At first listen, the visceral emotion that bleeds from Lindsay Fuller's songs can be unsettling. Her latest release, The Last Light I See, is a somber, even gloomy collection of songs that are part Flannery O'Connor-esque prose, part cowboy ballad. And as with all the best country music, themes of tragedy and mortality drive the record right from the start—the album's opener, "No Shame," is about suicide.
Lindsay Fuller and the Cheap Dates With Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands, Rusty Willoughby. Tractor Tavern, 5123 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599, tractortavern.com. $10. 9:30 p.m. Fri., July 2.
Though you wouldn't guess it meeting her, Fuller, an Alabama-bred carpenter sporting a bruised thumbnail, thick-rimmed glasses, and a soft Southern drawl, has long struggled with intense depression of her own. It's no surprise to hear that the depth of feeling that pervades her songs—not just pathos, but love as well—comes from a very genuine place.
"I just have kind of a desperation about [writing music]," Fuller says. "It sounds cheesy, but music is life or death for me. It affects me so much that sometimes it's easier to just go swing my hammer."
Influenced by songwriters like Gillian Welch and Jason Molina, the title The Last Light I See is derived from a lyric in one of Molina's tracks, "Hold On Magnolia." For Fuller, music is that light. "It's what keeps me going," she says. But while sorrow, struggle, and death have informed Fuller's music, she is not a particularly depressing person.
"Sometimes people don't want to talk about death, or are horrified by it," she explains. "I think they must be afraid of life. Some people find that sad music makes them more sad, but to me, sad music helps."
Though Fuller moved to Seattle from Texas seven years ago, she didn't write any songs in her first four here. But she has released two albums in the past 12 months, both of which she recorded with the Cheap Dates.
However, the band isn't credited on The Last Light I See. At the behest of guitarist Jeff Fielder, Fuller decided to leave the band's lighthearted name off the record so as not to clash with its serious, intensely personal tone. The band's roster has changed between albums, as well: the Cheap Dates are now Fielder, Rebecca Young, Jason Staczek, and Mark Pickerel (of Screaming Trees and Tripwires fame).
"The people I'm playing with now, I think I'd amputate one of my legs to keep playing with them," Fuller says. "I've never played with people who care so much about my songs."