A lyrical, musical delicacy.
From Duluth, Minnesota, USA, Breanne Marie Tepler’s journey on the music scene began, as many do, as a solo performer with an acoustic guitar. After the success of her debut solo album ‘Six Strings of Peace and Sanity‘ in 2013, she went on to form her full band, becoming Breanne Marie & The Front Porch Sinners. Several releases later, and ‘Juniper‘ is a magnificent album of mature, ardent, at times anthemic productions. The songs cover a range of emotions, from the joys of youth to the unimaginable pain of loss. At times they are reflective, contemplative, but never are they miserable or unduly mournful. Tepler herself concedes she has “a lot of reasons to cry” but that she also has “a lot to be grateful for“, thus giving us the scope of sentiments experienced throughout this album.
In the bluegrass, vibrant ‘Central Hillside‘ Tepler happily reminisces her youth. Opening the album on the front foot, this song features some cracking fiddle playing and lays ground rules to the entire album; we might be about to relive some sorrow, but we are not going to be gloomy about it.
‘Hard Time‘, a contemplative song about letting go of sadness, is beautiful. It would be a fantastic movie soundtrack and the electric guitar (Evan Tepler) solo parts are stunning. ‘Between You and Me‘ and its sympathetic instrumentation featuring some tasteful pedal steel is a reluctant yet buoyant acceptance of a break-up. The song that follows, ‘Turning Stones‘, then takes the listener on an epic musical journey where we experience wonderfully searching, soaring vocals from Tepler. The trumpet sound is tender and meaningful, and again, the range of fiddle playing from Kailyn Spencer is enough to rival that of the mighty Steve Wickham (The Waterboys). The magnificent instrumental outro is fabulous.
‘Love is a Song‘ is another thing of beauty, with its gloriously simple yet poignant lyrics and charming, refreshingly unpredictable melody.
Despite having suffered significant, close family losses both through suicide and a car accident, Tepler has the rare gift of being able to explore and explain deep feelings without descending into utter sadness or misery. ‘Too Tired to Cry‘ being a case in point where she shares her dream “looking for you in my sleep” and tries hard to keep her memories alive but admits she is “too tired to cry“.
All of the songs on ‘Juniper‘ are written by Tepler except ‘Dead Man Walking‘ (Kirk Kjenaas). With its spaghetti-western style intro, it is another lively, musical extravaganza, yet it isn’t easy to see how the song fits with the ethos of the rest of the album.
‘Good Bones‘ is a graceful moving on from the past, poignantly acknowledging family loves and losses: “Goodbye home sweet home may you stand tall while I roam“. With such touching reflection and delicate instrumentation, it’s as if Tepler sensitively exorcises at least some of her heartache.
The music throughout ‘Juniper‘ is wonderfully soaring and uplifting alongside even the saddest of scenarios. It closes with the elegantly mesmerising self-titled song about which Tepler has stated, “if this album has a pace, it’s a long hike in the Rockies, and I’m just a Juniper tree surviving the elements”. A humble statement and another musical score befitting of the box-office. Possibly a psychological thriller given the final line: “Juniper who do you think you are, I can see all of your scars”