Record Of The Week # 38

January 31, 2018


LIONHEART is North Carolina’s H.C. McEntire’s debut release of nine self penned compositions. The title sums up her feeling about the courage to strike out and release music under her own name. This album fits delightfully into a slot of intimate, uplifting, melodic and lyrically interesting Country Americana with a possible drift into Folk.

North Carolina’s Heather McEntire has spent her career progressing from Post Punk to this dulcet and crafted genre. Her recent day job has been a combination of playing with Mount Moriah and more recently being a member of Angel Olsen’s touring band. She says that much of the album was composed whilst on the road with Olsen. The songs didn’t fit Mount Moriah hence the solo debut.

Affairs start with “A Lamb, A Dove” a plaintiff unadorned vocal that shows the beauty of McEntire’s voice against some occasional piano chords before building to involve harmonies with Tift Merritt and the nagging siren qualities of pedal steel. The song alludes to McEntire’s journey of coming out in the South with acceptance anxieties from her family and the tense background of the legal battles that the Gay community face to get equality in the Southern States. Lyrics include –  “I have found heaven, In a woman’s touch, Come to me now, I’ll make you blush”. And connection with her spiritual side – “It’s a wild world, That will make you believe, In a kingdom, Full of mercy and faith, It’s a fine line, And I will walk it with grace, Come like a dove, I’ll show you love.”

However whilst this may be an important statement from McEntire I wouldn’t want to leave an impression that the album is a long heartfelt ‘message’. The tracks here stand alone and they are mellifluous, constructed at the right pace, have beautiful instrumentation and are delivered with lovely voices.

Such a track is “One Great Thunder” with heavenly voices and strings. It is a short ethereal piece that transported me to Delibes’ “Flower Duet” from his Opera Lakmé. It is simply delicious and a demonstration of her considerable talent to create such a short piece of heaven.

“Baby’s Got the Blues” is a pulsing but gentle acoustic rocker with Hammond behind the clear and assertive vocals with support from Ryan Gustafson. Some of the words hook you with mentions of “dogwood, surrogates, mama buried the revolver” etc. but what it all means is beyond me and starts to come across as a touch jumbled.

“Wild Dogs” is back to a slower pace where her vocal is backed by Angel Olsen’s different but exquisite harmony back in the mix. Meanwhile a cello and strings provide the accompaniment – “When we were wild dogs, How our teeth were stained with blood, From the fire, from the hunt, When I held for you that lust. ”

Despite the vicious lyric it is a delicate and captivating song! Maybe this is one of the intriguing and attractive elements of the album – that mix of delicate melodies with some disordered yet memorable imagery in the words.

This is one of those Americana albums that will be noted for its immense beauty and intensity. I expect to return to it regularly during the year.

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