Delicate textures of strings and guitars showcase some excellent songs. A talent for the future.
Discovering that Earl’s album was produced by JT Nero of the Birds of Chicago came as little surprise. The first song ‘Springtime’ starts as a fairly straightforward country/rock song until some discreet violin emerges, along with a gospel flavoured backing, courtesy of The Birds, Alison Russell. This sets the flavour for much of the album, which fits Birds of Chicago’s description of themselves as “secular gospel.”
There is a fragility to Earl’s voice at times that is picked up by the pedal steel on title song ‘The Roses’, a fragile ballad that contrasts with some of the songs where she has the backing of Russell or Awna Teixeira, a distinctive Canadian singer. ‘Chaos’ is a poppy song, with swooping strings and a muted electric guitar is where the two voices work best together. Earl’s voice has touches of Fiona Apple at times. Any Joni Mitchell influence sounds mostly second hand, and the overall feel of the album is not far from Laura Marling, although Earl’s voice doesn’t have the power of Marling’s.
But then she is only 18, despite this being her fourth album release, although the first made in Nashville. Earl and Nero have managed to keep a slightly homemade feel to the sound. The drums often a long way back in the mix, sounding more like a heartbeat than percussion, notably on ‘Up Here In The Sky’ and ‘Do You Know Me By My Name?’ The latter a plaintive piece which blends voices, violin and pedal steel very effectively. It sets the tone for the closing two songs ‘Wintertime’ and ‘Butterflies’ finishing the album with a certain stillness, although ‘Wintertime’ is the one place where the different textures and instruments trip over each other a bit. This may have been better with just the guitar and violin, and without the drum which sounds for all the world like someone slamming a door.
For the most part the arrangements let the songs breathe, The quality of songs like ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Chaos’ highlight that despite her age Earl is maturing as a songwriter. This was recorded in February 2020, but hasn’t suffered for being held over this long before release. 2021 continues to deliver good music and ‘The Roses’ is an album that is unreservedly recommended to anyone who has a taste for singer-songwriters. The future looks very rosy for Ava Earl.