This stunner of an album is ultimately the culmination of a 6 year
long project, as back in 2009 South Dakota folk songwriter Jami Lynn set
out across the Great Plains of the United States to col-lect folk songs
from the early settlement days in the Dakota Territory. What she
discovered howev-er, was a series of stories, characters and places that
emerged along the way and asked to be writ-ten about. Since then, Lynn
has continued her journey with those elements, concluding in this opus
that is her latest album “Fall Is A Good Time To Die”.
With all 10 songs original self-written compositions, this is a
collection that is instantly recognisable as being deeply rooted within
the American roots tradition, but where this album scores maximum marks
is within the parameters of pushing those boundaries a little further
whilst still retaining that authenticity.
Jami Lynn has painted a musical landscape that ultimately reflects a
region rich in history and tradition, and beautiful but occasionally
harsh of nature. “It’s not about the hardy settlers that we put on
pedestals, but about everything else – the landscape, the animals and
the people that lived here before it was settled,” she points out, “I
think the old folk songs are always present in my writing, but the
stories on this album are my own stories, set up by thousands of years
of stories told on the plains, by settlers, the Lakota Sioux people, and
the ‘old’ people that preceded them in living here”.
Central to the themes presented is the succinctly titled “Wolf”,
sitting aptly in the middle of the al-bum, and one of three songs on the
album that Jami refers to as the “South Dakota Predator Trilo-gy”
(alongside “Red Fox” and “Coyote, Why Ya Been Lookin’ So Thin”). A paean
to the lone preda-tor driven by the relentless march of progress from
it’s ancient natural habitat to survive as best it can – but survive it
does as the song tells of it’s finely tuned skill, instinct and anatomy,
the things that “keep me in the stories they all tell”. Beautiful dobro
by Dalton Coffey nestles effortlessly be-neath Jami’s ethereal vocals.
Yes there are echo’s of Anais Mitchell in her voice, and even traces of
Emmylou at times, but ultimately she is her own woman. One minute dark
and forbidding, the next a heavenly tendril weaving it’s way through the
images conjured by startlingly vivid lyrics.
The evocation of the sprit of the Dakota Territory is latent in it’s
authenticity throughout the album, and opening “Polywogs” gently and
effortlessly introduces the listener to Jami’s world. Almost
nursery-rhyme esque in terms of composition, lone banjo and voice take
us straight to a picture postcard old time American north mid-west
summer scene, the one we all have stored in our imaginations somewhere.
The simplicity of this song is also it’s strength, it’s brilliance.
“North Wind” and “God Out On The Plains” then take the listener out
of that comfort zone. The Summer is ending, Fall is on it’s way. “The
North wind, it rouses the desolate beast of this land, but Winter has
bought us what no other mild season can” – we’re heading for a harsh
winter, but even in that harshness there are positives, hopes and the
promise of new life on the other side, whether that be physically or
spiritually. All that imagery is wrapped up in a bubble of dobro, banjo,
acoustic gui-tar and Jami Lynn’s radiantly pre-possessing voice.
I approached this album with no preconceptions as I had neither heard
of, or indeed heard Jami be-fore. What I found was an album that
immediately insinuated it’s way into my consciousness and has been
lodged there ever since. It has taken me on a journey that I never
sought, but one that now that i’ve taken it I am eternally grateful to
Jami for. George Keith of the popular ‘Empty Bottles & Broken Souls’
music blog says of her, ” Essential Listening. This one will turn heads
worldwide. It’s time the world met the new star of American roots
music”. And who am I to argue? This isn’t just an album, it’s a lovingly
and painstakingly crafted piece of art that works on all levels. Walk
beside Jami Lynn. Take that journey. Be the Wolf.
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