The most unconventional thing about the Marshall Pass’s new single, “Maggie,” may be the simplest: It’s about a mother coming home. You’d think that wouldn’t be a big deal, but there it is: One’s hard-pressed to think of any other songs that revolve around the idea of a mother returning to her husband and child after an absence.
There are tons of “I’m” coming home, and “he’s” coming home, and lots and lots of “she’s leaving” (although those are usually wives or lovers, and I can’t think of any identified explicitly as mothers, although there’s probably some country song out there that fits the bill).
No, it’s an odd little detail, but it sticks with you once you notice. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen her smile,” sings vocalist Craig Rawding, in a gentle, wistful voice that whispers to absence but not necessarily trauma. “It’s been so long since I’ve walked a moonlit mile with my baby/She’s coming home where she belongs.”
The song is at least partially addressed to a child, which would temper any negativity, but the gentleness in the tone seems to imply that it’s not a case of the persona’s wife leaving him over relationship issues. Has she been hospitalized? Was she deployed to Afghanistan? Was she on a business trip to Pacoima? We don’t know, and that’s kind of awesome.
Here’s the thing: Mothers in most songs don’t leave. They may DIE, but they never go anywhere. They’re waiting at home while their significant others come back from the war, or the bar, or work. That this doesn’t really jibe with reality is beside the point. This woman’s story is a mystery, but in one small little stroke, the Marshall Pass has informed the listener that she HAS one.
As for the rest, it’s a pretty little song. The band — which comprises Rawding on vocals and harmonica, Duncan Arsenault on guitar, Brooks Milgate on piano, Jeremy Moses Curtis on upright bass, Roger Lavallee on electric guitar and Annie Arsenault on accompanying vocals — brings a lot of firepower to create something so delicate. Each contribution to the song is small, almost understated, and the result is just lovely. Everything plays well together: It all melds to a gorgeous little clockwork, one that pulses with a genuine sense of wistfulness, absence and love.
As with the song’s very premise, the band makes use of small things to create something far more substantial than it seems at first glance.
Email Victor D. Infante at Victor.Infante@Telegram.com and follow him on Twitter @ocvictor.