Thursday, May 6, 2010
Lainie Marsh -- The Hills Will Cradle Thee
The Hills Will Cradle Thee
Bait & Tackle
Just last week, I wrote that Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep was an early candidate for my album of the year. My early candidate for discovery of the year is Lainie Marsh, a singer and songwriter whose work on her debut album, The Hills Will Cradle Thee, is steeped in Appalachian authenticity – she grew up in West Virginia – and blended with the sophistication and imagination of a Berklee College of Music education and, quite obviously, a craftsperson’s dedication to her art.
All of those elements are revealed in “Jalopy,” the opening track, a timeless song that bears Marsh’s 2008 copyright, but that sounds like it could have been a stringband tune or country blues song from the 1920s or ‘30s or any time since. In addition to Marsh’s voice, the old-time banjo playing of Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show is a particular delight on “Jalopy.
A lot of Marsh’s songs reflect her West Virginia upbringing. “Motherlode,” a kind of down-home jazz tune, is filled with references to country life from farm animals to coon dogs to the centrality of religion. “Way Down” is written from the perspective of a coal miner’s wife who is ready to break out of her traditional role, while “Banjo Moon,” is a sweet reminiscence of simpler times and younger days back home.
A couple of songs combine Marsh’s country-folk roots with wider musical references. “Hey Ludwig” is a clever ditty that lyrically nods to some of Beethoven’s most familiar compositions while “Little Samba Queen” blends Appalachian and Brazilian motifs with nods to Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilbreto and Astrud Gilbreto and their classic “Girl from Ipanema.”
Although Marsh was new to me with this album, I did recognize one of her songs, “A Ways to Go,” as the lead track from Cowgirl’s Prayer, an album by Emmylou Harris from 1993. That she’s been writing such quality material for a long time suggests to me that there's probably many more great Lainie Marsh songs waiting to be heard. And I’m looking forward to hearing them.