The River and The Light
Cat. No. JB171
- Brother Was Dying
- West Virginia Rain
- Higher Rock
- Buttermilk Road
- Las Cruces
- Too Late
- Only A River / True Eyed Angel
Vinyl edition is limited to 300 copies. As this is such a limited release our pre-order will be capped at 150 copies, the remainder will be available from Martha at shows around the US this fall.
All pre-orders receive an instant download of the track Brother Was Dying.
In the opening moments of Martha Scanlan’s fourth album, The River And The Light, there is this pause right before the music kicks in; it occurs like the deep breath in right before a sigh, or the brush of sand against the bottom of a boat being gently pushed into the current.
What follows is a journey, and in this day and age of Spotify and playlists it is rare to find a recording compelling enough to be so taken into such a journey.
The current one is swept into on the opening track Brother Was Dying is pulsing with rich electric guitar tones, somehow lush and spare all at once, the tension of so many opposites- hope and despair, intimacy and inclusion, birth and death, weaving seamlessly in and out of each other in one winding pulsing groove.
It was the first take of a song Martha had just finished writing moments before, and the first time playing it with longtime musical collaborator and producer Jon Neufeld.
“I think it was the only take,” she laughs.
This is not unusual for them.
Anyone familiar with Martha Scanlan and Jon Neufeld’s unique alchemy on stage will not be surprised by the sense of being taken into the moment- their shows are in themselves a journey of improvisation; the way Jon Neufeld’s brilliant innovative guitar playing weaves effortlessly around Martha’s timeless songwriting is simply magical.
This magical alchemy is at play here throughout The River And The Light.
Martha Scanlan first gained national attention with the band Reeltime Travelers on TBone Burnett’s soundtrack for Cold Mountain. Her first solo album, The West Was Burning, featuring Dirk Powell, Amy and Levon Helm, was heralded as an instant classic, one of those rare albums that defies genre and generation.
Since then she has written and recorded two more iconic albums, collaborated and shared the stage with a variety of roots musicians ranging from Alison Krauss, Emmy Lou Harris and Ralph Stanley to Blind Pilot, Black Prairie and the Decemberists.
Her song Little Bird Of Heaven was the centerpiece of celebrated American author Joyce Carol Oates novel by the same name.
All of this while inhabiting and writing from some of Montana's most remote landscapes and years spent cowboying on a 120 year old family cattle ranch.
The River And The Light presents some of her finest writing yet, and what has earned her the loyal cult following that seems to be steadily growing in spite of, or perhaps because of, her tendency to spend time off the grid rather than on it.
Jon Neufeld’s production on this album, his ability to add layers and depth while maintaining the raw vulnerability of everything happening in the moment, is masterful.
The addition of haunting old time fiddles and Cajun accordion of celebrated roots musician Dirk Powell and Black Prairie’s Annalisa Tornfelt seem to invoke something ancient, something deep in the American psyche in songs that are already layered with the complexity of belonging; this is not only a journey of the soul but a journey of the times we are living in.