craft an effectively tender song on his own without any bells and whistles.
Folk music at its best is a person with an instrument and a story to tell. In this track Simonett drops his bucket into the well of time, and in drawing his memories back upward, he has to grapple with whether the fragments of recollections he’s held onto truly reflect the reality of a place he once knew.
Like all memories, which are incomplete pictures full of rich sensation but limited in detail, the images Simonett sings about are fractured, and as he sings about this place and these people he once knew it comes across like a journey through a memory of home where the singer finds himself glancing around wondering if that home is really everything he thought it was.
On exactly what memories inspired Simonnett to write this track, he said, “‘By the Light of the Moon’, if I’m being honest (which I probably am), is really derived from several experiences. However, I think the main underlying theme is looking at a town in which one may have lived at a very important time in one’s past, but realizing it’s no longer the place that pour soul has – maybe unrealistically – sculpted in memory.”
There’s a mystery to the song that’s effective because the loose details allow the listener to insert their own memories into the tale. In the second verse sings, “There’s a hole in the night sky/ Where the dreams crawl in/ And I dreamed we were running/ As the walls caved in/ And the space all around us/ Moved like the water/ And it was a good dream/ As dreaming goes/ By the light of the window/ By the light of the moon/ By the waves of the water/ And it’s all brand new.”
None of the details of the personal anecdote are related in a way specific enough to prevent the listener from being able to insert their own history into the song, and the song exemplifies how less can be more when a songwriter is crafting a tune inspired by their own history.