Lauren Sheehan’s Northwest Roots Music Vision
Lauren Sheehan’s been a fixture in the Northwest’s acoustic roots music scene for a while now, but with her new album, Rose City Ramble, she may just be turning in her finest work to date. She’s always wandered back and forth over the line between old-time and country blues, a great ground to cover, in my opinion. The opening track of her album, “The Memory of Your Smile,” is a classic Stanley Bros song re-made into a slow country taildragger, and is followed closely by “Dirty Rat Swing,” a country blues honky-tonk number. Blues and country hold hands and go strolling down a summer path on Sheehan’s album, and boy does it sound great!
Each track on the album is a new and different adventure. It’s an exciting album to listen to in this way; you keep discovering something new. This diversity comes from Sheehan’s easy master of American folk traditions. She can sing a powerful acoustic Appalachian ballad just as easily as a rompin’ old blues number, and even toss in some heavenly bluegrass harmony. There’s a couple of tracks she just nails; knocks out of the park. “Black is the Color” is a sublime version of the old song, influenced, as Lauren says, by a little Lightnin’ Hopkins. Her voice is so beautiful on this track, I’d heartily recommend it to anyone. “A Satisfied Mind” is a great song made popular by country star Porter Wagoner. I first heard it from Caleb Klauder, another Portland musician, who killed it on his album Western Country. Here, Sheehan brings in a slower, more thoughtful vision of the lyrics and gives it new life. But throughout, she’s a product of the Pacific Northwest. On “Chilly Waters”, she brings new words, “celebrating the free-range goddess in every woman”, to the classic ballad “Cold Rain and Snow.” In addition, the sidemen (and women) on her album mostly hail from around the Portland area. And what players! There’s solid playing on every track to back up Lauren’s singing and guitar/mandolin work. All in all, the best compliment I can pay to this album is that I kept wanting to go back and listen again.
Lauren Sheehan: Black is the Color
Lauren Sheehan: Satisfied Mind