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Songs Of The Week 2023: Take 2

Neil Morton


FEATURED SONG OF THE WEEK

Where The Song Will Find Me: Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams is still recovering from the effects of a stroke suffered in November, 2020, but it has not hampered her ability to write and sing profoundly affecting songs. Our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com is Where The Song Will Find Me, a celebration of her fortitude and resilience.


The single, a blues-infused six and a half minute ballad, will appear on her 15th studio album Stories From A Rock n Roll Heart, scheduled for June 30. The stroke partially impaired her motor skills on the left side of her body. She courageously learned to walk again but her capacity to play the guitar has not yet been restored. Her determination to recapture her old self shines through an emotional track with its orchestral arrangement by Lawrence Rothman, grungy guitar solo by Stuart Mathis and instantly recognisable soulful vocals.


In the song, penned by Williams, Overby and long-time road manager Travis Stephens, the singer is seeking to live in the moment, ready for inspiration to strike. She will not be defeated.


I know they will find me

Like they always do

I know they will find me

When it’s time to

I know they’ll remind me

When they are ready to be found

They’ll come up behind me

Without making a sound

Without making a sound


The album, jointly produced by Williams, her husband Tom Overby and Ray Kennedy, enjoys an all-star backing vocal cast list including Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey, Jesse Malin (one of her songwriting collaborators), Buddy Miller, Angel Olsen, Siobhan Maher Kennedy, Sophie Gault and Tommy Stinson of The Replacements. We have already been treated to two advance singles, Stolen Moments, an homage to lost friend Tom Petty, and New York Comeback, which featured Springsteen and Scialfa, devotees of her music.


Comeback this most certainly is when you consider the trauma of two and half years ago in the wake of the acclaimed Good Souls Better Angels, her most overtly political album which is unlikely to appear on a Donald Trump playlist. ‘Since I couldn’t teach the band the songs on guitar, I would sing it to give an idea of the feel and the vibe,’ she explained. ‘We’d do it a few times until we got the right groove. It was really difficult because I wasn’t playing guitar. But sometimes when things are challenging like that, good stuff can come out of it.’


Williams, whose Louisiana birthplace Lake Charles was immortalised in one of her most cherished songs, had spent so much time in Nashville while touring she and Overby bought a house there. Before the pandemic struck, a tornado did – and tore off the roof. The discovery of a blood clot on the right side of her brain could have been the final calamity.


She told The Guardian: ‘I’ve done a lot of rehab and technically I’m still in recovery. The brain and body have a remarkable capacity to heal themselves, but I still shuffle when I walk. My husband keeps telling me I need to play through the pain. The actual playing is good exercise. I’m still doing shows with my band, just differently, and I can sing fine. Some people tell me I’m singing better than before I had the stroke.’ That southern drawl never fails to hit the bittersweet spot and resonates deeper than ever on Where The Song Will Find Me.


Stolen Moments was actually written before her attack. Williams had recorded a series of online performances in support of independent music venues during the pandemic, and one of the Lu’s Jukebox livestreams was a salute to Petty, later released as Runnin’ Down a Dream: A Tribute to Tom Petty. The live show of Petty covers, recorded with her band in Nashville, ended with Stolen Moments, a Williams-Overby co-write.


Williams, who opened for the final Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concerts in September 2017, said: ‘Tom was a down-to-earth, sweet, loving person, and I miss his music but I miss him more. I wrote this song after he passed away. I was just heartbroken, and I’m still reeling.’ Petty, who once took to the stage before his headline set to implore a rowdy audience to listen to his support, honoured Williams by recording her classic track, Changed The Locks.


Her disarmingly candid memoir, Don’t Tell Anybody The Secrets I Told You, was published to rave reviews in April. It tells of an itinerant, bohemian life, thanks in the early days to her lauded poet of a father, Miller Williams, and his travels from one professorship to another; the emotional impact of her mother’s battle with mental illness; the barriers she faced in a ruthless, male-dominated music industry that sought to pigeonhole her; the influence of Southern Gothic writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty; her activist work in civil rights and racial equality and her affinity with the rebels and fighters of this world; and the chaotic, messy personal liaisons that inspired many of her brilliant songs.


Many of those songs were once deemed to fall into the cracks between country and rock. Williams cares little for labels apart from her own Highway 20 Records; she calls it Southern music. Her songs are still capturing young imaginations, especially from her breakthrough, Grammy-winning album of 1998, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road: the impressive Bristolian songwriter Lady Nade has released a lovely reworking of the title track on an EP of covers along with Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s My Journey To The Sky and Gillian Welch’s Everything is Free; and the North Carolina-based Angel Olsen, a guest on Williams’ new album, recently recorded the evocative Greenville. ‘There is no one like her out there,’ Olsen said. ‘It’s clear to me that her songs come from a very real place, and that’s the only kind of writing I like.’


Williams recalled the day of her stroke: ‘An ambulance came and got me and we told them not to put the big siren on. We didn’t want to alarm the neighbours or anything. But they put the siren on.’ Her memoir concludes on a happy note with her marriage to Overby 14 years ago. There is no mention of the stroke. This 70-year-old fighter does not wish to dwell on it. We are so grateful this latest siren song found her.




Will You Remember Me? The Milk Carton Kids

The Milk Carton Kids have long outgrown their performing name but their music is as fresh and invigorating as ever. To mark last week’s launch of their latest album at London’s Union Chapel, our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com is Will You Remember Me? Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale specialise in beautifully sad songs; this could be their most powerful and poignant yet.


Their seventh studio album, I Only See The Moon, and their first since 2019’s The Only Ones, is full of standout tracks: we could have selected All Of The Time In The World To Kill, the majestic title track, Running On Sweet Smile, Star Shine, Wheels And Levers or North Country Ride. But from its opening notes the closing song, a slow waltz, quickly grips your senses and does not let go.


Ryan sings the song wonderfully, backed by his own rhythm acoustic guitar and Pattengale’s intricate fingerpicking style, right out of the Dave Rawlings school. And those heavenly harmonies, their debt to Simon and Garfunkel unapologetic, are as seamless and impeccable as ever. The haunting song seems to relate to an ageing loved one suffering from memory loss. There’s a tell-tale early line: ‘Twice a day even a broken clock’s bound to be right.’ The grace of the second verse is followed by an aching refrain...


You’re always forgetting everything you’ve done in your life

You say: I won’t remember this morning by tonight

But I remember you smiled at me one time in the rising moonlight

I never saw anything wider, or shining so bright


Will you remember me?

