Folk Outfit Queen Cabbage Plead For Soul Peace On New Single "Pallid Blue Gown"
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can hear the dust settle in the nooks and crannies of our pockmarked atmosphere. In these quiet moments, we watch the air dance crooked ballets and swirl around a world we’ll never get to know fully. It’s a bittersweet revelation that requires us to sit, however uncomfortably, with that truth, and revert it into a kind of peace at rest with our soul, our bodies, and our place in the world.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to lose our minds and find ourselves crippled by the anxiety of unknowing, but some people walk through life with the gift of transformation, able to channel negativity into morsels of art. For singer-songwriter Ben Stein of folk outfit Queen Cabbage, this is exactly what he did when he found himself overwhelmed by chest-tightening disquietude. Armed with his acoustic guitar and supported by multi-instrumentalist Quinn Harley, Ben hammered out a rush of thoughts that turned quickly into “Pallid Blue Gown,” Queen Cabbage’s stripped-down new single just released yesterday.
Together, Ben and Quinn unconventionally riffed off each other to craft the stripped-down string-based track. Inspired by the quiet place Ben imagined as he sat in the storage room they practiced in, he began to piece together verse after verse of profound contemplation, a diary entry of sorts for his eyes only, a private and intimate confession that now graces our ears like a gift.
Hours later, “Pallid Blue Gown” was complete in all its quiet glory. Coming in at just under eight minutes, its tender treatment of floating folk melodies and the twang of strings upon strings make it less of a song and more of a visceral experience, as suggested by Queen Cabbage’s own reflection of it. “This song illustrates the process by which I've learned, at long last, to turn negativity and anxiety into beauty and tranquility,” Ben told us, “just by endeavoring to look at it differently.”
A deceptively simple exercise in shifting perspective, the process Ben describes is far more difficult than it sounds, but he does indeed make it look, sound, and feel effortless, softly navigating through the confines of the mind but presenting it as a barely-there folk song.
“Pallid Blue Gown” opens with the slow, steady roll of acoustic strums before the searing buzz of Quinn’s string skill joins. As quickly as it comes in, it bows out in favor of Ben’s vocals (a resigned croon) delivering a raw account of his daily routine including “Jot down a jumbled verse or two / Before I get my lazy ass up out of this room.” Soon, the guitar twang becomes strummed like a sludge has formed over the strings, offering a thickened tone mimicked by the discordant pluck of banjitar. In and out Queen Cabbage go, heavy jamming giving way every once in a while to the flutter of mandolin and a mellow spotlight on step-by-step lyrics delivered by vocals soft with ache. The end of the track finds the welcome addition of lightly howled harmonies singing the track’s elegantly, but almost urgently, uttered final verse — “Watch the lights shining down / See the earth in its pallid blue gown / Watch the lights shining down / See the truth in its tower in the clouds” — repeated first among the roar of smashing strings and then its delicate decrescendo for the fade-out finale.
Crafted by hand and heart, “Pallid Blue Gown” is a mesmeric foray into the soul of its songwriter. It’s nothing less than a gift that we’ve been welcomed into it and the result — a tender, stripped-down folk ballad — is nothing less than a sleepy sort of beauty.
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Photo by Jon Mecca.