One of America’s best-loved life lessons comes courtesy of Robert Frost and his poem, “The Road Not Taken.” If your high school English teacher skipped this unit, you can probably go ahead and listen to “It Will Shine For You” by Elliah Heifetz and get the gist.
“Smoke yourself to sleep, with the fury of a jealous god. Wishing you had some factory job, seventy kids and cracks in the walls like a river.”
On this track, Heifetz contrasts the mundane life many of us end up leading on autopilot with… something. It’s a vague alternative, but more enchanting by far than the factory town he shows us in the first lines of the song.
“It’s a long and lonely road, and I swear I’m being honest. 1000 miles to go, and the end won’t be exactly what you want. But it will shine for you, oh it will shine for you like gold.”
Borrowing the famous Frost metaphor of a road, Heifetz describes the difficulty of striving towards a new life or a near-impossible goal. He claims that the end of the journey will become as valuable as gold if you put in the effort to reach it. In this case, it’s easy to imagine he’s describing his own experiences as a musician; however, he never gets specific about what lies in wait at the end of this long journey, so perhaps it would be better to put that thought aside.
There’s something about this song that’s a little haunting. Maybe I say this because it’s thundering outside, or maybe it’s because every single banjo song reminds me of “The Devil Came Down to Georgia.” But, to give some credit for this moodiness back to Heifetz, this song zigs and zags around the familiar cliché. In some moments, the song truly does seem to believe that the harder road is the better. In others, maybe not.
“You’ve got a thousand miles to go, and when you find yourself, well, it doesn’t really matter. Cause it will shine for you, oh it will shine for you, yeah it will shine for you like gold.”
This sort of ambiguity leaves a lot of work up to the listener. It’s certainly possible that Heifetz is being sarcastic when he makes declarations about how nothing matters, but it’s possible that he isn’t, which is an uneasy thing to let linger. What if you do take the longer road, only to discover it was all for nothing?
Heifetz’s delivery of these lyrics is impassive, making it even harder to tell where he stands on these issues. His partner Jane Bruce and he often sing in perfect ghostly unison. The doubled harmonies contribute to the seriousness that this song tries to communicate to the listener. In some ways, the two sound like they’re accusing you of quitting.
Whether this song is an anthem about working hard to make your dreams come true or a cautious tale about making tough decisions, it’s a thought-provoking update to a well-worn platitude. Insightful and deeply American, this is a good listen for Frost fans and skeptics alike.
To listen to more, visit Elliah on SoundCloud.
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