When we were young?

When we had nothing?

When we had nowhere to be?


The album is the first to be produced exclusively by Pattengale without the expertise of the Grammy-winning Joe Henry. After Pattengale had moved back to southern California, a plectrum’s throw from his bandmate’s home, The Kids bought their own studio space in Los Angeles. ‘In the past, when we went into the studio with our songs, those were the songs that made the album,’ Ryan says, ‘but this time around, I really felt like Kenneth, to his credit as a producer, did not want to let any songs through from either of us that were not going to be up to snuff. So about six months into the process, he felt like half of the songs we recorded weren’t good enough and said we should start over. So that’s what we did.’


Pattengale reckons Will You Remember Me? is one of the finest songs Ryan has written. He told No Depression: ‘We had gotten really far into recording the album, almost nine songs completed, and there was one sonic colour that was still missing. I asked Joey to go work on two demos where my random lyrics weren’t exactly making sense. He came back 45 minutes later and said: I didn’t do anything you asked because I accidentally wrote this whole other song. He played it for me and I just loved it.


‘One of my bass player friends was coming by the next day to hear some of our new stuff, so the three of us just quickly recorded it – Joey on guitar, me on pump organ, and Christian Castillo on bass. Within 24 hours, we had this completed recording of a song that hadn’t even existed the day before and it was exactly the thing we needed to fit into the last slot. After a year of trying to craft this thing, for the end of the process to be so magical is the thing I’ll remember most about this album.’

That is some claim: magic is sprinkled everywhere. Running On Sweet Smile is a bittersweet gem about perseverance and maintaining hope when all seems impossible. Like many of the tracks, it is informed by the emotional turmoil of the pandemic. Its chorus is irresistible.


I’m running free

I’m running wild

I’m running still

Running child

Running down my burden

Running on sweet smile


The Kids, whose band name was inspired by the images of missing children on milk cartons in the Mid-West in the late 80s, are now fortified over-forties: ‘Twelve years into our collaboration, we knew we needed to rediscover that original igniting impulse that drove us together in the first place and see where it would lead us after all this time together and all the ways the world has shifted. We also knew we needed to hold ourselves accountable to writing a collection of songs that would really light us up and become the scaffolding for the next couple years of touring.


‘We originally finished the record in a couple weeks, but threw out most of it to start over when we realised we’d missed the mark on the songwriting front. It was another year until we finished, and by then we’d worked on some songs for more than five years. Then, on the final day, the last song on the album seemed to fall from the sky in a matter of minutes, as if to say: Now, it’s finally done. For us, it was worth the wait.’


Pattengale adds: ‘We’ve always had a 50-50 division of labour as the terms of engagement that help keep our band emotionally healthy. This time out, I specifically asked Joey to trust me with some extra decision-making ability and veto power. We were looking to amplify our creative connection and still end up with an acute point of view that was coming from a singular instinct. Funnily enough, so much of the process ended up looking like every other record we’ve made together but with the exact little tweaks we were both looking for.’


The Californians have preserved their sparse, almost minimalist approach. But the tweaks Pattengale refers to are delightful: Ryan’s use of banjo for the first time on When You’re Gone and One True Love; Pattengale’s subtle pump organ on the melancholic final track; and the sumptuous elegance of a 20-piece string section washing over the duo’s acoustic guitar interplay on I Only See The Moon. ‘That string arrangement is Kenneth’s magnum opus of the album,’ says Ryan.


The delay in the album’s fruition meant that the new material was well bedded in from a live point of view by the release date. The London launch show thus enjoyed a degree of familiarity as well as the guaranteed high quality of onstage repartee. These indie folk partners can make you laugh and cry.


In an interview with Americana UK Ryan expanded on the emergence of the duo in 2011: ‘We were solo singer-songwriters trying to find our voices, and we didn’t really find a voice until we came together, both literally in the voice that emerges from our voices singing in harmony together and then as songwriters, stage performers and recording artists. We quickly realised we could forge an identity if we worked together as a duo. Some people are just that way, some people need somebody else.’


Long may their mutual appreciation society thrive. The Milk Carton Kids have resumed their popular Sad Songs Summer Camp in the Catskills. We suspect our Song Of The Week will be frequently requested. It will certainly be remembered.


Greek Street: Jon Wilks

Much has been written about Jon Wilks the folklorist and discoverer of buried musical treasure, but what of Wilks the songwriter? There are three self-penned gems on the Solihull-born musician’s latest album, one of which, Greek Street, is our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com. A wonderfully observed ode to Soho.


There is evidence aplenty of Wilks’ gift for polishing dusty relics on the album but on Greek Street his storytelling of contemporary tales proves just as powerful and evocative. The nostalgic track, which first appeared as a download single in 2021 and even earlier as a live performance, recalls a brief winter fling in the singer-guitarist’s youth. Misspent? Perhaps not...


And I would recommend

And I’d write it in a song

A night that ends on Greek Street

With the rising of the sun

To anybody young


The song provides the album’s mouthful of a title, Before I Knew What Had Begun I Had Already Lost. Backed by his accomplished finger-style acoustic guitar and delicious dubbed slide, Lukas Drinkwater’s ever welcome double bass, Jackie Oates on viola and harmonies and old comrade Jon Nice on piano, Wilks sings some memorable lines such as ‘she teetered on her platform heels and scaffolded my mind/ Me without a hard hat on, just begging to be fined’ and ‘she fluttered on the petrol breeze as neon picked her out’.


The London backdrop as a temporary home and its parallel with the Sixties is apt. ‘In the mid-90s, I spent quite a bit of time on that Soho thoroughfare, hanging out with people that meant the world to me at the time, though I haven’t seen them now in decades. The song remembers, with poetic licence, a particular year when I was 19, and a particular relationship that shot by in the blink of an eye, but seemed to be the be-all and end-all at the time.


‘It’s a pleasant coincidence that Greek Street was also home to many of the 1960s folk clubs, such as Les Cousins, 25 years before I was there. I think this song has an undeniable Bert Jansch influence, so the two decades definitely collide here. While Martin Carthy, Nic Jones and Martin Simpson are probably my biggest influences in terms of arranging traditional music, Jansch was the first fingerpicker I heard that made me want to put down my electric guitar and focus entirely on improving my acoustic skills. He’s kind of where it starts, for me.’ Scatterbrain, a tuneful nod to Jansch, was on the single’s B-side.


