Sarah Quintana, Miss River (Independent)

Sarah Quintana beckons like a siren throughout the tidal movement of this album, an alluvial swell of meditations on the Mississippi that collectively evoke a dreamscape of beautiful, languorous dissipation.

Like the last, current-swept images of a drowning world, Quintana indulges the listener in a sonic acceptance of the inundation—what she calls “a collaboration with the Mississippi River.” Apparently inspired by a stay at Studio in the Woods, the artists’ residence on the banks of the Mississippi, Quintana has come up with a novel sound which she explains as “duets with water and songs of an ecosystem.”

On the opening track “Tiny Cellos,” Quintana is accompanied only by her own overlaid vocals, but the majority of the album features a wonderful band made up of Rex Gregory on woodwinds and keyboards, Robin Sherman on bass, Doug Garrison on drums, Richard Comeaux on pedal steel, producer Mark Bingham on banjo and bass, and Gina Forsyth on fiddle.

This lineup might sound alt-country but the record is somewhere closer to jazz, although in truth it is utterly unclassifiable. What does come across is a mystical, awe-inspiring beauty. The water metaphor is brought into the arrangement mix via brilliantly applied samples from Bingham that are far more than sound effects but actual compositional elements—seagulls and gulf breezes on “Tiny Cellos”; Atchafalaya Basin swamp sounds on “In the Devil’s Country”; underwater sound samples from the mouth of the Mississippi on “Miss River’; Louisiana bird songs at Lake Martin on “It’s a Miracle All Around.”

Quintana plays water and bowls at Studio in the Woods on “Fisherman In the Sky,” more water sounds on “Cut Flower”; a New Orleans thunderstorm recorded at Piety Street Studio before it closed on “New Life’; and an “underwater Mermaid voice filter” on “Grief, a Poem by William Faulkner.”

This completely novel, very tuneful and refreshing as rainfall collection really grows on you with repeated listening. Quintana is a great addition to New Orleans expression.

As for Bingham, now that he’s free from his day-to-day responsibilities at Piety, he is showing his masterful hand in helping realize eccentric music projects as never before.