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Morphine Smile’s “Nightwalker”

“Nightwalker,” the new song by Washington D.C.’s Morphine Smile, is about mourning. When he wrote it, singer-songwriter Jim Smalley, who’s previously played with bands like Honest Haloway, was thinking about walking down 14th Street NW, past the shell of what was once Black Cat’s Red Room. Though the beloved D.C. bar still technically lives on on another floor of the same building, the iconic incarnation that existed from 2001 to 2018 is gone and COVID’s nixed gatherings for the barflies, often affiliated with the city’s independent music scenes, who it called home. Smalley uses the story of this small but impactful loss to lend the song intimacy. Whether or not you ever set foot in that iteration of the Red Room, “Nightwalker”’s themes are resonant, especially in a city battered by destructive change. It might seem trite to mourn a bar in the midst of so much human suffering, but there is real pain in the loss of a place where you once felt safe and fulfilled. Smalley’s song deals with that pain by doing the hard work of passing through darkness, one step at a time. “Nightwalker” is one of six songs on Morphine Smile’s new EP Heirloom. The track was mastered by TJ Lipple, who has also worked on music with Priests, Snail Mail, and Bikini Kill. The song’s lyric video is available on YouTube. Free.