If you thought the Americans had the monopoly on romantic place names in song, Wilks offers us Soho, Cambridge Circus, Brighton and Lewisham…


I remember trips to Brighton, wrapped warm against the cold

I remember thinking time had stopped and we weren’t growing old

And that’s the wonder of the transient; a sense of life alive

And the magic of the twilight sky and fingers intertwined


But by the time the autumn came, her eye began to roam

And I wandered back to Lewisham all longing and alone

So she took her Swedish packing bed for some other blade to game

And I tried my best to blame her but the blame it never came


Wilks says of the album title in the liner notes: ‘That lyric, along with the rest of the song, fell out in a single sitting. It could be interpreted as quite a melancholy thing to say, but I think it comes from my tendency to throw myself wholeheartedly into things, whether that’s relationships, work, art or anything else. Take traditional music. Before I knew what had happened, I was in up to my chin!’


For his fourth solo album the broadside balladeer sidesteps the Birmingham songs that brought him recognition on his two previous offerings. ‘While I adore researching and arranging Midlands songs,’ says Wilks, ‘this album grew out of a different place. Just before I started recording it, I fell seriously ill and ended up spending three months at home. I spent a lot of time picking away at the guitar, trying different tunings, and then Martin Simpson showed up with a five-string banjo and prescribed banjo therapy. Music and friends were a great help.’ Wilks learned to play Simpson’s gift and the result is the instrumental Banjo Therapy.


Wilks and Nice, who play together as The Grizzly Folk, first worked with Drinkwater and singer Katherine Priddy on those fondly recalled Nick Drake covers during lockdown. The quartet called themselves Slow Jane for a short but exquisitely sweet alliance. ‘Those sessions formed a kind of sonic template for this album,’ says Wilks. ‘I was keen to explore their organic simplicity further, and I think you can hear that on some of these recordings.’ Wilks has another sparkling duo project with Oates.


The third original composition, with its intro that honours Simon and Garfunkel, is the gorgeous opening track Tape Machine, a song dedicated to Wilks’ wife about the sounds of the morning markets that greeted him in outposts around the world during his journalistic travels. He name-checks Nagasaki, Jeddah, Singapore, Porto, Tokyo and old Soho: ‘You can really define a town/ By the first light of day/ Like a face before the paint goes on/ Shadows carved out of grey.’ Another standout during his solo performance at Camden’s intimate Green Note this week.


Wilks’ work as a reinventor of traditional songs (he runs the Tradfolk website and hosts the Old Songs Podcast) is represented on the album by the moody, minor-key classic The Old Miner, the moving migration song Erin, Sad Erin featuring Akito Goto’s aching violin, The Fowler (more endearing echoes of Jansch), the bewitching Lofty Tall Ship and the exuberant Johnny Sands, notable for its chorus contributed by the esteemed Martin Carthy. Wilks and Carthy will be touring together later in the year; a scholar in the company of the master who once lit up Greek Street.


You’re The One: Rhiannon Giddens

She’s the one: what a ground-breaking week for the US roots musician Rhiannon Giddens. Firstly, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Music for her opera, Omar; then she announced at the start of her UK tour that her first album of all-original material will be released in August and shared its first single.


That single is the title track, You’re The One, our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com. It is a joyous love letter to her children, a celebration of motherhood, and co-written by her sister, Lalenja Harrington. Her third solo album, the first since 2017’s Freedom Highway, was produced by Jack Splash and recorded in Miami, featuring a band of Giddens’ closest collaborators over the last 10 years, including her Italian multi-instrumentalist partner Francesco Turrisi.


The banjo-led song, soulfully sung, was inspired by an experience with her son shortly after he was born; he is 10 now and she has a 14-year-old daughter too. ‘Your life has changed forever,’ says Giddens, ‘and you don’t know you’re in the middle of it and it hits you. I held his little cheek up to my face, and was just reminded: Oh my God, my children – they have every bit of my heart.’


Unusually for Giddens – and indeed for this website – this is a happy song, without qualification. It will not be the only one on You’re The One.


I thought my life was drawn 

In shades of grey and 

That was how 

I would live my every day and 

Aimless no direction found 

My destiny was going through the motions of a life and


Then you came along 

With your sweet sweet smile and 

Then you put your cheek  

Right next to mine and 

All those shades of grey slowly turned into a 

New technicolor world and


I’m gonna love you forever

And I’ll be with you

For worse and for better

And I never thought I’d fall

But you’re the one


The supporting cast is bountiful: Splash’s own ensemble Rolodex, horn and string sections, Cajun and piano accordions, a polymath in all things Appalachian Dirk Powell, bass player Jason Sypher and Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu. That great singer-guitarist Jason Isbell also contributes on a track entitled Yet To Be. There are tipped hats to Aretha Franklin (‘let’s write a song she might have sung’) on Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad and to the early Dolly Parton on If You Don’t Know How Sweet It Is.


‘I hope people just hear American music,’ says the North Carolina-born, Ireland-based songwriter and fiddler. ‘Blues, jazz, Cajun, country, folk, gospel and rock – it’s all there. I like to be there where it meets organically. They’re fun songs, and I wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could to reach people who might dig them but don’t know anything about what I do. If they’re introduced to me through this record, they might go listen to other music I’ve made and make some new discoveries.’


The newcomer to her music would soon be moved by The Carolina Chocolate Drops (Leaving Eden is a favourite here), the banjo co-operative Our Native Daughters whose influential debut album tackled the racism, scorn and sexual abuse suffered by African American women, her impressive work with Turrisi on There Is No Other (sample Wayfaring Stranger and Brown Baby) and They’re Calling Me Home (Avalon is a former Song Of The Week), and her poignant Build A House single with Turrisi and French-born cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Giddens co-wrote the innovative, award-winning opera with Michael Abels, creator of the Get Out, Us and Nope movie soundtracks. Omar, based on the autobiography of a Muslim scholar, Omar ibn Said, who was captured in Africa in the early 1800s and sold into slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, made its world première last year at Spoleto Festival USA and has been performed at LA Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and North Carolina Arts, with San Francisco Opera scheduled for this November.


The classically-trained Giddens also wrote the libretto, recording self-accompanied demos that Abels used to flesh out the score. The result was a multi-genre, multi-cultural journey through the soundscapes of Islam, bluegrass and spirituals, described by the New York Times as ‘an unforced ideal of American sound: expansive and ever-changing’. Giddens never studied operatic composition but hosted the podcast Aria Code and performed works by John Adams. She richly deserved her MacArthur ‘genius’ grant; now she can add the Pulitzer to the Grammys.


