The Last Day of Winter is an album borne out of making the best of a bad situation. A few years ago, New York singer/songwriter George Usher became unable to play any musical instruments following the chemotherapy he underwent as a result of his long battle with cancer. However, disease was no match for Usher’s songwriting spirit, and after composing 12 song lyrics, fellow New York artist Lisa Burns set the tunes to music. The result of this collaboration is The Last Day of Winter, a recording that shows a natural rapport between Usher and Burns, both of who have musical CVs that depict a lifelong commitment to the craft of music.
Below you can stream the intimate black-and-white video to the poetically-titled “More Than That I Cannot Say”, an upbeat bit of folk-rock that evokes the last icy dregs of winter as they fade away, leaving the optimistic throes of spring to fill their void. Although it was not long ago that Usher was unable to play the guitar, it’s a true delight to see him triumph over his struggles with cancer in this song and its performance, even as he expresses the frustration and anger he was experiencing during his chemotherapy.
Usher tells PopMatters about the tune and its video, “‘More Than That I Cannot Say’ was one of the first lyrics I gave Lisa to check out. I was out of it a lot of time, because of the radiation treatments, coupled with six weeks of 24 hour/non-stop chemo. This was courtesy of the pouch strapped around my waist, relentlessly pumping it into my chest. Images of people I had known throughout my life streamed through my brain at all hours and back out again with astonishing speed and very little clarity. That’s why the verses all highlight one or two oblique characters. They passed through quickly and then, it was on to the next one. The chorus lyrics were an angry release, just me raving and shaking my fist at the sky.
“Lisa came back with music that captured my entire lyrical experience. The verses are held back, swampy, moody and even kind of dream-like. And then, she composed a chorus that busts out of the gate the same way it felt when I was raging and confused.
“Video director Spencer Gordon worked to demonstrate all of this when we created the video. The song’s individual characters stroll through, while Lisa and I are presented like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action. And the choruses return to just the two of us in close-up, ranting and raving into the night.
“This is one of any number of tracks on the album that could never have existed without everything we were going through, at the time. I wouldn’t want to relive it, obviously. But I never get tired of listening to it.”
The Last Day of Winter is out on 7 April.