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A Healing Album For Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen

"Lay These Weapons Down" is a musical departure for Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen.  Where their now two-year-old "Tolono" album is firmly rooted in folk, "Weapons" shows the quartet veering into more contemporary territory, including horns and other colors.  Rebecca Rego said that musical evolution coincided with personal difficulties the band experienced since "Tolono."

"I'm surrounded by amazing musicians.  I always had this idea that as a singer/songwriter I had to sound a certain way.  But on this record, I just wanted to let go and see what these people had to say about these songs, because I trust them," said Rego.

In the past few years, the four have dealt with divorce, the loss of family members, and even a debilitating sickness.  Rego and band mates that include Matt Yeates, Eric Fitts, and Cory Ponton channeled that pain and anger into songs that became "Lay These Weapons Down."

"I tried to write for everyone," said Rego.  "We're very close.  We live together in Champaign now that I'm divorced.  We're just like family, and I think a lot of the record really shows that."

"Spell" is a song from "Weapons" that showcases the deep introspection Rego and the Trainmen dug up to deal with the past few years.  It attempts to reconcile living with someone with a potentially non-compatible personality.  It includes the lines:

I'm as hard pressed to understand / Why I always love a broken man.

"I think men and women have different ways of communicating.  I think that's what this song is about.  It's not necessarily autobiographical, but it does take from parts of my life.  I'm a woman and open about my feelings, and sometimes dealing with people who are a little less emotionally available can be frustrating. But you're trying to learn how to come to a middle ground," said Rego.

As soul-searching as the lyrics are on "Spell," Rego pointed to it as one of the first songs on the album that became more about the music than the lyrics.

"I wrote something rudimentary and off the cuff," said Rego.  "Then we came to the studio and said 'let's throw that out and start with this synth part.'  Then our friend Reggie came in and wrote this interesting horn line over the top of it.  So for the first time it was more about this abstract piece of music than about writing a story."

Rego said despite writing about painful times for "Lay These Weapons Down," the process of writing was more cathartic than difficult.  That is happened at all can be credited to her decision to not move away from Champaign-Urbana and start over in a new environment.  She said after reflection, it made more sense to stick with her mates and write through their issues.

"We'd been talking about making a new album for a long time," said Rego. "Some of these songs had been in the works, so we decided 'let's pull the trigger and do it right now, because making this album is really going to help us heal.'  Listening to it for me now is so therapeutic.  I don't really listen to 'Tolono' that much or other albums I've made in the past with other bands that much, but this one I feel is so therapeutic to me."

Rebecca Rego plays an acoustic show as part of the Duncan Manor songwriter series December 3.  Showtime is 7:00 p.m.  Duncan Manor is located at 1002 Towanda-Barnes Road, just south of Towanda, IL.    

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.