‘It feels amazing, because Michael and I just put into this what we know,’ Giddens told the NYT. ‘It was a love letter to my country. There’s so much to hate about it, but what I love about it is that ability people have to come together and make some new amazing thing. American music is a spectrum.’


‘I think people are ready for these stories,’ she told The Hollywood Reporter. ‘We’ve had this very simplified version of what is the American story and who represents the American story. People who were brought to the States during the time of slavery – there’s never this idea that they were all different people from different places with different religions and different languages. There are a million and one stories of what it means to be in the US, whether through immigration, through slavery, through being there as an indigenous person. We really need to start telling many more of them rather than the same ones over and over again.’


Giddens’ most memorable songs are the fearless, challenging ones. Don’t Call Me Names, her contribution to the #MeToo movement, was an angry putdown of the misogynists and gaslighters, and A Purchaser’s Option tells chillingly of an enslaved mother’s heartache over the sale of her child. The banjo-led opening track of her Freedom Highway album, the product of her extensive research into slavery, was thrilling enough but her version at London’s Union Chapel, at the start of a short UK tour this week, was worth the admission alone. So too was the versatility of Turrisi who sprinkled subtle helpings of piano, frame drum, accordion and cello banjo.


I’ve got a body dark and strong

I was young but not for long

You took me to bed a little girl

Left me in a woman’s world


You can take my body

You can take my bones

You can take my blood

But not my soul


It was deliberately stark, Turrisi’s inventive piano arrangement the only accompaniment to Giddens’ bleak lyric and beautiful delivery. When she looks into her son’s eyes and recalls all the hurt of history, no wonder she is happy to sing a happy song. But one suspects she will always be driven back to fighting the good fight against racial and social injustice. It is her calling.


Keep Me In Your Heart: Fantastic Cat

The first question that sprang to mind when the great Warren Zevon was recently nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 20 years after his death was: What took so long?


As though to celebrate the moment, an intriguing new band released a cover of one of his loveliest ballads, Keep Me In Your Heart, our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com. The cutely named Fantastic Cat have been championing Zevon’s case for exalted recognition since their first live shows in 2021.


But Zevon has missed the cut. A case of better luck next time but surely the glowing testimonials of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, David Crosby and Billy Joel should have guaranteed an easy entrance.


The latest advocates, Fantastic Cat, have been branded a supergroup in the mould of the Traveling Wilburys and The Highwaymen, four already acclaimed songwriters who decided to be part of a union. The New York-based musicians behind the feline masks of their publicity shots are Anthony D’Amato, Brian Dunne, Don DiLego and Mike Montali. Their fiendish wit is reflected in the title of last year’s debut album, The Very Best Of Fantastic Cat, comprising 10 tracks in which the quartet share lead vocal duties as well as CSNY-like harmonies.


On Keep Me In Your Heart D’Amato sings the first verse in his reedy Dylanesque style to be followed by Dunne’s attractive delivery. DiLego and Montali, whose band Hollis Brown was named after a Dylan song, take their turns either side of the ‘Sha-la-la’ refrain. Tom Petty would have loved this Americana-indie rock ensemble – there are echoes of so many influences from the Sixties and Seventies and their distinctive voices gel beautifully. The swirl of the organ evokes The Band.


Zevon’s moving composition, masquerading as a love song, can be viewed as a farewell, written during his futile battle with cancer. It’s a heart-breaking appeal to family, friends and fans not to forget him...


Shadows are fallin’ and I’m running out of breath

Keep me in your heart for a while

If I leave it doesn’t mean that I love you any less

Keep me in your heart for a while


Hold me in your thoughts

Take me to your dreams

Touch me as I fall into view

When the winter comes

Keep the fires lit

And I will be next to you


Mention Zevon to most people and they tend to recall him for his quirkier songs such as Werewolves Of London and Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner. They don’t immediately single out his masterpiece, Desperados Under The Eaves, or mention the lovelorn ballads among the jewels in his legacy: Hasten Down The Wind, Accidentally Like A Martyr, Empty-Handed Heart, Reconsider Me, Searching For A Heart, Don’t Let Us Get Sick. They were often the final track on his albums, as was Keep Me In Your Heart on 2003’s The Wind which won two Grammys. Zevon died shortly after its release.

That Fantastic Cat tag provides a delicious anecdote. Montali and DiLego had been toying with the idea of a songwriters’ alliance for some time and were mulling over a possible name backstage in a New York club bar. So they pledged to adopt whatever their waitress suggested. ‘Fantastic Cat’ was her immediate response. ‘Boom, a band is born,’ quipped DiLego.


The co-operative began recording at DiLego’s Velvet Elk studios in Pocono Lake, Pennsylvania, in late 2019-early 2020. They first performed together at a livestream in March, 2021, previewing five tracks from their forthcoming album, D’Amato joining remotely from his quarantine location in Colorado. That ‘Very Best’ record is packed with standouts: D’Amato’s C’mon Armageddon, Dunne’s Fiona (‘a love song less about a guy and a girl and more about the obstacles that get in the way of us really opening up to one another as humans’), DiLego’s Ain’t This The Strangest Town and Montali’s wonderful Wild & Free and Lakewood, both served with a sprinkling of Springsteen.


The wise-cracking C’mon Armageddon has been described as a raucous descendant of Subterranean Homesick Blues or Maggie’s Farm, written in the midst of a stormy presidential campaign. ‘There was what felt like a constant stream of terrible news coming out every day about all the awful things humans were doing to each other and the planet,’ D’Amato told American Songwriter. The song was written pre-Covid but took on extra significance when the world shut down. ‘If you watch enough cable news, at a certain point you find yourself rooting for another meteor to pay us a visit.’


As a lauded solo artist D’Amato had been used to travelling alone with acoustic guitar and harmonica so he has found the group experience liberating. ‘Fantastic Cat was a chance to write without worrying about any of those restrictions. It felt like someone handing you the keys to a car after years of getting everywhere by bike. I wanted to take full advantage and create songs with room for everybody to shine.


'Everyone brings their songwriting chops to the table, and I think that’s the foundation of this entire project. We’re all fans of each other’s writing, but on top of that Don’s a great producer, Brian’s a killer guitar player, Mike’s a phenomenal singer – and I bring the snacks. Every track has a little bit of everybody’s fingerprints on it, and in that respect it sounds different from anything we could have made on our own.’


