Record Of The Week # 59

February 25, 2019

Jane Kramer – Valley Of The Bones

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed: genuinely. The conveyor belt of Americana releases roll past revealing quantities of neglected beauty. How an artist gets the recognition and exposure seems as elusive as holding a winning lottery ticket. 

Kramer in promoting her Country Americana release Valley Of The Bones played a few songs on a Facebook Live event. Between the songs she told us of her husband having his debit card refused when buying a sandwich and her scheduled small time gig later at a local bar. Not for her that comforting call asking her to do an Elton John cover for an ersatz Country album where some major label artist has to bowl up to sing a weary vocal over some lethargic arrangement (and then stuff that wad into her purse).

However, let me pick this off the conveyor belt. The North Carolinian’s third album is packed with memorable acoustic led tunes, an expressive and attractive voice with autobiographical stories that leave you staggered at the breadth of topic and profundity.

“Hymn” she describes as a homework assignment from her songwriting mentor, Mary Gauthier ,who concluded all her self-deprecation wasn’t “cute or charming”. The gauntlet went down to write a song from a perspective of self-love. So she set to work and wrote this song on a backpacking trip around Italy. With a band in an acoustic setting she sings:

“Now I’m gonna swing this hammer like you ain’t never seen

I’ve got railroad ties and jasmine vines on the walls of my dreams

I’ve spent year apologizing for a heart that’s true and clean

Now I’m gonna  swing this hammer like you ain’t never seen”

“Waffle House Song” is as jaunty as you might expect (and anyone who fits in a name check for Travis Tritt within the first 38 seconds cannot fail with me). She’s upbeat about her recently broken heart and it seems hash browns have restorative properties. With Billy Cardine’s dobro picking some equally therapeutic notes this sails along and is another gem lost to Country radio. A potential boxset could be taken from the lyric of “I’ll See You Crazy & Raise You Mine”:

“Two years ago for Valentines

I got your name tattooed and you got mine

They spelled my name wrong but you didn’t mind, you said

‘Actually if you squint, you don’t see the extra e’” 

A heart warming tale of an enduring love albeit bordering on the dysfunctional. Again the band keeps this upbeat tune danceable with solos from Eliot Wadopian (bass) and Nicky Sanders (fiddle). 

There are two songs about the loss of a child. Both are beautiful and arresting. Her sonorous and sweeping vocal recounts the vacuum and abandoned dreams over a simple piano on “Child”.  The title track revisits grief in a conversation. This time the pace is picked up and the depth of emotion added to by the band. The words alone make these epic for their beauty and poignancy. Recent gold dust from Courtney Marie Andrews or Joni Mitchell comes to mind.

After the despair she signs off with “Wedding Vows” and strings complement the vocal of her purring satisfaction at the sanctuary and relief that the search is over for a soulmate. So before this passes by then step over that painted line and reach in to grab it quickly before it slides by.

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