How in the world could we possibly have arrived here? Megan Reilly’s “To Seal My Love“ leaves the listener defenseless in its wake. An opening verse with plaintive voice and chiming guitar fit for a lullaby soon shifts gears into roaring, triumphant, anthemic majesty. Enveloping. Touching. Enlightening. Exuding from every musical crevice the overwhelming, radiant warmth of love, love that never before seemed likely or even possible to Megan or to listeners of her mysteriously alluring music. A song that was anything but inevitable.
Since our last ghostly encounter with the enigmatic Megan Reilly’s captivating music, she’s had a child, moved out of New York, learned to bake and quilt, and become fully domesticated. We fear that maybe she’s gone soft or forgotten how to write the songs that captured our hearts in the first place. Instead, during her recording sabbatical, Megan has been living her life to the fullest, experiencing the deepest pain and hurt that life can throw at us, but then, shockingly, for what feels like the first time in her life, she also has earned life’s greatest gift: love. “I was used to writing from a mournful place. Having a child and being in love filled me with such unfamiliar happiness that I didn’t know how to write about it. So I learned how to quilt. I made eight quilts in five years.“
In the musical interim, Foljahn departed and was replaced by a new elemental piece, virtuoso guitarist James Mastro (Health and Happiness Show, Patti Smith, Ian Hunter). Their bond was immediate, as if their musical talents were destined to augment each other. Megan finally began writing her third record. “I didn’t want any more time to pass without making music so I booked the studio time in advance when I had only four songs written. Then I would tell people, ’I’m making a record soon,’ thinking that if I said it enough it would happen. And it did. I wrote whenever I could, so now I know that method works.“
The resulting album, The Well, marks an enormous musical leap that mirrors the vast changes in Megan’s personal life since Ghost was written. The album title refers to the muse that lies deep within that propels the music. “Despite my fear that I had used up all my talent on my first two records and had nothing to offer, the best work I’ve ever done was lying dormant all along, waiting for me to pay attention.“
The Well is a giant leap by Megan Reilly, both musically and thematically. It is also a rich and carefully chosen metaphor. A Well can be a deep place of impenetrable darkness, fear, and mystery, a place that does not relinquish its visitors. In these depths, Megan again bravely faces off with the specter of existential darkness that haunts us all. Like her past few albums, Megan’s enveloping music, a cross between emotive Irish fatalism and Southern Gothic macabre, comfortably camps in these darkest of corners. “The Lady of Leitrim,“ filled with Lenny Kaye’s singularly ethereal riffs, haunts us long after The Lady disappears, and as an arrow punctures Megan’s heart, her little “Little Angel“ flies away before its time. But her surprising cover of Iris Dement’s plaintive “After You’re Gone“ portends new directions. Upon this song’s foundation of pain, Megan finds the strength to face Death, feel its deepest sting, yet hold the love for her departed that much closer.
Following her seemingly eternal dark night of the soul, no one is more surprised than Megan that, upon emerging, she has found that The Well is also a place of creativity and redemption. If you listen, quietly and patiently, The Well can be your muse, offering up blindingly beautiful gems like her obliquely enigmatic “To Seal My Love,“ again with Lenny Kaye’s indispensable shimmer. Maybe an old friend like John Wesley Harding receives his own visit and is handed an earworm of a duet, “Old Man and the Bird.“ Once discovered, the muse of “The Well“ can lead you out the darkness once and for all.