Dawnbreaker eases in spare and stark, just Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and a guitar, with just a crackle of static in the background. It was originally how she intended the rest of the album, a simple emotional connection with little artifice. The rest of the album did wind up more fleshed out, adding in the voices of her former Mountain Man bandmates Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé, the stringwork of Ryan Gustafson, and arranging from Phil Cook, but the record still reverberates with the spirit of Sauser-Monnig on a road trip with her guitar. The fuller sound pulls her away from pining folk and into a country ramble that’s dipped in evening sunlight – awash in amber hues and a dousing of verdant cool that battles the slight heat-ripple ramble of summer. The record is full of quenchers straight through. Though her songs are about loss and transition, there’s no woe in sight. The songs are comforting and resilient, the kind of songs that comfort without cradling. Each one is an exhale of strength, the resolution to get up and move on confidently, no matter how many butterflies of uncertainty have housed themselves in one’s restless soul.
There’s a theme of breakup throughout the album, but its not a breakup album. Those tend to wallow and pick at the hurt. This is not the kind of album that let you know its ok to cry, one that lets the burning ball of hurt come rising to the surface. Rather, Sauser-Monnig faces loss with a fresh dawn determination. Her songs sparkle with the sun-dappled brilliance that Mountain Main wove between every harmony. As much as they’re the soundtrack to a new life they’re also the wind outside the window as a hand skims through the cool air in sine-wave sweeps. They’re the rumble of the seat lulling the pain away with each mile. They’re the horizon line ever receding but always promising. With Dawnbreaker on the speakers it feels like that next hill’s going to be the one that lets you cross over the threshold.
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