The bell hanging over the door hadn’t rung properly in years, a missing clapper leaving the overhang all but silent. Instead, visitors were meekly announced by the creaking spring holding the screen door onto the building, and the follow-up slam as the wooden frame met the doorway.
Locals muttered, “Hi Bill,” not expecting a reply, as he was never in sight. Visitors looking through the collection of kitchen supplies and antique cookware were meanwhile startled to find him in the back of the store, huddled over a computer placed precariously on a makeshift table of 2x4s nailed to the exposed wooden walls. The lumber was original, dating back over a hundred years. Not as old as the first hardware store that had stood here at the town’s founding, the one that was built with timber from the nearby camps: the rest of it hauled inland to build the burgeoning northern settlements or shipped down Lake Michigan to Chicago. Shortly after the first, the new store was built, nary a hesitation by the townspeople to slow down or reconsider their original plan.
With the new building came new additions: a small grain elevator next to the would-be computer desk; schoolhouse electric lights (presumably from the same shipment delivered to the district schoolhouse around the lake) to replace the gas fixtures; and additions to the eastern and western walls, practically doubling the capacity of the store and setting the scene for the late century ability (and economic need) to sell plastic summer toys and autumn decorations to the tourists seeking an authentic experience in the forgotten town up north.
A single cast iron box stove stood in the middle of the floor, no barricades set up to guard it; instead children learned the hard way not to get too close. Never glowing at full capacity, Bill instead supplemented it in the winter with tiny ceramic heaters made in China and plugged in via extension cords throughout the store. On this day no less than three were buzzing to fill the empty space with electric heat when the door slammed–“Hiya, Bill”–with the full force of the screen door that wasn’t taken down, again, this November.
This album was recorded with three voices singing into a single mic. The harmonies can be fully appreciated when any of the individual sisters sing a solo; it’s not that their personal voices are lacking, but that when they rejoin their counterparts you realize the full impact that a cohesive ensemble can produce. This album feels like a visit to someone’s living room: intimate, cozy, and without any pretensions at all to the world outside.