Banjo-and-uke-toting Arizona-born s/s Cera is now, I believe, based in Edinburgh (good news that!). Her earlier album Higher Place, which came out in 2011, turned out to be a quirky yet appealing offering that nevertheless infuriated somewhat with a proliferation of studio tricks that detracted from her whimsical songwriting.
Tumbleweed, on which Cera's once again backed by her trusty New Prohibition band, is a more consistently rootsy affair, and manages to charm right from the start with the coquettish Fingernail Moon, then proceeding on through delectable fiddle-and-banjo backporch (Little Bird), cheeky swing (Roll A Joint), ethereal bliss (Heaven), Appalachian hoedown (Blackbird), no-place desolation (Ponderosa) and measured waltzerie (Fire In Your Eyes, possibly the disc's most beguiling song), finally coming Home to an uneasy, scratchy bed. Cera's work has an engaging quality of intimacy, but also a commendable spaciousness in the limpid arrangements, which make full and playful use of a range of instrumental colours including fiddle, harp, accordion, harmonica and double bass - but no guitars!
The fiddle playing in particular (Cera's husband Dr. Dirk Ronneburg, who'd once been in Southern Tenant Folk Union by the way) is quite outstanding, with its touches of gypsy jazz and blues alongside the rootsy bluegrass, but other guest appearances make quite an impact too (notably Mary Macmaster's contribution to the brooding ballad Flicker 'n' Shine). Grittier moments aside, there's an appealing edginess that generally enables Cera's music to avoid cloying; even so, just occasionally Cera's songs can be almost too fluffy for their own good, with an ephemeral, slightly insubstantial demeanour that prevents them from becoming earworms - and for that reason it may be best to take the album's 53 minutes in smaller doses, which helps to preserve the magic for longer I feel.
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