Mark Erelli could have made a record of resignation, instead Lay Your Darkness Down is a record of empowerment. We live in a light that is ever waning. The landscapes get more shadowed, yet it has its own structure, nuance and beauty if we look for it. Darkness can only exist with the light.
In an era of pessimism, Erelli finds hope and optimism despite the fact that he is going blind. In 2020 he was diagnosed retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that eventually leads to blindness. While he had more than a few moments of depression, his music became even more nuanced. “I could not have accessed the emotions and the observations that inspired these songs without realizing that I was losing my sight…. In some way, I am grateful for that.”
The song ‘You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This’ examines the notion of remembering those moments so easy to forget, moments that only come along once.
Many of the songs on the new album aren’t about blindness, but they are definitely the result of that diagnosis. “They’re songs I could only write once I realized what I was losing. My impending blindness opened my eyes.” Other songs were written before his blindness became a given. Almost prescient, the title track opens with an acoustic guitar playing over a simple synthesizer phrase. In a place between somewhere between mournful and hopeful Erelli sings, “Lay your darkness down/ Shadows lie upon the ground/to show us here the light is coming from.” Darkness and light in equal measure lead us on our journey, something Erelli appreciates more with each passing day.
Erelli is especially good at acknowledging the importance of other people. In one of the tenderest songs on the album he writes about his wife. Not only does he make it clear how much he depends on her, without her he would be nothing. When he sings, “You loved me into the man I am,” you know Erelli is a man transformed.
Recorded at his home studio (with the exception of bass and drums), Erelli is able to craft an album that sounds quite remarkable. Bristling with energy and authenticity, he has created an record brimming with good will and good intentions despite dealing with some the bleakest news he could possibly receive. His ability to transform those moments into something positive goes to the heart of an artist who knows that challenges create opportunities.
Mark Erelli has chosen to live in the moment, embracing it. Rather than railing against the darkness, he continues to find ways to not only see the light that’s left but witness the shadows that surround him. Lay Your Darkness Down is a call to action, a challenge to face the future head on, not with dread, but with hope.