Above all, it was joyous and high on energy. DiLego, a long-time collaborator of Jesse Malin, told Atwood Magazine: ‘We had some basic rules: we’d each come armed with two or three songs, and not share them ahead of time. Once we got into the studio, one of us would present the song, and the others would grab whatever instrument was closest. This was not belaboured over as we have done with our own projects. The goal of this record was simply to have fun, and not care about the results. There were no big plans other than to make a record together and throw it out there ourselves.’


Rolling Stone dubbed Hollis Brown’s music ‘the soundtrack for a late-night drive through the American heartland’. The same could be said of Fantastic Cat. One hopes the band will treat us to a sequel – The Wilburys did and The Highwaymen managed three albums (four if you include a live compilation LP). They are about to embark on a US tour, having recently wowed fans at the Kilkenny Roots Festival in Ireland. This particular backyard expects; after all we are a nation of Cat lovers.




I Think They’re Leaving Me Behind: Katherine Priddy

Katherine Priddy’s debt to the music of Nick Drake is being lovingly repaid. Her inspired version of one of Drake’s oldest compositions, I Think They’re Leaving Me Behind, is our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com. Brooding and breathtaking.


Priddy’s beautifully delivered, almost classical treatment of the song will appear on a double album that features a host of artists paying homage to Drake, entitled The Endless Coloured Ways, scheduled for release in July. The Bill Jackson-directed video was filmed at Wenlock Abbey, the home of Drake’s actress sister Gabrielle in Shropshire. Majestic setting for a majestic track.


Cally Callomon, manager of Bryter Music (the Drake estate), and Chrysalis Records chief executive Jeremy Lascelles invited musicians to adopt as much as adapt the songs of the gifted singer-guitarist who was only 26 when he died in 1974. ‘The brief was not simply to put a gentle spin on these much loved songs but rather to take them and make them entirely our own,’ Priddy says. ‘The tracks were to be broken down, stripped of their parts, then reconstructed in whatever way we saw fit.’


Callomon says: ‘Nick was not that concerned with promoting himself but I think he would have been overjoyed to hear his art revisited and newly promoted by so many vibrant and talented artists.’ Lascelles adds: ‘As the results came in one by one, we were thrilled by the brilliance and invention that each artist had shown. They had done exactly what we hoped for – they had made the songs their own.’


Birmingham-based Priddy appreciates why many Drake devotees cannot countenance his precious treasury being disturbed – how can you hope to improve on perfection? But she argues: ‘The aim is not to win some sort of beauty contest. The magic of the cover is the way in which it can reimagine a song into something unexpected and wonderful, and that the two songs can co-exist.’ She believes music is there to inspire, to be celebrated and passed around. ‘It is not meant to be shut up in a glass case, to be seen but not touched, or worse still guarded by those who want to keep it for themselves.’


Her interpretation of I Think They’re Leaving Me Behind is faithful enough to please the diehards while offering additional textures to convince those of us who question the point of a cover unless it casts a fresh light on the familiar. Those elements include the orchestral approach often favoured by Drake himself, although his original recording is stark and stripped back.


Priddy opted for a more spacious, dream-like ambience, much in the synth and strings style of her own magnificent song Eurydice, where the classics and the classical go hand in glove, from her impressive debut album The Eternal Rocks Beneath. Drake’s influence is impossible to ignore here; the music of the young man once described as England’s Orpheus for his literary leanings has been the soundtrack to the lives of so many.


Tramp moves on to the end of the street

I listen to the echo of his hobnail feet

For some there’s a future to find

But I think they’re leaving me behind


The world hurries on at its breakneck pace

People fly by in their lifelong race

For some there’s a future to find

But I think they’re leaving me behind

As Priddy points out on her website blog, we are inclined to view Drake’s work through the prism of his passing and read tragedy in every line, the melancholy deeper with hindsight. ‘The theme of being left behind is one that really resonated with me, as someone who’s chosen to carve out a career in the arts. I have spoken before about seeing friends settling down into the rhythm of their nine to fives with their houses, marriages and kids, and how easy it is to feel like I’ve been left behind sometimes. But this theme isn’t necessarily a sad one. Sometimes the slower route yields a better view, or gives you more chance to enjoy the journey.’


Priddy’s passion for the revered songwriter was evident during the pandemic. Among our favourite musical distractions during those dark times were her Zoom tributes to Drake in the vocally distanced company of guitarist Jon Wilks, keyboardist Jon Nice and Lukas Drinkwater on double bass. Their harmonious renditions of Fly, Northern Sky and River Man, under the band banner of Slow Jane, were a delight. Wilks and Priddy both come from within hailing distance of Drake’s resting place in Tanworth-in-Arden in Warwickshire.


We’ve heard three other singles: a formidable rendition of ’Cello Song by Fontaines DC; Don’t Eat Grandma’s From The Morning, which provides the tribute collection with its title; and Saturday Sun by Mike Lindsay with Guy Garvey’s unmistakable vocal (Garvey is a big fan of Priddy who recently supported him at London’s Roundhouse). The rest of the cast list includes Feist, Self-Esteem, David Gray, Emeli Sandé, Nadia Reid, The Staves & Bombay Bicycle Club, Ben Harper, Kris Drever & Karine Polwart, John Grant, Elanor Moss & Christian Lee Hutson, Aurora, Philip Selway and The Wandering Hearts. In keeping with Drake’s love of tranquillity and nature, the records are split into four sections to reflect the changing of the seasons.


The chances they come but the chances have been lost

Success can be gained but at too great a cost

For some there’s a future to find

But I think they’re leaving me behind


Drake’s success and wider recognition, like that of many of the great masters, arrived posthumously. As he lamented in one of his saddest songs, Fruit Tree: ‘Fame is but a fruit tree/ So very unsound/ It can never flourish/ ’Til its stock is in the ground/ Forgotten while you’re here/ Remembered for a while/ A much-updated ruin/ From a much-outdated style.’


Priddy hopes his songwriting will continue to put down new roots, touch new hearts, and is honoured to have taken part in a project designed to achieve that. Born two decades after Drake’s death, she is proof that musicians through the generations will be seduced by the wonder of his sensitive songs. Drake’s legacy is secure; his music will not be left behind. The eternal one still gently rocks beneath.



The Tangled Tree: Josienne Clarke

The songs I have written are all I have really. They are my life’s work and my retirement policy. In an industry that needs to be more profitable for the artist, in a world that needs to be more sustainable, recycle, re-use and repair can also apply to songs.

