The sound of Pennies in Hand is familiar enough. Kelcy Mae and the album exist in Lilith Fair’s long shadow, evidenced by her good musical taste and the emphasis on voice and words. These are solid ground for Kelcy Wilburn, whose voice is warm and distinctive, and whose lyrics are intelligent without being brainy. She references genres and books (Ulysses, of all things, in “Mr. Leopold”), but without making a production of either, and if you missed the reference, you wouldn’t miss the song. The lyrics are rarely confessional, though it almost always feels like there’s a story behind the song, no matter what.
The title cut is the album’s finest moment, an expansive song that feels far shorter than its six-minute length. Its opening lines set the tone for the song and represent her writing at its most evocative: “If in the distance you spy some large bird / carrying my scarf it its claws and strands of my hair in its beak / well know that I shall make a good nest.” There’s a whole story in those lines alone, a reason to keep paying attention to Kelcy Mae.