Kristin Hersh has released six solo albums now, all strikingly different from both each other and her more known work with Throwing Muses. This stand strongly at almost the very forefront of her music. Where, exactly, I could not say for I am a rampant fan of her work and my bias changes on almost every listen to her albums. What is for sure is that this is one of the very finest.
At first listen I was struck most by how sparse, how bleak, how almost grim the songs sound. It took several listens for my ears to properly translate it to my brain, but afterwards both my brain and my heart were in rapture. The down-trodden, lacy beauty of tracks like 'Deep Wilson', 'SRB' and 'Silver Sun' were the first I felt that I 'got', but the rest soon followed.
Few of the songs here have big, catchy choruses. In fact, none do. The instrumentation is limited to acoustic guitar, piano and violin. Between them they create a sound that is absolutely other-worldly. Kristin's voice wraps around her guitar like a watchful, emotional mother looking over her child, on 'Deep Wilson'. Fragments of bewitching scenes and moments are sung of, seemingly random but all strange and striking. Both down-heartening and oddly up-lifting at the same time, its wonders cannot be easily put into words other than through the use of impressed superlatives.
'Arnica Montana' is a tougher tune, piano and violin playing along with a strongly strummed guitar in a way approaching jazz, or blues, but not in any way typically heard. After a few listens it hits you: this is desert music. The sparseness reflects life living in a vast, dusty space. Both exhilerating and humbling, being a dot in an immense place is used in the music, giving it a certain gravity that's hard to explain.
On first listen you may wonder why I say all of this. That it is just 'another acoustic singer-songwriter album'. It really is so much more than that. Not quite any particular genre, this is honestly something special. Unlike anything Mrs. Hersh has ever released before, unlike anything else I've ever heard. Its nearest contemporary would perhaps be Giant Sand (whose Howie Gelb plays piano here), but only as a kising cousin.
Buy this, and those hot, still, long summer nights will have the most wonderful soundtrack.