By Tom Reardon, August 2020 issue.
Mishka Shubaly — I’ll Be Gone
When you boil some water, assuming you have, it is often an act of necessity. There are the bubbles and the steam that lets us know what is happening. We can see the change occurring as a liquid becomes a gas and sometimes, we even hold our hand over the water so we can feel the heat. If you’ve ever had the urge to touch the water or on one of those really bad days, take the water and pour it over your head, you can instantly imagine the pain that would be brought on by something that we usually find so soothing, so serene.
Listening to Mishka Shubaly’s new record, I’ll Be Gone, is something similar to the dark fantasy of dousing your emotional pain with boiling water. You know it is going to hurt but you are also so curious as to what it will really feel like. It is a short record filled with strong inclinations of the search for peace in a world where struggle is often king, and frustration is a mocking jester.
I’ll Be Gone is an efficient and proper execution of the solitary exploration of pain, and the aftereffects of Shubaly’s work will most definitely leave a mark, just as boiling water does to skin.
It is also beautiful, as well, with the pared down honkytonk inspired instrumentation and wistful phrasing of a true poet. It is safe to say it is my favorite new record of the year (although I’m still loving the new JJCnV offering, so I’ll Be Gone might be in second place, to be accurate) and definitely my favorite record by Shubaly. The singer/songwriter is also an author and comedian, so painful subject matter is nothing new to him. In fact, it is hard to imagine someone out there conveying what it feels like to be living in the middle of a pandemic, racial unrest, and the bewildering politics of a mad con man better than my fellow Phoenician.
Bookended by two brother/sister/kissing cousin songs, “You Were the Song” and “You Were the Band,” I’ll Be Gone is rife with the kind of word play fans of Shubaly have come to expect from his literary and musical work. You may even be tempted to smile as his words take chunks out of your soul because it feels to good to be eviscerated by things you wish you would have said yourself and you can sing along, too. Shubaly has really come into his unique voice on I’ll Be Gone, and it is the best he has sounded on record.
The cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Trucker Speed” is a nugget of gold amidst the other five gems on this offering. If you are not familiar with the original version of the song, you are probably going to fall in love with Shubaly’s take on this paean to lonely life on the road. Allison Langerak’s beautiful vocals help create a “beauty and the beast” effect on “Trucker Speed” even though Shubaly has truly never sounded better. With Don Cento’s fantastic work on the keys, the song grips the heart and twists, ringing out the blood, sweat, and tears of a true road warrior which is subject matter that Shubaly knows only too well.
In a record filled with great lines, two of my all-time favorites occur on another epic road song, “This Road Has Tolls.” When Shubaly sings, “I got every single color of black rock and roll skull t-shirt now remind me what I’m dying for. Feel like I’m losing the narrative, speaking a language I no longer understand,” every musician will die a little bit alongside the singer as he wonders what all these cloth trophies add up to in the grand ledger of rock and roll life. At the end of the song when Shubaly sings, “If I ever make it home I’ll find home has lost everything (that) made it home to me” it truly sums up what it means to be a wandering soul, lost in a desert of dry humor and empty, unwashed whiskey glasses.
Buy this record now. I did.