In a year when sparkling releases from the ladies have not been in short supply - Carter Sampson, Lucinda Williams, Sarah Jarosz for starters - I'm pleased to say another gem is brightening life.
Bible Belt by Kalyn Fay has got intriguing, grounded songs, wonderful vocals, and a freewheeling band, and it's all the more admirable as it's a debut album that feels like something a seasoned artist would yield and hold up to close examination.
Like Carter Sampson, Kalyn is from Oklahoma so there must be something in the water in this pioneering state to create inspired music like this, or is it something coursing through her Cherokee background and artistic blood.
It's a state of contrasts, and so is Kalyn's album, though red dirt country is kicked up with real joy, tinged with inevitable sadnesses, all the way through with the likes of Ryan Adams and Emmylou looking in as well. It takes a welcome meander through a range of emotions that veers from raw to haunting with Roger Ray's expressive pedal steel, Cody Clinton's probing guitar and moody blue fiddle from Kevin Warren-Smith ensuring warmth and spark to emphasise Kalyn's husky tones.
Title track, first up here, has an undoubted Ryan Adams' intro: pedal steel with raspy drums dipping in and out of the mix. It's a terrific opener. Black and Blue then alters the thought processes as Cat Power or Mazzy Star meander into one's mind: gently nervy and utterly delicious.
It's one of those songs - and this happens with Lucinda Williams as well - when you wonder whether she'll make it to the end of the line, never mind the final verse. Black and Blue demonstrates the diversity of the collection wonderfully.
Looking For A Reason swoons its way through five minutes of unhurried pedal steel, dark brown, plaintiff vocals and harmonies as gentle as a feather floating in the breeze. The excellent Oklahoma rises to a spry bounce and joy with Kalyn's voice confident and breathlessly in charge over a fine veil of fiddles and acoustic guitars while Middlegate is delivered unhesitatingly in a downbeat, fragile manner.
Tulsa - where the album came together - finds her praising the place in preference to city living while final track, Plan thrives with stirring fiddle to give a base to a song that's all about doubts and future directions where she's still trying to figure things out.
Musically, this newcomer has certainly worked out how to craft lyrics and music into a meaningful, ten-song collection that will prove quite irresistible to many, like me.
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