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Reviews

Joana SerratJoana Serrat
Album: Cross The Verge
Label: Loose
Tracks: 13
Website: http://www.loosemusic.com/press/joanaserrat

I can think of any number of Latino or Hispanic artists who sing Americana or country music, but they're all American and based in the USA. Serrat is different, she's Spanish and lives in Vic, a town near Barcelona, even if she did record the album in Montreal where she was reunited with Arcade Fire drummer/producer Howard Bilerman, who handled duties on her previous release, and was joined in the studio by Canadian autoharpist and singer Basia Bulat.

A new signing to the label, there's precious little info on Serrat on the web, she doesn't even have a website (just Facebook and Soundcloud pages), but it would appear this is her third album and she also has a second string to her bow as an actress. She describes her music as 'foggy folk', which, roughly translated, means a sort of cosmic Americana sung in a breathy voice, the songs shimmering with pedal steel and harmonies, the country flavours laced with summery pop melodies carrying musings on yearnings and loss. Things start in ethereal manner with the echoey "Lonely Heart Reverb" in a manner reminiscent of the missing in action Stina Nordenstam, an approach revisited for "Oh, Winter Come" and "Flags", before more obvious Americana notes are struck on the train chugging drumming of "Saskatoon (Break of Dawn)" with its tinkling piano and the steel tinted bubbling pop sensibilities of "Cloudy Heart", a duet with Neil Halstead. The album boasts a second duet, this time with Ryan Boldt from The Deep Dark Woods, on the moody, slow swaying "Black Lake", Serrat essentially providing chorus harmonies while he takes the lead.

Elsewhere, "Desert Valley" adopts the sort of reverb guitar sound the title suggests, while an equally reverb-enrobed "Tug Of War" features a more cascading approach that comes with a strong 50s retro feel. By contrast. "I Follow You Child" is a more skittering number, pedal steel again making its presence felt, adding an almost Hawaiian feel to the slow swaying "Solitary Road", a number that, again with a twang to its step, harks to the very roots of country music as embodied in the likes of Loretta Lynn, while album closer "Your Gold Could Be Mine" is vintage Cowboy Junkies. The title track itself is a particular highlight, another slow burn swayer that begins to swell midway and builds to a lengthy, largely instrumental finale driven by reverb guitar and cymbals behind which Serrat sings a repeated refrain. Her current brief UK tour should serve to spread the word and, with the glowing reviews this is going to gather, she'll hopefully be back playing larger venues to bigger crowds later in the year.

Mike Davies