If a society’s most precious citizens are its children, we would expect each child to have a positive start in life. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Some children are adopted, others may face years of foster care and never find a permanent home. Painful experiences occur when children find themselves in a family that they may not feel they fit into.
Lissa Schneckenburger is a Brattleboro fiddler and singer-songwriter we have praised in music reviews before. She has taken her own experiences as a foster and adoptive parent and produced a 10-song album, “Thunder in My Arms,” that explores the emotions of children, birth mothers, adoptive and foster parents in a powerful CD. The material here is both musically interesting and emotionally heart rending. This collection of songs is a powerful statement on the subject and deserves a large audience.
So cogent and emotive are the subjects in these songs, that this album should become an important part of literature in the adoption community and the American Adoption Congress.
Schneckenburger’s personal experience as a foster and adoptive parent sparked her drive to write stories of family attachment and loss. The songs express a variety of viewpoints, and catch your attention with their honest emotions and specific points of view.
The album opens with “Look Away,” a song from a foster child’s point of view, a child who may have lived in several foster homes. It opens with: “On that afternoon the sun was in the sky, it made little sparkling diamonds in the snow; I had a heavy fist of fear that gripped my stomach, and it wouldn’t let go.”
Loss is a strong sentiment in several songs. In “On My Own” a child says: “And my mother she stopped coming round; she doesn’t love like me, always yelling and leaving, pushing and pleading. She doesn’t love like me, she is venomous.”
Schneckenburger says about this album, “At a certain point I noticed that everyone we turned to for help with parenting was talking about the same thing: finding compassion, synchronicity and understanding. In my attempts to be a better adoptive parent I found plenty of invaluable books and workshops that got that point across, but no songs!
“Music has this magical way of communicating emotion almost instantly, and allows human beings to synchronize with each other on so many levels,” she said. “I set out to write songs that would resonate with other parents like myself. Songs about loneliness, exhaustion, beauty, abandonment, love, loss, and above all, hope.”
Adoptive parents often find themselves trying to reassure their child that they are loved. The subject is covered in “Since The Day We Met.” She sings: “You can run away, I love you. You can cry all day, I love you. You can kick and scream and shout, turn your insides inside out, and I love you.”
For this writer, the most savvy lines in this lovely album come in the chorus to “Since the Day We Met”: “Everybody makes mistakes and, we get up and try again. But make no mistake, you were no mistake, and I’ve loved you since the day we met.”
What child wouldn’t want to hear that from their parent?
While the lyrics and Schneckenburger’s warm vocals are the focus of this album, those familiar with her previous recordings, based primarily around her fiddling, will see a sharp contrast to her previous work. “Thunder” is rooted solidly in a foundation of drums and bass; the production includes electric guitar, piano and strings, and some brass and saxophone. Her fine fiddling is subdued when it does appear.
You shouldn’t shy away from “Thunder in My Arms” if you’ve become a fan of Lissa Schneckenburger, even though this album has a far different message. The sincerity and empathy in these songs show a wholly different side of her music, a side we might all take a listen to.