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Stone & Snow Wrestle With The 'Devil That I Know'

Nathan Bridges

On the pleasure/pain continuum, Karen Bridges and Clint Thomson of the Bloomington-Normal folk duo "Stone & Snow" concede the latter often wins out.

"It's always good when it's done and always a great feeling when it's starting to take shape," said Thomson.  "But in the beginning you never know what you're dealing with, or I'm not sure if she (Bridges) will like it, or vice-versa.  So I would say it's slightly painful in the beginning."

Bridges added "The pain probably comes beforehand and then you write about it."

As with many songwriters, Bridges said songwriting for her is more inspirational than mechanical. 

"It does kind of just strike, and then whatever you're doing, you have to stop and pull out that voice recorder so you don't forget what you just hummed in the shower," laughed Bridges.

Thomson concurred about jotting or recording an idea when a song reveals itself.  He said calculation begins once a song has a few bits and pieces.

"Then when you're sitting down you can decide if a song needs 'this or this,' so I'm just going to write down a bunch or random things that 'this' makes me feel," said Thomson.

The duo's 2016 release "Devil That I Know" was intentionally more upbeat musically than 2014's  "These Are The Hills."  Musically the songs are more electric and have more of a rock feel than "These Are The Hills."  But lyrically the album is littered with ghosts, regret, and longing, almost as if both needed to cleanse themselves of their past.

"We like to write things that mean something and strike a chord with us," said Thomson.  "So I would say at least a portion of each one of our albums you're going to hear us pouring something out of ourselves.  So I think there's always going to be a good deal of emotion on our albums."

Not all the songs on "Devil That I Know" are dark.  "Bluebird" is a straight up love coo and "What My Heart Wants" ("A house in the valley ... with you by my side") imagines a future with the person on her mind.  But most of the songs deal with pain, including the beautiful, but gut-splattering inward looking "Why Doesn't Anyone Stick Around?"

Why doesn't anyone stick around?/Am I so easy to leave?/Did you stop loving me?/I'd like to know.

Bridges felt she was channeling a past relationship as she was writing the song.

"I had given so much, only to have it not work out in the end.  It was kind of like the story of my life, why doesn't anyone stick around?" laughed Bridges.

Bridges and Thomson came out blazing with their 2017 entry for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert.  The video was recorded in GLT Program Director Mike McCurdy's office.

"It's a politically charged song," said Thomson.  "There's a lot of emotion and feeling wrapped up in that one.  So it felt great to finally get it down and send it out.  I'm looking forward to recording that in the studio especially because we get to do some different things in there."

Bridges said it was written in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election.

"I've never written a protest song.  And it's actually been an interesting experience writing about current events because the meaning of your song can immediately change based on what you've written. I remember writing the lyric 'burn this house down' and a week later we're getting tweets of getting into a nuclear arms race, so that's another meaning of 'burning this house down' that is now added to the song," said Bridges.

Stone & Snow perform February 4 at 7:00 p.m. at Duncan Manor just outside Towanda as part of Duncan Manor's Songwriter Series.

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