CD Review: Carrie Elkin’s Call It My Garden
The kind of music discussed by the No Depression community is often characterized by strong artists who, in a more perfect world, would receive more attention than they do. This week, higher-visibility releases, such as the big-label debut by Iron & Wine, will likely get the lion’s share of attention while brilliant releases such as Austin-based Carrie Elkin’s Call It My Garden likely will fall between the cracks.
As with all of Elkin’s releases, this album, her first for Red House Records, rests on the fulcrum of Elkin’s songwriting. Always notable for her sharp wit, this collection shows she has grown less reliant on novelty and more immersed in nuance. The first two songs on the album show this broadened range. Jesse Likes Birds is a hook-laden but still wistful song that ends in a good country stomp and Guilty Hands is a slide guitar-laced exploration of religious experience. Both are beautiful and, while quite difference, one flows organically to the next.
All songs on the album were written by Elkin (with the exception of Dar Williams’ beautiful Iowa) and unequivocally show that Elkin, like her life partner Danny Schmidt, has deserves to stand in the front rank of folk/alt-country/Americana songwriters; there isn’t a throw-away song in this eleven-song set. And she delivers each song with a touchingly personal voice that is sometimes sprightly and light, sometimes soulful.
The production on Elkin’s previous albums could be characterized as spare. But this album, co-produced by Schmidt (who also adds occasional background vocals, as does Sam Baker) and Colin Brooks of Band of Heathens, is both more lushly arranged than her previous efforts yet is spacious enough to keep the songs and Elkin’s lovely voice front and center. This album carries an emotional heft and also a notable level of artful skillfulness. It deserves a much larger audience than, alas, it is likely to receive.