Natalie Mae Palms is part of a fertile crop of musicians to emerge from New Orleans’ Loyola University over the past decade. Raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, her parents were vital players in the folk music scene while she was growing up there. On her first full-length album, More Than You Know, Natalie Mae demonstrates an innate familiarity with folk and country traditions, which shines through in her powerful voice and gains momentum via an excellent backing band.
The character of More Than You Know is determined by two main factors: Natalie’s voice and the guitar work of Alex Bachari — both of which are captured magnificently. Throughout the album Natalie sings with confidence and control. Her style is complemented by the uncompromising Bachari, who picks his Telecaster with exactitude and strength, never straying from the country tradition. There are more subtle elements at work, too, like keyboardist Josh Wexler’s hypnotic solo at the beginning of “Johnny Bad,” and the lyrical lines bowed by guest violinist Rebecca Crenshaw on several tracks.
While Natalie Mae’s voice shows strength and experience, her songwriting could stand to mature at times. The lyrical content, focusing mainly on relationships and boys, rarely treads new ground. In spite of this, there are still some real gems here. The title track is a beautiful love song written straight from the heart and performed with tangible conviction. Likewise, “Hold On, Little Love” is a touching ballad whose tuneful chorus marks the pinnacle of the album. The lone cover song, Greta Mae Barnard’s “The Rain,” leaves a strong impression as the album’s closing track.
Natalie Mae & Her Unturned Tricks are a unique presence within the New Orleans music community. They play a style that isn’t often heard around town, and with More Than You Know they prove they’ve got what it takes to become a lasting fixture on the scene.