Marathon opens with the sound of a passing train, the shuffle of wind and brakes and steel on steel as the whistle cedes to a plaintive piano. What stands out in that opening sound is just how completely ordinary the train recording in â€“ there is nothing contrived in it, no whistle fading off in the distance or steel guitar accenting the screech to a halt. It comes across as just a simple field recording – mundane even – as we stand witness to its movement, consumed in the inevitable effort of projecting onto it our own meanings, and whatever dynamic inertia that the train may represent becomes oppressed under a static contemplation. And that seems to be where Darden Smith finds himself with Marathon, overwhelmed and maybe even lost in that west Texas expanse. As he declares in â€œ75 Miles of Nothingâ€, â€œThe Truth is a one night stand blowing like a grain of sand, make whatever you want it to be, when youâ€™re staring at 75 Miles of nothinâ€™, thereâ€™s nothing to do, when youâ€™re staring at 75 miles of nothinâ€™, nothinâ€™ but you.â€
Though one of the longtime local songwriterâ€™s finest offerings, Marathon is much more than simply an album. It needs to also be rightfully acknowledged as the decade-long multimedia project that it encompasses, and as the still evolving piece of philosophical art. As an album, Marathon steams with a restlessness, stews in a lonesomeness, and perches on the ledge of endless yearning without resolution. Yet while its pressing here may be rankled with a desperate kind of inertness, that possibility and desire that still simmers underneath may yet find realization, and provides the album with a kind of tension throughout.