Anyone who has followed The Black Twig Pickers or House and Land over the past couple of years might be familiar with the prowess of Sally Anne Morgan, but on her solo LP for Thrill Jockey, she’s truly letting her own voice shine through in a record rooted in the traditions of Appalachian and English Folk. With her fiddle, banjo, and guitar at the ready, Morgan is a band in her own right, compiling in the studio the kind of loose, pub-slung singalongs that wouldn’t feel out of place on a rainy day in the English countryside nor on a porch in the wooded confines of deep set East Coast mountains. She’s a traditionalist, but not constrained by tradition. The songs could well enter the traditional canon, but they take flight in ways that are more progressive than they first let on. There’s a carful tenderness to her songs too — peeking through in verdant strains on wistful compositions like “Garden Song,” which tracks its melody like water seeping into soil and blooms unfolding into an late spring sunlight.
As Sally noted in her Hidden Gems piece for the site, she has a particular fascination with UK folk rock, stemming from the Fairport tradition that caught her ear in her 20s, and that comes through nicely with the help of Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Pigeons) who adds percussion to several tracks here, elevating them from loose sketches to something more stridently propulsive. Whether with a full band or by herself, though Morgan fills the room with a sound that’s almost impossible to ignore. Fiddle lines weave bittersweet curls through the air, banjos pluck out a ramble that’s as insistent as the nearest creek, and above the instruments Sally’s vocals peek around the bends with a heartbreaking delivery that’s somewhere between hope and lament, both are perfect for these days. This record is a companion piece to a hard year — a comfort, a companion, a consolation in the night.
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