The last few years have seen quite a few artists embrace the cosmic corners of country and the earthen, yet expansive niches of Americana. In quite a few ways the current musical landscape mirrors the early ‘70s, a time of crushing cultural weight that was offset musically with songs that searched for answers — in faith, in pharmaceuticals, in forms of music that might have been shunned previously. The folk and psychedelic years ran their course and its luminaries began to cosplay as cowboys, outlaws and sages, but not without conviction. Quite a few contemporary artists have found their footing in the Canyon caress of this influence, but it feels like few are doing it justice quite like Lauren Barth. Her latest album embraces this axis of influence — a cult-figure concept album tied to a protagonist in search of solace, physically blinded but psychically open. She’s caught between the physical world of “Rialto” and the spiritual—“Morian,” waiting out her time to traverse into the tempest of the next realm. Barth frames her epic in trappings of folk and Americana that push progressive, embracing the lilt and lament of country, the simplicity of Western folk, and the intricacies of Anglican prog-folk.
I’ve mentioned previously, but a good touchstone for the album is Bert Jansch’s L.A. Turnaround. Like that album, it’s stuck between the poles of L.A. and London, shrouded in flutes and fingerpicked passages, but sweating out the smog and soot of West Coast twang in tandem with those cold English winds. The influence of Pentangle and Fairport can be felt, but they remain an undercurrent that’s submerged in the dust of the West. The album keeps an eye on Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name, Joni’s Court and Spark, and Buckley’s Greetings From L.A. Like those records its a distinctly West Coast album, salt air mingling with the smoke, but also likewise impeccably crafted with drop-ins from a cross-section of Lauren’s contemporaries — Garrett Ray (Fool’s Gold), Stewart Forgey (Pacific Range), Connor Gallaher (The Myrrors, Pearl Charles), Sam Blasucci (Mapache) and Pearl Charles. With Stormwaiting Lauren has crafted an album that’s complex and utterly essential. The wound it wields gets deeper with every listen.
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