"LONELY, LONESOME, AND ALONE" sounds like a lousy thing to be—like "Lonesome, On'ry, and Mean," but without enough energy to get pissed off and do something. It sounds like the lowest of the down low, and Tom Bevitori was there. He was getting divorced. He was sick. He was drinking himself to death.
"That was some hard shit," he says. "I was fucked up. I was heartbroken as hell. Just fuckin' alone."
If there's any good news there at all, it's that Bevitori is in a country band, one that specializes in howling at the moon. And so "Lonely, Lonesome, and Alone" turns up as the first track on Denver's second album Rowdy Love, an 11-song ride through love's tricky angles.
Bevitori's two partners in songwriting were each in the middle of their own different stories. Mike Elias was patching things up with his wife. Birger Olsen was getting married. There was plenty to work with, then, when Blitzen Trapper's Eric Earley (himself an occasional Denver sideman) went to work producing Rowdy Love with Adam Selzer at Type Foundry Studio.
The title track, written by Elias, is something of an apology to his wife, a promise that his "rowdy love is true." But there is plenty of internal conflict on the rest. "Carry On," the first single, finds him stuck between not being able to run away, but not being able to stay, either. "And I just blindly stare at carry on."
Olsen's "Bird in the Morning Dew" is either a heartwarming meditation on true love's dedication, or a disturbing rumination on stalking. "No matter what you do," he sings, "I'm just biding my time. Like a bird in the morning dew."
"Prison Song" gives voice to a death-row inmate whose execution time is near, as he prays to his dead mother. That's one kind of enduring love. Another is found in "Sammyville," the story of the Eastern Oregon town run forever by Sam Horrell (or until 2011, at the age of 81, when his guns and his dynamite were locked away). There, the winters are cold and lonely and he's glad his wife stayed.
Bevitori's contributions are all pretty beaten up. His divorce wasn't a private affair. You can hear the other side of the story on his ex-wife Alela Diane's last record, About Farewell. In interviews, she was blunt about Bevitori's alcoholism. His drinking, added to his Crohn's disease, was toxic and led to a vicious downward spiral in his health. His friends around town eventually threw a benefit to help him with medical bills. And that was after the record was recorded.
He'd already written a shit-kicker called "Bound to Lose," the story of a guy named Johnny, who's really Bevitori, who keeps making the wrong decision. Bevitori wrote "The Shame" about looking for the second chance he's got now.
When he answered his phone last week, he was getting some work done on a tattoo. His medical bills are paid off. He feels good. He's writing much happier songs these days.
He says he's nine months sober—in a drinking band, no less. "We're fun-loving guys," Bevitori says. (Denver's Instagram account recently featured a smuggling operation, as they worked a bottle of whiskey into a loaf of bread to sneak it into the Merle Haggard show at the Oregon Zoo.)
"I got so sick I was able to see my death," Bevitori says. "And I didn't want to be on that road anymore. I'll quit drinking, but I'm not quitting the band."