Josienne Clarke, music’s mother of reinvention, explains in a piece for Talkhouse how her latest album Onliness is a reclamation of her songs, her old material given a new lease of life. ‘It’s a celebration of my best songwriting. I’m proud of the songs I’ve written in my career; for reasons of time, place and context they haven’t achieved all I think they could. In re-recording them, I’ve reclaimed, reimagined and reinvigorated them. It’s been a chance for me to refresh them for my current fanbase and present them to listeners unfamiliar with my previous work. In the process, I’ve found things I didn’t notice the first time around, and I’ve been able to put right the bits that have bugged me over the years in those old recordings.’


We are spoilt for choice when it comes to singling out a track from this singular work our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com but we keep returning to the opener, The Tangled Tree, the oldest in the set. It emanates from her first release in 2004, an EP under the pseudonym Mondesir. Nearly two decades later it was the high point of her album launch show at London’s Union Chapel, her remarkable vocal rendered more ethereal by the grandiose setting. It marks a triumphant turnaround for a career which appeared to have hit the buffers when she walked out of her duo partnership, citing a lack of credit and recognition. Her back catalogue, now untangled, is at the forefront again.


‘I always liked the guitar part I’d written. I never felt like a great guitarist, but it was mine, and I lost that over the years when I stopped playing it. Now I’ve put it on an electric guitar with some distortion at the edges, and I’m playing it exactly how I want to play it. Going back and reclaiming that, and playing it myself, felt like it captures the spirit of this whole project.’


The song builds hauntingly as her reverb-dappled electric guitar (she also plays piano and saxophone on the album) is joined by film-maker husband Alec Bowman Clarke on low-slung bass, drummer Dave Hamblett and Matt Robinson on keyboards. We love the way the mood skips into a busier beat towards the end after cradling the full range of the Sussex-born, Scotland-based songwriter’s shimmering voice.


Beautiful birds are not meant to be caged

You should have been true to your wings

You should have flown away


So left my tangled tree

That once bore strong branches and leaves of green

But how cruel and inevitable the passing of time can be

This tangled tree

Watched every inch of its majesty fade

With fall of every leaf


It always seemed to call me

The crooked stoop, the bend and swoop

Of its complicated beauty

Clarke’s journey of self-discovery reached its first milestone with 2021’s album of superb originals, A Small Unknowable Thing, and after last year’s EP I Promised You Light and a collection of cover songs, Now & Then, notable for a rendition of Sharon van Etten’s You Shadow, she decided it was time to revisit the past. She explains in her blog: ‘When the pandemic struck, it decimated live performance and thus took out, virtually overnight, an entire revenue stream for artists. When you look at the financial landscape for all but the biggest artists, without live income heavily adding to the revenue from recordings, our careers don’t quite add up to a living. During that period, with time for rumination on my hands, I – like many others – started looking at whether a career in music makes any sense the way the industry currently works.


‘Even as a prolific songwriter, I’ve found that it’s no longer financially viable for me not to revisit material. It’s just not sustainable in the long term. When a big label forever owns the masters of your songs, and considering the structure of those deals in the current industry model, you can earn next-to-nothing from sales of those recordings. It’s not surprising that an artist at my level would have to explore re-recording from a financial standpoint alone.’


Onliness (its subtitle is Songs Of Solitude And Singularity) consists of covers of her own work, a case of what should have been. The record takes its name from a word Clarke thought she had invented, only later to find it was in the dictionary. ‘It means both solitude and singularity; being one of a kind, but also alone in the sense that you are apart from other things,’ she says. ‘So, it has both a positive connotation and a really melancholic one – and I feel like that fits every song that I’ve ever written.’


The Tangled Tree is not the only track accompanied by a stunning video. Bowman Clarke had great fun with the beautiful Done, the rousing Anyone But Me, The Birds and Workhorse (‘I think it was a Tuesday,’ it begins memorably). It Would Not Be A Rose might also benefit from her partner’s cinematic attention. We played the parlour game of listening to the original songs, searching for prophetic lines, and tried to compare old and new but, really, there is no comparison. Clarke must be so proud of these arrangements which project a joyous self-assurance.


Done is a glorious example, a break-up ballad she counts as among her finest. ‘The whole song is harmonically structured to sound like an ending, descending inevitably towards its close,’ she explains. ‘When I wrote it, it was originally based on a descending finger-picked guitar pattern which gave it a rhythmic meter so you could feel its last moments tick away. In my reworking, I decided that it could definitely take the last orders at the bar piano torch song treatment.’


I’ve been mining for gold

But only finding tin, glinting in the sun light

Now it is leaving dirt in my hands like only the truth can

Maybe I am done, done, done


To you I’m a strange girl

An adorable fool

Who’s full to the brim of nothing you need


Her references were Tom Waits’ Closing Time and Randy Newman’s I Think It’s Going To Rain Today. ‘It was one of those songs that never quite found its spotlight, but I always believed it was one of my best – one of those rare times when you manage to say exactly what you mean, just how you feel, no more, no less, in three and a half minutes. Making this retrospective album gives it another chance to shine.’


Shine? It positively glows. After 16 reworked songs, the 17th and closing track is the only new composition, Words Were Never The Answer. A fresh chapter begins in a career reborn, a present and future unshackled. Her own label, her own arrangements, her own production, her one and Onliness. As The Tangled Tree concludes: Bright lights rise out and over the fire.


Middle Of The Morning: Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

Jason Isbell’s treasury of compelling songs has acquired a new classic. Middle Of The Morning, our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com, is a vocal tour de force in which the Alabama-born musician articulates the anguish of the pandemic years.


Our personal compendium – If We Were Vampires, Elephant, Cover Me Up, Traveling Alone, Last Of My Kind, Songs That She Sang In The Shower, 24 Frames, Only Children, Dreamsicle – will now include a track from Weathervanes, the ninth studio album by Isbell backed by his sidekicks The 400 Unit, due out on June 9.


The Nashville-based singer-guitarist captures the fear and frustration of feeling trapped during lockdown and the strain it imposed on relationships and the creative process. ‘It was about trying to keep my mind from unravelling over those couple of years,’ he says. The power and candour of the lyrics makes it an uncomfortable listen at times as Isbell struggles to retain his sanity amid the isolation.


