Paul Doffing: Running in the Dark (Paul Doffing Records)

Affecting new set from the indie acoustic singer and environmental activist

Released May 17th, 2019 via Paul Doffing Records / By Clementine Lloyd
Paul Doffing: Running in the Dark (Paul Doffing Records) Running in the dark. That’s a feeling most, if not all, of us can relate to. Those times when you’re blindly feeling for something to make us feel truth, inspiration, or just whole. Paul Doffing’s fourth solo studio album sifts through a myriad of evocative states of being, ultimately bringing us his truth.

This comes from a pretty epic starting point. Thought this starting point has a far and wide reach. Whilst traveling by bike (that’s push, not motor), Doffing has toured across 22 US states and 7 countries (spanning almost 13,000 miles). The resultant record was built and honed over six years, and is a true labour of love.

Casting ears over tracks that made it, Doffing has borrowed from a multitude of musical and cultural elements. Wheedling them out from one another, however, becomes a difficulty. The record’s soul-searching nature is bound in love, heartache, and vulnerability in a personal sense. The flipside of this is a more global scale, drawing in elements of our planet’s safety, and how we treat each other as a species.

The notion of collective and personal vulnerability is rife throughout the record. Another Winter Day holds this in mind as Doffing talks of walking through New York: “Where the building stand so tall / And the mouths to fill are many, make you feel so small / We’ll go walk the broken sidewalks / that so many men before have lived and loved and died on / Each year many thousands more / And the thunder of our heartbeats will join in to a mighty clan”. This is the stuff that each track is built on. The universality of the unique human experience.

It’s interesting to hear Doffman speak of the way his tracks are born. Easy As You Come was in fact inspired by a Shamanic vision quest he participated in while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. “The experience made a profound impression on me as to the state of our world. Particularly, I noticed the dissonance perceived by natives in the actions of modern humans. I built the song on the dissonant notes in the first section, and wove over it the story of birth, death, and love” he explained. You can feel this effortlessly within the walls of the record. The echoes and timbre of the piece create a sense of being captured by the society we live in, as well as the way in which indigenous people view the destruction of wild habitats by global corporations.

Whilst most tracks take more of a sombre approach (If You Haven’t Fought With The Devil is particularly mournful), the title track is drenched in lively trumpets and enmeshed with a ska riff that gives the soul of the Deep South, and the heart of a activist. Lyrics “It seems as if the dark is the source of the light… it seems like what we want is what’s not meant to be / but how can I tell you” give a subject matter fraught with conflict and heartache. And yet! It is joyful in its delivery, making you move in spite of itself. Which is all any of us can do sometimes.

Single Renegade Heart is pensive and yearning, the choral cries at the heart of the track are mirrored through elongated mandolin notes, whilst lyrics “How ancient, how kind, how patient an art. To sit and sew patches on a renegade heart” return to the vulnerability we expose ourselves to in relationships. As Doffing himself says: “It is a reflection on the ways that our unruly heart can both bring us deep and wonderful feelings, but also pain and sadness”.

Doffing’s latest record, spanning six hard-won years of touring by bicycle, is like a diary of all the thoughts and feelings he has collected. With all that time to think, and all those people met along the way, it is melancholy in its approach, yet with so much heart at its core than you cannot help but want to climb inside and know more. Repeated listening rewards you with more points of view. It’s delivery is smart, giving both a unique worldview as well as a more global aspect. An aspect I’m sure you can only get through getting on your bike and meeting the world with an open heart. 4/5