Neal & Leandra

Accidental Dreams

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Neal Hagberg and Leandra Peak feel compelled to add little written introductions to the lyrics printed in the booklet for their fifth album, Accidental Dreams to reassure listeners that things aren't as dire for them and their world view as some of those lyrics might suggest. For example, there's the leadoff track, "Bottom of the Well," with its chorus, "I've reached the bottom of this well and it's dry/Someone told me there'd be water -- they lied/There might be water if I could cry/But the bottom of this well is dry." "Some people expressed concern for our emotional well-being after we sang this song," the duo confesses, adding, "Don't worry. We're OK. That's just the way life is sometimes." Things get even worse with the second track, "Love in the Family," which might have been called, "Dysfunction in the Family." "My mom wants everyone to know this song is not about us," writes Hagberg, "and if it is, it's not her fault." And so it goes. Actually, one wishes the duo had simply presented this album of apprehension, tension, and depression for what it is, without apology. Life is that way sometimes, and it's worth expressing, even if that means venting about the disappointments and disillusionment of adulthood. Peak's contralto is put to excellent use, for example, on "Wild Horses," as a glimpse of a herd in Nevada leads to a rumination about being a "broken" animal and longing for freedom. The pair's harmonies are well suited to such melancholy material, and as writers they are good at describing the details of unsettling experiences, particularly in "Stranger in a Small Town." By the end, Hagberg manages to change the mood by pretending that he has a dog for comfort and companionship ("Sam"). And, you guessed it, he introduces the tune by telling listeners, "Since I wrote this song about our imaginary dog we got a real one." You see? No need to worry. Neal & Leandra are OK.

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