Well, I’ve tried to open up my window

And let the light come in

I step outside in the middle of the morning

And in the evening again


Yes, I’ve tried to be grateful for my devils

And call them by their names

But I’m tired and by the middle of the morning

I need someone to blame


I know you’re scared of me, I can see it in your smile

Like an unattended child you can’t quite trust


I ain’t used to this, seeing everybody’s hand

I was raised to be a strong and silent southern man

I ain’t used to this, a thousand days alone

In my bed or in my head or in my phone


I know you’re scared of me, so I never get too close

I just sit here on the tailgate like a farm hand’s ghost


The guitar playing is sumptuous; it helps to have two accomplished players in the band. Sadler Vaden lays down an acoustic backdrop as Isbell delivers hypnotic fills over the top. Isbell has been described as Springsteen Jr and his E Street Band equivalent is completed by Derry deBorja (piano, organ, synths and accordion), bassist Jimbo Hart and percussionist Chad Gamble. Isbell’s fiddle-playing wife Amanda Shires makes a guest appearance as do harmonica legend Mickey Raphael, Morgan O’Shaughnessey (strings) and drummer-engineer Matt Pence.


The former Drive-By Truckers frontman’s recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse is well documented but his continuing battle with demons is explored in a new Sam Jones-directed HBO documentary, Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed, which covers the making of his last Covid-delayed album, 2020’s Reunions, his songwriting, his hard-drinking days with his old band, his relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Shires and their life with young daughter Mercy.

Shires, who helped him through his treatment in 2012, talks of her husband’s fight with the voices crowding his head (‘You’ve got to find another way’) and Drive-By Truckers founder Patterson Hood, who was forced to fire his bandmate in 2007, says: ‘Jason is extremely hard on himself, and it can be painful for everyone around him.’


The film is an unflinching, intimate look at Isbell now and the man he used to be. After its screening in LA, Isbell said: ‘I don’t think I want to watch it again for at least a decade.’ He told Deadline: ‘A good documentary should be something that makes you squirm a bit because we’re all fallible human beings. When I was drunk and being a buffoon, I looked like an idiot. That’s because I was an idiot, and I celebrate that because if I hadn’t been such an idiot then, I wouldn’t be such a non-idiot right now.’


Americana’s high-profile couple are allowed to bicker; soulmates do. Shires, who as founder of The Highwomen is more than qualified to query his grammar in a lyric, is as much a hero in the documentary as Isbell. There are ‘I want to be alone’ moments and displays of sweetness and volatility. Isbell famously said he took up guitar to drown out the sound of his mother and father arguing as they descended into divorce – Dreamsicle is about living with that marital strife. ‘Amanda and I have very different personalities but identical values,’ Isbell adds. ‘I have to come to terms with things that don’t make me look cool or don’t paint me in the best light or don’t promote an idea I have of controlling my own image because I think controlling your image is the opposite of creating art.’


‘It was hard to watch it,’ Shires told Deadline. ‘It’s tough to revisit places when you feel you’ve moved past them. Jason isn’t quick to open up with his man feelings. He’s gotten better. My fault was that I would drop everything I was doing and help him find his goddamn chequebook, and that’s not my job. I have to take myself and my time seriously. I think we’re doing a good job with not falling into those traps now, and remembering each other as humans, rather than the couple identity.’


The pandemic struck just as Reunions was being unveiled. Isbell is a perfectionist who sometimes struggles to be outwardly pleasant to people while beating up his inner self. The obsessiveness can be destructive. ‘Songwriting has gotten harder for me as time has gone on just because I won’t accept things I used to accept.’ As he sings about his recovery on Reunions: ‘It gets easier, but it never gets easy.’


Isbell’s acting experience on the set of Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, not yet released, allowed him to observe the movie director at work. He had guitars in his trailer and rented house and plenty of time to think and write material for Weathervanes. He saw how even someone as celebrated as Scorsese valued the opinions of co-workers. ‘It definitely helped when I got into the studio,’ Isbell says. ‘I had this reinvigorated sense of collaboration. You can have an idea and you can execute it and not compromise – and still listen to the other people in the room.’


The first single from the new album, Death Wish, concerns a relationship with someone suffering from depression, the fragility of life and of love. On Middle Of The Morning, Isbell wears his heart on both sleeves as he does on all his achingly beautiful ballads. ‘There is something about boundaries on this record,’ he says. ‘As you mature, you still attempt to keep the ability to love somebody fully while you’re growing into an adult and learning how to love yourself.’ He is letting the light come in.



Eliza I See: Darlingside

The divine singing of Boston indie folk quartet Darlingside is about to caress our senses again. Our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com is Eliza I See, a first sample of their July release Everything Is Alive. Hope springs from the dark side.


The remarkable harmonies of Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner and David Senft are as rich as ever although their fifth album for the first time showcases the individual talents of each band member. Not just their instruments – guitars, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, cello, bass, kick drum – but each singular voice.


Like their last offering Fish Pond Fish, Everything Is Alive maintains the theme of the pandemic’s impact; grief and loss are explored but with more than a hint of optimism. Paseltiner relives his experience of the passage of time in a conversation with his young daughter. Part lullaby, part social commentary, here is a reminder that the old nursery rhymes are allegories. Hidden meanings lie therein.


At the start of the global shutdown Paseltiner created kernels of songs for her as voice memos on his phone; returning to them a year later they took on fresh significance. ‘The song deals with the joy but also the pain that comes with change, and the excitement of gaining something new while necessarily losing something at the same time. This feeling is especially pronounced for me with my daughter because she changes so quickly.’


Like dreams in the morning

In the morning like dreams

They hang for a moment

In a moment they leave

Like a dream in the morning

In the morning a dream

I see you Eliza, Eliza I see


The band explained at the single’s unveiling: ‘We wrote and began recording these songs amid long periods of introspection and isolation – from each other and the world. We decided to work directly from those original home recordings, holding on to the individual voices and letting the edges show through. It’s a deeply collaborative effort as always, but these songs feel personal and vulnerable in a new way.’


As a touring band, Darlingside are evolving. To expand the metaphor, necessity is the mother of reinvention. Senft will remain an integral part of the ensemble but has decided to slip out of his travelling shoes. The road line-up will include the new album’s drummer Ben Burns, singer Molly Parden (an inspired choice) and other recruits along the way.


Their sophisticated style was described by NPR as ‘exquisitely arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop’. We can add chamber rock and baroque and roll with the uptempo material in mind.


Darlingside launched as a five-piece after meeting as students at Williams College in 2009. Pilot Machines was their first full-length album in 2012 and after Sam Kampala’s departure they won acclaim for 2015’s Birds Say. The release of Extralife three years later brought even wider recognition. Three tracks particularly earned this website’s applause: the majestic Hold Your Head Up High, Old Friend and Best Of The Best Of Times. Eclecticism is their mantra.


