Chris Hickey | Love Away

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Folk: Alternative Folk Rock: Acoustic Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Love Away

by Chris Hickey

short sharp vegan pop // a folk-rock Jim Jarmusch (My Old Kentucky Blog) // calls to mind the early work of Nicholson Baker, who could craft a novel out of a bored businessman's escalator ride. (Ed Whitelock)
Genre: Folk: Alternative Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Let Me Just Straighten Up a Few Things
1:43 $0.99
2. Waltzing to Clinging to You
2:15 $0.99
3. Maya's Day Off
2:41 $0.99
4. Hospital
2:04 $0.99
5. Same Train
2:09 $0.99
6. Down the Turmoil
3:08 $0.99
7. Eye
2:36 $0.99
8. Broken
2:04 $0.99
9. Monkey
2:32 $0.99
10. Tossup
3:19 $0.99
11. Grapes from a Thorn
2:39 $0.99
12. See
2:51 $0.99
13. I Could Live
1:28 $0.99
14. So Little Time
3:26 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Produced by Walter Zooi
Recorded and Mixed by Walter Zooi at Zero Sum Recording
Additional Mixing by Jeff Peters at The Pie
Mastered by Adam Samuels
Cover Photo: Harry Gruyaert, Magnum Photos
Inside Photos: Laura Heffington
All songs written by Chris Hickey (work-fire songs, ASCAP)
except “Monkey” written by Joe Henry (True North Music,
Lemz Music, WB Music Corp., ASCAP)
©&℗2014 Work-fire Recordings. All rights reserved.

Chris Hickey: vocals, guitar
Walter Zooi: guitars, bass, trumpet, keyboard, zither, yayli tambor
Alison Chesley: cello (3,5,9,10)
Charlie Hickey: vocals (7)
Sally Dworsky: vocals (6,11,12,14)
Rachel Ware Zooi: vocals (11), bass (5)
Anne McCue: vocals (5, 13)
Jay Bellerose: drums (2, 4)
Chris Garcia: drums (6, 7, 11, 12)
Jennifer Condos: bass (2, 4)
Dylan McKenzie: guitar (4)
David Greiman: piano (6, 12)
Max Zooi: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone (11)
Matt Rubin: trumpet (3, 10, 11)
Eric Patterson: clarinet, tenor saxophone (3, 10, 11)
Bill Plake: tenor saxophone (3, 10, 11)
Noah Levine: spoken (8) from a dharma talk at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society in Los Angeles, CA


Sweating the Small Stuff: Chris Hickey’s *love away* (album review)
November 13, 2014
By Kelly Dean Jolley

In the elder days of art
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part
For the Gods are everywhere
“The Builders”–Longfellow

Anyone who has followed Chris Hickey, from his solo albums in the eighties to his work in the brilliant band, Uma, and all the way to his most recent work, highlighted by Release, knows the intricate, intimate care that goes into his music. His sure craftsmanship shapes every song. He displays that craftsmanship again on his new album, love away.

The smallness and stillness of the songs is perhaps the most striking feature of Hickey’s album on first listen. The songs at first sound so small that they seem to leave no room for craft, beyond the crafting of the melody itself or the words themselves. But Hickey masters small spaces. He can write an anthem in a matchbox. Somewhere I have a tiny, leather bound copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a copy hardly bigger than a stamp–an icon of Hickey’s music, of this new album.

Hickey works in midlife; he knows it. The album has an air of deliberate urgency, but he is not in crisis. He knows that the night is coming, the night in which no man can work. The album begins by acknowledging where he is, and with a plea to the listener. “let me just straighten up a few things”. Like Descartes in the Meditations, Hickey finds himself in the midway along the road of life, at an age when the clutter of earlier years needs sorting, sifting. Much that used to matter no longer does. He takes the trash out. He prioritizes, finds out what he trusts and what he must surrender. Imperfections in what he trusts no longer distract and dismay; he takes them as they come, even welcomes them: everything is always already broken. Nothing can hold in perfection but a little moment. To trust things only in their perfection is not really to trust them.

The album ends with “so little time”:

so little time for posturing anymore
getting closer to the back than I am to the front door anymore

At one point in the song, Hickey reaches out to his dead:

where have you gone, Joe Strummer?
god bless you please, Johnny Cash!
where have you gone, Chris Whitley?
god bless you please, Grant McClennan!

Hickey does not fancy himself a go-between, a medium. He reaches out to the dead who live for him and who, in one way or another, he reanimates in his songs.

