“There was no ‘a-ha’ moment,” says Jonathon Linaberry, “no life-changing revelation, no singular flash of inspiration. It was just a fierce, steady, undeniable energy, a force of nature I had to wrestle and wrangle with for years until I could harness it.”
“That’s where the notion of ‘slow lightning’ was born,” Linaberry explains. “It’s about a power you can’t control, a force that’s bigger than you and follows its own path no matter how badly you want to mold or direct it. That’s what this record felt like, and it’s something I had to figure out how to embrace.”
That kind of all-consuming power is palpable from the start on Slow Lightning, which begins with the boisterous “Animals.” Gritty and insistent, the track taps into something primal and uninhibited, learning to trust its gut and make peace with aiming high and sometimes falling short. “Well my heart’s just trying to kill me,” Linaberry sings over roiling guitars and drums. “It always vibrates above / With always grand notions / But it plays in the mud.” Like so much of the album, it’s a testament to resilience, to letting go of failure and pressing on even when things feel hopeless. The bittersweet title track explores tenacity in the face of disenchantment, while the lo-fi “Blue Skies” insists on reaching for hope regardless of the cost, and “The Flood” conjures up a wistful portrait of survival and loss as it builds from a dreamy blur into a searing crescendo.
“I remember lying in bed in the dark hearing the coyotes laughing out in the field behind our house just before they killed something,” Linaberry recalls. “It was so haunting and eerie, but at the same time, you’re just so totally in awe of what’s happening right outside your window, this elemental moment of life and death all wrapped up together.”
Despite the looming sense of danger that permeates the album, Slow Lightning still manages to find moments of humor and levity. The darkly romantic “I’ll See You In Hell” revels in a love so strong it carries on through eternal damnation; the sardonic “I Ain’t Through With You” gets high on an addictively toxic relationship; and the relentlessly taut “Heaven Help Me” surrenders to overwhelming infatuation, with Linaberry recalling, “Love is the kind of thing that will keep you warm / That's what she said / As she was burning down my home.”
In the end, though, it’s perhaps the breezy “Salt Sour Sweet” that best encapsulates the spirit of the record, with Linaberry looking back on a lifetime of love and heartbreak, dreams and disappointment, success and failure, and ultimately recognizing that it’s the grand sum of them all that make us who we are. “It’s the salt sour and sweet / That holds,” he sings in an airy falsetto. Call it maturity, call it self-awareness; it’s the kind of wisdom that can only arrive on a bolt of Slow Lightning.