“Apothecary Love,” an old-timey charmer from The Low Anthem’s drop-dead gorgeous Smart Flesh LP, has been making me smile for since it came out in 2011. It vibes like a summery cross between The Band’s Music From Big Pink and Beck’s Mutations – all mournful, moonlit country lilt and coal mountain melody waltzing matilda across the fruited plains and purple mountain majesties of the warm, narcotic American night. Its like old time country lemonade for your ears. The singer sounds like an Appalachian Cat Stevens telling it on the mountain, the harmonica wheezes like a far-off train whistle in the night and hearing that ghostly pedal steel, in my considered opinion, the closest you will ever get to God.
Set in the olden days — when women wore bonnets, men wore britches and everything was sepia-toned — the lyric concerns two soon-to-be lovers that meet cute in an apothecary (sort of like an old-fashioned CVS). He’s just minding his own business, browsing the potions, pills and medicines, when he notices a sad-eyed lady of the lowlands. He quickly determines that she is tormented by the darkening voices in her head, the “conspiracy delusion that her boyfriend kept fed” and tells her that he’s got the cure for the shape that she’s in. Understandably she’s suspicious of his intentions, but he assures his intentions are pure and all that he wants is to be the friend she so obviously needs. He has a voice you can trust.
By the second verse, they are back at his homestead and she’s already feeling better. She shoots him with whiskey and then chases him with gin, she calms and comforts him, and stills the tremble in his hands — turns out she’s got the cure for the shape that he’s in. Cue scratchy, silent film footage of mortar grinding in pestle, train going into the tunnel, etc. All’s well that ends well, you would think. But by the last verse, she’s left him, he’s “reeling with that time-release feelin’” and so he heads back down to the apothecary, hoping to find a new cure for the shape that he’s in. In a word: perfect.
The Low Anthem are currently on tour in support of a wonderfully kaleidoscopic new album out called eyeland which brings them to Underground Arts on Sunday. We have a pair of tickets to give away to the 36th person to email us at Phawker66@gmail.com with the correct answer to this Low Anthem trivia question: What is the title of the Low Anthem song that Tom Jones covered? Put the words NATURAL SELECTION in the subject line. He’ll know what to do. Please include your full name and mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!