Record Of The Week # 109

Garrison Starr – Girl I Used To Be

This is a beautiful album of strong heartfelt vocals and sublime melodies, sung over simple arrangements. Starr is well into double figures of album releases but to her credit she’s still turning out music of considerable quality. There’s a definite pop sensibility housed in an Americana sound. My research I found her being interviewed after opening for Steve Earle in 2003; all this suggests a recognition of her talents and circulation, for some time, amongst the luminaries of Americana. 

However the album doesn’t come from an overly confident artist in her pomp, but one whose trauma of dealing with her sexuality in a Mississippi fundamentalist Christian community still haunts her several decades later. The nine songs deal with anger, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, lost time and eventual empowerment as she surfed a wave of hostility related to her identity as a lesbian. A gay female musician is not an unusual story nowadays, especially when you consider her contemporaries. However, it must be a difficult journey and I remember the audacity and bravery of Mellissa Etheridge’s 1993 ‘coming out’ album Yes I Am.

“Devil In Me” is a single with a thumping beat and memorable chorus where the devil in question is her difference from those around her. “Don’t Believe In Me”, a slower song, has an electric guitar motif in the background and captures the essence of her emotions with the lyrics ‘Stuck in purgatory but it feels a lot like hell / Buried in the story and it’s getting hard to tell / Am I running from my dreams, family, Jesus or myself’. “Just A Little Rain” is country and could be a hit in the hands of another more mainstream artist. In fact several of these songs were written some time ago and had been available around Nashville as songs for sale. “Make Peace With It” brings Brandi Carlile to mind with the vocal, melody and the lyrics which seek to dial down her exasperation with the hand she’s been dealt. The country-tinged “Dam That’s Breaking” ends the album with her gently rasping voice over acoustic guitar chords and a simple but powerful vocal with a passionate message.

Sonically the album is a very tuneful listen which lures you in, taking you through her journey. Now, that ladies and gentlemen, is craft.

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