It’s rare to encounter someone who has been burned alive and comes back from it stronger. After being destroyed, most are forever changed—and for many, forever paralyzed—because not everyone has the strength to get back up. Sometimes trauma leaves you weaker, sometimes stronger, and then sometimes you’re not only stronger, you’re looking for a little fucking redemption with a side of payback. That is the space Lincoln Durham seemingly occupies on his forthcoming album, And Into Heaven Came The Night. Although he will tell you that this is his “most balanced, least scathing” album. But for this listener, he is a champion, back from a ride through hell, and he has some stories to tell. So better buckle up. He’s ready to fight. And what else would you really expect from a self-described “Southern-Gothic Psycho-Blues Revival-Punk One-Man Band who does not play well with others?”
If you haven’t experienced Durham before, yes, you read that right. Durham is a one-man band. A one-man band with the enormous sound and energy of an entire orchestra. “There are some nights where I think — I can conquer the world. And then 70% of nights I think — this is the dumbest thing anyone’s ever done. Why did I do this?”
Durham’s sets are akin to a sermon. When his pop-up church at any given venue commences, and he belts his visceral lyrics, guitar and kick drum in tow, he inspires, he invigorates, and he certainly commands attention. “You’re up there solely by yourself and you’re trying to retain the attention of 50-300 people, just doing your thing. It’s scary, the energy level is solely based on what you can muster inside of you. If the crowd is into it, it’s easier…the biggest con [downside], is the loneliness of it.”
I first met Durham in March of 2016 in Agoura, CA. He was opening for the Rev. Horton Heat at The Canyon Club, which has a reputation for drawing a rowdy crowd and thus, I was not sure what to expect from the night. I met his wife/tour manager at the merch table, and I learned of Durham’s grueling tour schedule. For the past five years Durham has played 150-180 gigs per year. At this particular stop, the venue had advertised the wrong time for his set, and he was going on much earlier than anticipated. There was a mad rush to promote the revised time on social media, but the club’s error took its toll and the turn out was sub par. But that didn’t stop Durham from playing his heart out and winning over everyone who did make it out. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him very much but I watched him interact with audience members coming up to him after his set. They were converted and officially Lincoln Durham devotees. When I finally did speak with Durham, it was immediately and undeniably clear that he is one of those rare human beings who is unabashedly honest, engaging, and he owns his shit. And Durham isn’t afraid to go to places that are uncomfortable in his songs. But don’t ask him to explain or clarify his lyrics. He wants his audience to bring their own experience and walk away with a very personal connection to his songs.
In the spirit of personal connection, maybe it’s because of where I am in life right now, that And Into Heaven Came The Night is hands down my favorite album that Durham has ever produced. This album—aka newest sermon—begins with the track “Heaven”: “A rebel fell from grace/To a hell called ‘Earth’/He said, ‘Don’t y’all worry, my friends/You’ll get your money’s worth’/For every sun there comes a moon/And into heaven came the night…the night…the night.” …And this is Lincoln Durham toned down! “This one [album] is a little less scathing and angry than the last. I feel it’s a little more balanced, but again, it’s still me writing mostly in terms of what’s going on in my head. I’ve never– even though I’d like to be, for maybe more money—been great at the love song or the popular sing-a-longs. I write as therapy for myself. Each album is me in different places mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically.”
I had to ask about my personal favorite track on the album, “Feather.” It’s the second to last track, a glorious blaze right before the end of the album: “I see you flashing that vicious grin again/I hear the tick-tock-tick of your bomb/You want another innocent statistic in your sadistic little hard-on/I know you’re crawling out your hole/For another round and spitting out your hate like napalm/I won’t be the collateral damage/You want an enemy, you got one/I won’t be a feather in your storm/I’ll be the rage/I’ll be the war. War!” Durham breaks his rule about discussing lyrics to give me a little insight: “Feather, that was about bowing up, however you want to take it in your life, your protest song. It’s bowing up to the authorities that keep you down. It’s the anthem for the little man, the oppressed or the wronged, a scorned lover or your boss…or the president. It’s that rallying cry that you’re not going to be a pawn in the game.” While he remains reluctant to talk about specifics, it is clear both from our conversation and the sentiments that permeate this album and previous ones for that matter, that Durham has had his fair share of struggle, perhaps people or situations have even tried to take him down. As a result, his songs don’t come across as overly thematic or narrative– but more like bursts of rage that demonstrate fiery resilience.
“This one [album] is a little closer to me than some of the recent ones because I had to produce this one myself. Which was a new and very scary experience. My old producer, who was a long-time friend and the producer of my previous three [albums], he passed away last year. That sent me into uncharted territory and I decided to try to write and produce and record this myself… sometimes when I would go into the studio I might have the song fast and arranged this way and George [producer] would say, ‘What if I did it this way, and slower?’ Sometimes it would become a different song, which is what you really want in the studio. But this one, for the first time, is basically every thing that I had in my head coming out onto the tracks. So it’s a little more scary than usual. It’s truly mine to fail.”
Lincoln, this one didn’t fail, not by a mile.
Check out And Into Heaven Came The Night when it drops on March 30th!
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