My first response upon hearing Fretland was to search for the assumed missed steps to the trio’s musical present. Could Have Loved You is so affecting and mature — blindsidingly so — that it only felt right to assume that the members involved were old pros, seasoned players who just happened to gather into some new (super)group. Imagine my surprise to learn that their debut dropped just last year.
If you’re new to the world of Hillary Grace Fretland and her bandmates, think somewhere between Kathleen Edwards and Jill Andrews — a musical blend of Seattle-area roots and Nashville-based instrumentation. Fretland’s acoustic melodies are moving and moody, with a rare emotional gravity brought forth by Hillary’s vocal prowess and her band’s ability to crank the amps when necessary.
The beauty of Could Have Loved You goes far beyond the melodic work, however. Fretland’s latest album is an engrossing, kaleidoscopic look at the lyricist’s closest relationships, honoring both sides (singer and subject) in ways rarely heard. These are love songs, to be sure, centered on the experiences of a broken-yet-buoyant heart, but somehow the complexities of intimate relationships are carefully translated into four-minute song structures. There aren’t winners and losers. There are simply very real humans trying their best to connect.
On the title track, Hillary Grace Fretland sings, “All my life I’ve been waiting for the one I would find / But to love and lose makes me realize that in love you have to choose.” Herein is a kind of lyrical key to unlock the ensuing eight songs, as the band beautifully documents the exhilarating (“Do You Think of Me,” “Living a Dream”) and exhausting realities (“Won’t Be Us,” “You Were Mine”) of such a selection.