Anna McClellan on Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely


The upcoming LP from Omaha songwriter Anna McClellan is a bare, honest portrayal of self-doubt, self-deprecation, love, loss, and the meandering moments between. Where others would seek to sand the edges of their songs to a smooth perfection, McClellan seems to enjoy the splinters and broken edges. Organs saw against the grain of hooks, her voice quakes, and woodwinds creak in nervous sways. Those splinters draw blood, though, and the record stays with you, popping into the subconscious throughout the day. Anna’s lyrics are there with a knowing smirk. As such I figured she’d be another great candidate for a dive below the surface of the record collection for a Gems piece. Check out her take on the recently unearthed collection by Connie Converse below.

“My friend Kara showed me Connie Converse in 2015 and after listening to a couple songs, admits McClellan, I felt like I knew her and we were friends! Kindred spirits I think they call it. Converse was active in the1950’s in New York, but her music didn’t surface in any widespread way til a compilation of recordings How Sad, How Lovely was released on Lauderette Records in 2009. She has since been dubbed one of the earliest singer-songwriters, and in the past decade accumulated as much acclaim as any current, budding indie-darling.”

“The way that she describes loneliness hit me somewhere deep and has since informed my own musings on the self. She manages to eloquently express dissatisfaction and accept it at the same time. Lovingly and poetically holding dichotomies is something I am very into. All of her songs are brilliant but some of my faves are: “Clover Saloon”, “We Lived Alone”, “One by One”, and “John Brady”. I read that they recorded most of these songs in her kitchen,” notes Anna. “You can really hear the room. I love when feet shuffling, coughing, or dialogue intermingle with the actual chords in a recording. Really takes you somewhere, you know?”

“‘But if you go away as trouble ought to do/ Where will I find another soul to tell my trouble to?’ My biggest period of listening to her was on a long road trip in 2015. I drove West with her words guiding me through depression, loneliness, and the weight of searching for something I was certain I couldn’t ever find. I know that the emotions she evokes in her songs are derived from similar uncertainties of belonging. On top of that, I knew she had disappeared in 1974 and I felt sad and missed her despite having never met. We still don’t know where she went, but I hope on some level she can tap into the wealth of connection so many listeners, decades later, have formed with her music. And for us here now, that we can stop viewing our existence in such linear ways and letting people slip through the spaces between the lines.”

This is a pick that seems natural after having listened to Anna’s music over the last couple of weeks, and an excellent recommendation at that. The LP is a bit out of print at this point, but pretty much any other format will still connect you to the spirit of Converse’s wounded soul. Anna’s own album, I Saw First Light, is out this week from Father/Daughter, and makes a nice companion piece to Connie’s collection.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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