The Stubborn Lovers
Chelsea Donoho

The Stubborn Lovers' Powerful 'Counting Feathers on a Sparrow's Wing' Infuses Southwest Desert Vibes

Self-described as a "apocalyptic cowboy song," The Stubborn Lovers' "Counting Feathers on a Sparrow's Wing" is a shot of electricity into the bloodstream. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, bassist and songwriter Jenny Taylor poured out all her anxieties onto paper, as it "felt like all the light and hope of the past eight years had been extinguished, and fears of a new dystopian order began to creep in."

"Little did we know just how well-founded those fears would turn out to be," she adds. 

Taylor began experiencing a deep, profound shift in her songwriting around the same period, too. "A darker muse" seeped into the work. "I found myself wanting to write something that evoked the somberness of Johnny Cash, maybe even something he might've sung if he'd still been around," she tells Wide Open Country. "While I'd worked with biblical imagery before — as a Catholic, albeit a lapsed one, it's in my blood — I hadn't really written anything overtly apocalyptic, at least not for a long while. Despite the darkness inherent in the theme, it's pretty rich lyrical soil for vocabulary and metaphor."

"Counting Feathers on a Sparrow's Wing" anchors a forthcoming LP, Come a Reckoning, expected Nov. 18. The Portland-based Americana trio is rounded out by lead singer and guitarist Mandy Allan and drummer Michael "Pearl" Nelson.

With the album primer, Taylor draws upon two of her biggest songwriting influences, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer, both frequent Cash songwriters. Marty Robbins' musical DNA also worms its way into the song, boosting the "cowboy" elements with a dusty gust. "I wanted a lonesome Southwest desert vibe — something that could be sung around a campfire," she explains. "The background vocals in the chorus are specifically meant to evoke the sound of coyotes howling in the distance. I feel like we get closest to Johnny Cash on the bridge; despite the vast difference in vocal timbre, I can hear his cadence in the way Mandy sings it. Just listen to the way her voice drops on the line 'I fear hard rain is coming soon.'"

While pulling from a specific passage from the Bible (Matthew 10:29-31), as well as the gospel hymn "His Eye is on the Sparrow," Taylor also makes reference to acclaimed author James Joyce's novella, titled "The Dead." Together, it's an all-consuming lyrical firestorm, radiating such blinding flames it'll knock you over.

Check it out below.

The Stubborn Lovers · Counting Feathers on a Sparrow's Wing