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Sunday, February 25, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
February 25, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

As January drew to a close, I tagged the following five releases as my favorites for the month:  Calexico, Ronnie Eaton, First Aid Kit, Marie/Lepanto and HC McEntire.  Since our February days are numbered, I'd add these to my month-to-month list:  Caleb Caudle, Fruition, Mike & the Moonpies, Richmond Fontaine and Ruby Boots.  You might note that these are in alphabetical order.  March threatens new stuff from 6 String Drag, Andrew Bryant, Courtney Marie Andrews, Great Peacock and more.

And Haley Heynderickx.  She happens to be the third Portland area artist I've reviewed this year, and is poised to release her debut full-length, I Need to Start a Garden (Mama Bird, Mar 2).  While all music is derivative at some level, the sounds Heynderickx makes with little more than voice and guitar are refreshingly different.

Haley Heynderickx can do pretty.  The record's lead-in, "No Face" is a brief but gorgeous acoustic piece:  Tell me what's wrong / Is it the bridge of my nose / Or the back of my skin / Is it the pull of my hips that you couldn't let in / Is it the bridge between worlds that makes you feel alone / I wish that I had known ... The acoustic playing is precise, and the voice is both human and heavenly, mesmerizing but too quickly passed.  Try the closer , "Drinking Song" for another more buttoned-up picture of the artist.  The slightly tipsy, waltz-time acoustic is like Alela Diane during her Pirate's Gospel days.

Then we have "Bug Collector".  Again, Heynderickx anchors the cut with classical fingerpicking, but something's amiss:  There's a centipede naked in the bedroom / And you swear to god the fucker's out to get you ...  The harplike guitar is soon joined by trombone and strings and an undercurrent of studio noise.  Still pretty, but there is a waver, a dis-ease in her voice that leads one to believe everything is not necessarily okay.

This is what Haley Heynderickx does on her debut full-length.  A Filipina by heritage, and raised in a traditionally religious family, she comes to folk music as an outsider.  She is a guitarist who calls both Hendrix (Jimi) and Leo Kottke influences, as well as a "primitive" folk artist like Vashti Bunyan.  There is a lure and a beauty to her music, but much of the appeal and the originality comes from the inherent quirk.

In performance videos and in interviews, she comes across as both vulnerable and dangerously certain of herself.  With a voice that can range from beautiful to unhinged, Heynderickx's rawness can seem fragile as well as cathartic.  "Worth It" launches with a bluesy electric and the singer's elastic cooing.  Skittering drums skip in and out of the track until they run away with it.  She sings "So put me in a line / Add another line / Soon you'll have a box and you can put me inside / Put me in a box boy / Put me in a box boy / And call me anything you want".  As the eight-minute-plus song unspools, so does your tidy impression of Haley Heynderickx.  And maybe your sense of what passes for beautiful will be challenged, too.

She vastly overflows our original folk labels, incorporating jazz phrasing to her guitar and vocals.  She's called it "doom folk".  With all these qualifiers, it's fortunate she also wields a quick and barbed sense of humor that prevents her from drifting into self-serious pretension.  She calls one of her pieces "Untitled God Song":  God is just a busy mother / Trying to balance all the chaos around her.  The song is a flight of fantasy, picturing the divine as she creates the bright sunset by forgetting to dim her headlights.  Her guitar playing is more adventurous here, as the arrangement also becomes busier and more ambitious.

But above all Haley Heynderickx's art is beautiful and challenging and different.  Attempts at comparison are fleeting, but might include Alynda Lee Segarra for her outsider strength, or Valerie June for both embracing her genre and toying with it.  She is an understated but eclectic guitarist, and it is especially engaging to witness her depart from more traditional stylings.  The same might be said for Heynderickx as a vocalist.  There can be a stream-of-consciousness appeal to her lyrics at times, as witnessed on "Oom Sha La La":  I'm throwing out the milk / The olives got old / I'm tired of my mind getting heavy with mold / I need to start a garden / I need to start a garden / I need to start a garden ...  Her voice cracks as she abandons composure, briefly shouting the repeated line manically like Courtney Barnett raised on folk.

Heynderickx says that she has already begun writing for her next collection, reportedly working with songs that flirt with a new direction.  As an artist who courts her muse with such playfulness and fearlessness, it's probably best to suspend any preconceptions of what might be next.

Also this week, Heartless Bastard Erika Wennerstrom continues to impress as she slowly reveals her new solo record.  Caitlin Canty brings us a dark and tempestuous piece from a record I am tempted to give some review time. We celebrate the return of Simone Felice, as we  hail Charlie Crockett as one of the more provocative young country traditionalists entering onto the scene.

- William Elliott Whitmore, "Not Feeling Any Pain"  Field Songs  (Anti, 11)
- Shelby Lynn & Allison Moorer, "Strange Angels" Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James  (Sylvan Songs, 18)
- Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee, "Dark Don't Hide It" single  (Dead Oceans, 18)
^ Haley Heynderickx, "Untitled God Song" I Need to Start a Garden  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Coolin' Out (w/Lucius)" Tearing at the Seams  (Concord, 18)
- Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, "Let's Go to Mars" Soul Flowers of Titan  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Greyhounds, "No Other Woman" Cheyenne Valley Drive  (Bud's Recording, 18)  D
- Erika Wennerstrom, "Twisted Highway" Sweet Unknown  (Partisan, 18)
- Long Ryders, "Prairie Fire" Two Fisted Tales  (Island, 87)
- Wade Bowen, "Compass Rose" Solid Ground  (Bowen, 18)
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Steak Night at the Prairie Rose" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Mike, 18)
- Western Centuries, "Earthly Justice" Songs From the Deluge  (Free Dirt, 18)
- Caitlin Canty, "Scattershot" Motel Bouquet  (Tone Tree, 18)
- Patty Griffin, "Useless Desires" Impossible Dream  (ATO, 04)
- Charlie Crockett, "I Wanna Cry" Lonesome as a Shadow  (Son of Davy, 18)  D
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "May Your Kindness Remain" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Donovan Woods, "Burn That Bridge" Both Ways  (Meant Well, 18)
- Rod Picott, "On the Way Down" Out Past the Wires  (Welding Rod, 18)
- Simone Felice,"The Projector" The Projector  (New York Pro, 18)  D
- John Prine, "Summer's End" Tree of Forgiveness  (Oh Boy, 18)
- Will Stewart, "Heaven Knows Why" County Seat  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Pieta Brown, "Mercury" Mercury  (Red House, 11)
- Andrew Bryant, "Bittersweet" Ain't It Like the Cosmos  (Last Chance, 18)
- Trampled by Turtles, "Kelly's Bar" Life is Good on the Open Road  (Banjodad, 18)
- Courtney Patton, "Red Bandanna Blue" What it's Like to Fly Alone  (Patton, 18)
- Jeff Hyde, "Norman Rockwell World" Norman Rockwell World  (Hyde, 18)
- Fruition, "Northern Town" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Lynn Taylor & Barflies, "Slave to a Fool" Staggered  (Taylor, 18)
- Molly Parden, "Sail on the Water" single  (Tone Tree, 18)
- John Moreland, "Break My Heart Sweetly" In the Throes  (Ftnwsngs, 13)

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