Andrea von Kampen “Sister Moon”

Independent, 2024

Engaging and intelligent folkie take on environmental loss and wonder.

Artwork for Andrea von Kampen album Sister MoonIt must be increasingly difficult for a young new artist to make a distinctive mark in the already crowded female folkie Americana field.  Andrea von Kampen makes a creditable stab at it with this her third album release to date. With the ten tracks coming in at just over 30 minutes playing time the album has a bit of a homemade minimalist feel to it, which is reinforced with a look at the credits. Other von Kampens, David (piano, organ and synths) and Paul (drums) are on most tracks, while the title artist plays guitar and is the only vocalist throughout. It’s none the worse for this approach. Her voice is quite beautiful and easily carries the vocal load. There is quite sparse but tasteful additional instrumentation on various tracks including violin and cello on two tracks and trumpet on one.

The title track kicks off the album with a meditative song lamenting the irreversible impact of humans on their environment. Rather unusually the focus here is the moon and tides but more conventional and personal environmental issues are alluded to albeit quite obliquely on subsequent tracks. Global warming is prominent in ‘August’ and the new owner of her childhood home gets a mention for unthinkingly removing beloved trees in ‘Cottonwoods’.

Mimas’ is the first of three songs apparently inspired by the Richard Powers’ novel ‘Overstory’, unfamiliar to this reviewer. One probably needs to read the book to make the connection. Again environmental issues are at the core here but the album never attempts to preach. The songs and lyrics are all written by the artist apart from one poem by St. Francis of Assisi, ‘Such love does’. This could easily have been a misstep but at only 6 lines long and embellished by a simple but engaging arrangement it becomes a highlight.

Wonder’ as the name implies suggests an enchantment with the natural world despite its peril. The cello and violin are more to the fore here without dominating the gentle sound of the track. The album closer ‘A Fox and bird’ is more personal. It’s another highlight with just von Kampen and her guitar. Another very pretty song about the loss of a friend it actually brings things to a close on quite an upbeat note.

Overall this is an engaging suite of delicate songs. The feel is quite subdued and contemplative throughout. The album could maybe use more variation of mood and a more direct focus on the recurring theme of loss, both personal and environmental. If this was her first album it would be a very promising debut. Since it’s her third it does enough to make one want to search her back catalogue while at the same time warmly anticipating future efforts.

7/10
7/10

About Adrian Dzialdowski 3 Articles
My 1970s LP purchases included Rickie Lee Jones, Steve Forbert and T-Bone Burnett but we didn’t call it Americana then. Hard to believe they are all still currently working. I had a hiatus in the 80s and got into blues and jazz in the 90s. However a chance purchase of an UNCUT sampler in the 2000s has led me to the current golden age of Americana.  
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