J. Coursey Willis seems to be making peace with his ghosts on his latest single, “Ink in the Well.” He’s rather comfortable in the dark, gothic fantasy he has weaved with his words and music. “I love the night, the moon, the clouds, giant old trees, ghosts, history, and drinking in cemeteries,” he admits. Willis aligns himself with the great rock poets, stating, “I am the imagined child of Jim Morrison and Alanis Morissette…or at least that’s what I’ve been told…the moody art I create leans in a melancholic direction which I find comforting. I literally can’t quit this and fear if I ever had to, the results would be catastrophic.” If it is this combination of moodiness and desperation fuels the fire by which this bard warms up to his muse, then, as Bill Shakespeare once said, play on!
Lyrically, Willis draws on alternative, grungy influences like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. The opening lines of “Ink in the Well” display the songwriter’s inner mood effectively and invite us into a world of darkness and mist: “Monday morning, six AM Feel so good ’cause I might be dead Sunday eve took all away The secrets inside that God couldn’t save.” He seems to be resurrecting Edgar Allen Poe with these lines, setting an isolated, lonely mood similar to the one set by Poe in his masterwork, “The Raven.” Just picture J. Coursey Willis with an original 19th-century bottle of absinthe in a graveyard, reciting a book of poetry to any ghosts willing to listen; that’s the imagery his songs inspire.
The lyrical content of “Ink in the Well” might be steeped in dark imagery, but musically, it’s pretty rocking. The drums here are recorded especially well and have a full, rock sound, all too often missing from recent productions. There are also some atmospheric guitar elements, which almost sneak by in the mix, much like on the albums of J’s noted influence, Nine Inch Nails. As a footnote, Willis mentions that “this song is from a collection of songs recorded, mixed, and mastered completely virtually during the COVID19 quarantine.” In that case, the new normal may not be so bad after all.
Keep Mr. Coursey on your radar. We’re already thinking about what other morose odes this troubadour will be penning!