Hickey’s delicate taste controls his fierce intelligence. No song oversteps its internal limits, calls attention to its cleverness. Each song carves out a conceptual space with exact borders. Hickey tolerates fuzz, vagueness, even less well than Gottlob Frege—or Ezra Pound. I do not mean that the songs are easy to understand, one, two, three. I do not mean that the songs lack life, spontaneity. Often the songs require frequentation, pondering. And you will hum as you ponder, wonder with your feet.

let me just straighten up
a few things
standing on the groundless ground
falling with no end down
so maybe I’ll reach out, try to grab some
knowing there is none

Hickey focuses on our common lives on common ground. But he does not hypostasize that ground, attempt to turn it into a metaphysical guarantee. He knows its this-worldliness, its fragility—it is no more dependable than we are. Despite the importance of form in his songs, he is no friend of the Forms. Or, to put it another way, his forms are patterns in time—not Patterns above time. He worries about being in time.

in the fragmentary desert
we will try to fit in
but nowhere to go
nowhere to have been
just the unfold
is all that can be
the rest is a memory or a want to be (“let me just…”)

Hickey meditates on the flow of things: the river we cannot again step in, the train trip we are on and whose stops we cannot choose. We can just straighten up a few things, not everything.

the winds wash over like the tide, the blood in your veins
the water on the pavement, moving away
it’s all the same
it’s all the same
do you know
it’s the same train
same we are
on the same train (“same train”)

We share our impermanence. For us there is just the unfolding, just the rails that seem to converge on a nameless horizon. But the flow of things does not depress Hickey, cage him. It liberates him. The songs on the album figure freedom first in one way, then another, and then another. Release and relief—longtime themes in Hickey’s songwriting—come and go and come and go again. The desert may be fragmentary and shifting; still, it is home to our nomadic tribe, our free range.

The song at the heart of the album, “broken”, is a spiritual exercise, complete with rubrics.

is already broken
breathe a sigh of relief
the glass is already broken

is already dead
breathe a sigh of release
the life is already dead…

The open-spaced reminder here images incompleteness even as it speaks of incompleteness. The point is to learn to eliminate the rue, the dread that recognizing incompleteness usually causes. (We should see a blank spot to be filled in front of “is already broken”—the glass is one thing that can fill the blank spot, but so too could any other artifact, any other thing, any other anyone.) We do that by seeing the end (the breaking, the dying) as itself present in the now. The end cannot be avoided, evaded—we need not wait in suspense for it, hoping it will not happen. No, we can breathe, even relax. Its end is part of what each thing is. The message here is at once Stoic and Buddhist. The way up and the way down are the same way, same train.

What I have so far said may make it seem that the album belongs on a podium instead of a turntable, that listening to it is like listening to a lecture. That is wrong. There is Hickey’s gift for melody. The melodies are beautiful. The instrumentation, while spare, is just right. Hickey’s unduplicated talent for starting (and often ending) the music and the lyrics of a song at the same time works like magic. Songs often seemed conjured from the air (and often to dispel back into it). Many of the songs chart the sorts of courses we expect from popular songs—the beginnings of love, the sharing of love. But they do it in Hickey’s way.

I sat down beside you
there was sadness in your face
but it was mostly faded
there was just enough to trace
and so your beauty isn’t
the kind that wears away
I still see it every day
since I first saw it
it was all I needed
it was all I needed to
go waltzing to clinging to you (“waltzing to clinging to you”)

The album’s title, love away, bears thinking on. It can be heard as an imperative—as either an order or an invitation, depending on imagined tone. It can also be heard as a (fragmentary) declarative, linked with the album’s frequent images of things moving away, and its efforts to accept leavings and endings.

It is easy to lose heart in the flux. It is easy to think that since everything is already broken, nothing is worth making well. Why sweat the details when the tale is already told? Hickey’s album answers and is itself an answer: the gods are everywhere.



to write a review


A True Musician
Chris Hickey has always surprised me with his ability to draw me in with a song and get it stuck in my head. Just a second ago I was reading the title, "Grapes From a Thorn" drawing a blank trying to remember what the song was about and the song came on and I immediately started singing along.
Chris Hickey's lyrics are not straight forward with spoon fed meaning. Luckily, the lyrics and melodies are crafted so well that you enjoy the journey to learning what message is behind them.
Naturally, there are plenty of songs that grab you immediately like "I Could Live" or "Let Me Just Straighten Up A Few Things". There are songs that have been floating out there in demo form like "Down The Turmoil" and "Hospital" that have found a unique sound in this version.

Big Fan

Still no justice - Chris Hickey is not No. 1 on the charts
The world would be a better place if more people bought Chris Hickey albums. I know I would be happier if he put them out more often. But, with songs like "Down The Turmoil" and "Same Train" it is definitely worth the wait. This is classic Hickey, minimalistic instrumentation and lyrics that make you think. He even treats us to a mini-lesson in Buddhism during "Broken". It is neat that his talented son, a fellow musician named Charlie, played on the CD, also. Get this album, but don't expect the songs' meanings to be handed to you on a silver platter. Like all good Chris Hickey songs, it takes time for the meaning and message to present itself. This album is worth the time.