The band’s name is as inventive as their music. We have told the story before but it’s worth retelling. Their college literary teacher, Bernice Lewis, quoted British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in advising the class to ‘kill or murder your darlings’. Lewis applied this philosophy to songwriting, whereby a favourite line, lick or riff (‘a darling’) might compromise the balance and arc of the song. Darlingside decided to spell it with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘c’ (like regicide, fratricide or homicide) because the band felt the ‘s’ was easier on the eye. As Mitchell quipped: ‘We changed it just to have people not calling us Darling-khide all the time.’


The latest album’s title is taken from a line in Sea Dogs, which captures the dislocation and desperation of those fearful days. ‘I can’t wake up all the time/ Or even half the time/ Or even be on time,’ sings Paseltine. How Long Again is a choral tour de force, tackling the misery of gun violence. The hope of Green Light, a celebration of everyday life taken for granted pre-Covid, segues into the heartbreak of Lose The Keys, heightened by a cello quartet, as Mitchell cries: ‘Lose the keys, the marbles/ Lose a parent/ Lose the count, lose the plot/ It’s the losing that counts/ Is it not?’ One realises why Senft decided to quit touring when you hear him sing Can’t Help Falling Apart.


This is a more intimate, vulnerable side of Darlingside as they each wrestle with personal yet universal concerns but the chemistry of those luscious telepathic voices remains. It’s wonderful to be back in their comforting choral embrace.


Catholic: Elanor Moss

Eleanor Moss’s burgeoning talent as a songwriter of wit and wisdom is showcased on her second EP, Cosmic. Our Song Of The Week at herecomesthesong.com is Catholic, an exploration of guilt, insecurity and self-esteem.


The Lincolnshire-born Moss assures us her alt-folk creation is not about being Catholic or leaving the Catholic Church. ‘It’s about grappling with your identity and realising you’ve relied on validation from others most of your life, whether that’s friends, family or romantic partners. It’s also about realising you have the power to change and doing that. It’s cathartic to play and sing live and I felt like I was tapping into something new in my writing. We tried recording it in a bunch of ways. It didn’t feel right until it was big and loud.’


Certainly, this song and the equally upbeat and relatable Cosmic Memory are bigger and louder than the melancholic tracks of her lauded debut offering, Citrus; hushed, unfiltered musings about a traumatic time in her life. Catholic, with its video depicting her as Joan of Arc (removing armour as if to unburden her defences), has an edgy feel with grungy guitars, driving bass lines and punchy drums. Clever, teasing verses segue into a touching, impressively phrased chorus.


Alone in my room

I devour the contents of a dine-in for two

Covered in key lime

Trying to find validation online

You said I’m guilty like a Catholic

So I drink too much wine until I confess

Into the arms of a stranger

An exchange that I’m sure I’ll regret later


I just wanna feel loved by you

I want you to make me feel valuable

Even if it’s just for an hour or two

I just wanna feel loved by you


Talking of wine, Moss disclosed to Atwood Magazine that she was nursing a raging hangover when she laid down the vocal. Jointly written by close friend Sam Griffith of The Howl & The Hum for an EP recorded in Brooklyn with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Oli Deakin, the song had to be completed back home. ‘We ended up recording it all remotely because we didn’t nail it on our last attempt in New York… I think something about the vulnerability and anguish caused by that hangover meant I got the vocal just the way we needed.’


Moss has a gift for juxtaposing the everyday with the philosophical, the humdrum with the poetic. Humour and self-deprecation help with the healing process, she believes. The opening track, Sorry Song, is typical of her candour…


I’m sorry that I always stayed home instead

I’m sorry that I’d rather exist in my head

Where nobody knew it but you

A baggage too heavy for two


I’m sorry for all of the takeaway food

I promise that I’ll get the dishes done soon

I’ll scrub away every stain

The soap keeps the monsters away


‘It is one of the most fundamental desires, to be seen and loved and accepted. While there’s humour in the bizarreness of what we do to fend off the loneliness sometimes, there’s nothing funny about that need. The two can exist together, and they have to for me where I am right now.’

In Cosmic Memory she raises a laugh as easily as provoking a tear. This is piercingly observed storytelling about a chance meeting with an old flame…


‘Hey, how are you?’

You say, you’re seeing someone new

Before I had the chance to see if I still love you

I hit back with ‘I’m basically famous’

But really I’m cripplingly lonely

‘Pass the sugar please’

Why’d you leave?


My mind glitches out like a rented VHS

That someone forgot to rewind

It plays out the scene where Meg Ryan fakes it

In the cafe just like me

Stuck in a faded repeat


The four songs, composed at her bases in York and London between 2019 and 2022, will feel lived in and played in now thanks to her latest UK tour. Her new expansive, experimental approach, with the heft of a band behind her, has opened up so many possibilities, musically and lyrically. ‘Creativity is at its heart a very childish thing,’ she told Atwood. ‘I think the joy gets pushed out of it when you take it too seriously. Because of all the unknowns associated with a career in the industry – especially the Covid stuff – it would be easy to be terrified of whatever’s next. And the antidote to that is curiosity. Creativity is curious.’


That is why she has invested in collaboration. The songwriting camps have built up her sphere of influences from Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake to Feist and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. It helped that her large family loved books (in her case dark fairy tales, the Grimmer the better, and she studied medieval literature at university) and they adored music too – dad’s Bruce Springsteen records competed with Taylor Swift for decibel space. ‘Bouncing off other writers has helped me on the journey of finding my identity as a songwriter and the things about my writing that are mine.’


The new EP’s working title was Cosmoss until Kate Moss launched a cosmetic brand by that name. Cosmic begins with the woodwind of Stuart Bogie and Deakin on Sorry Song, is lifted by the violin of Francesca Dardani on Cosmic Memory and ends with Bogie’s saxophone and flute conjuring the Christmas tune O Holy Night on the gorgeous ballad Mary. Moss hopes the message of the closing track – ‘You don’t have to be alone’ – is a comforting one for her followers in the aftermath of Citrus. The past is kept in a choke hold.


The first record had its bleak moments – Sober and Soundings are essential listening – though Moss describes the material as ‘reflections from a place of empathy, strength and kindness towards a bruised past self’. Cosmic displays maturity, sophistication and a penchant for playfulness from a more secure standpoint. ‘I just wanna feel loved by you,’ goes the refrain on Catholic. The songcraft of Moss is loved and valued.

 

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