With this album, local songwriter Kelcy Mae Wilburn fully embraces the Nashville sound—which is to say the “other” Nashville sound, not slick pop country but fully produced, acoustic-based Americana. It’s not a huge step away from her local indie releases, but this one benefits from more polished production (by herself and drummer Neilson Hubbard) and a consistent band sound—guitarist/banjo player Will Kimbrough, himself a big name in the Americana world, makes his presence felt on most tracks.
In this content the natural beauty of Wilburn’s voice is pushed forward, and most of these songs have a surface appeal that would fit comfortably into NPR playlists. As usual with her lyrics, however, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Always a literate writer, she manages to work some grabbing images into these graceful tunes. “North Mississippi” opens this way: “Down south in north Mississippi they have tall skinny trees/ That straddle the edges of bridges, resembling your knees.” That’s the least obvious way we’ve heard in a while of setting up a love song. “Major Tom” is not the Bowie tribute you’d expect from the title, but another love song—this one using the “Space Oddity” character’s leap into the void as a metaphor for surrendering to a relationship, an angle that Bowie himself would likely prefer.
All isn’t necessarily well in her characters’ worlds: “Fine Right Here” and “Unraveling” (the first seemingly about Alzheimer’s) both catch their protagonists at crisis moments, but each offers a bit of hope at the end. The arrangements likewise have subtle surprises, like the brief fuzz-guitar solo Kimbrough plays on “Gimme That.” It’s worth spending some time with this disc to catch all the details.
Check out the OffBeat.com premiere of Ever More Nest’s “Broken Bones.”