Cinder Well “Cadence”

Free Dirt Records, 2023

Atmospheric alt-folk from California-based Cinder Well, with Irish voicings and Cale-esque arrangements.

Artwork for Cinder Well album "Cadence"Cinder Well is the experimental folk project artist billing for Amelia Baker, California born but with an affinity for western Ireland’s County Clare, her adopted home until the pandemic took her home. Her 2020 release ‘No Summer’ was inspired by her adopted home, and its Irish influences are evident through her new release ‘Cadence’.  While her earlier releases were self-described as falling into the “doom folk” genre, her new nine-track album features atmospheric soundscapes inspired by her west coast roots, with lyrics infused with visual imagery of the natural world.

Baker’s character-filled voice is upfront in the mix from the start of the opening track ‘Two Heads, Grey Mare’, distinctively her own but with echoes of Beth Orton, Joanna Newsom, and, in her higher register, Sandy Denny. Her phrasing effortlessly glides between the traditional–as on ‘A Scorched Lament’, starting acapella, then gradually joined by acoustic guitar and percussion, then fiddle–and contemporary, as on ‘Crow’, allied here with electric guitar and strings, as she sings “A crow told me once/ Take note of who crosses the corn stalks/And doesn’t look back at footsteps/ You’d at least want to know/ How much pressure you put/ And how much the earth puts back on you/ I awoke in a waterfall/ In a hole in the middle of it all/ And I know it’s a little too late/ To revoke what’s been put at stake.”

Musical arrangements are often sparse, but make a major contribution to the dreamy atmosphere of the self-penned songs. Baker is credited with vocals, guitar, fiddle, organ, and piano, with Phillip Rogers on drums, Neal Heppleston on bass, Jake Falby on viola, Cormac MacDiarmada on fiddle, and Nich Wilbur on organ. Recorded at Hen House Studios, close to Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles, drummer Rogers shares credit for the arrangements.  Baker has said that she worked on new guitar tunings inspired by UK folk guitarist Nic Jones, adapting the music to her own voice using down-tuned instruments, and these again lend character to the recordings, allied with heavy–but effective–use of reverb.   Where fiddle and viola feature there is a John Cale-esque vibe, as on the title track ‘Cadence’, together with eerie vocalisations.

Lyrically her songs reflect a restless soul, drawn to both birthplace and adopted home, and to the ocean setting they both share, as on the closing track ‘I Will Close in the Moonlight’ which features held chords on piano that seem to resonate forever,  as if the listener is sitting beside her, as Baker sings “Oh, closing time/ You are on my mind/ When the road is back in sight/ When the bottle’s done/ And the blinds are drawn/ And our eyes are set on our hungered hearts.” In her own words, “The ocean is my home base no matter where I am.”

An atmospheric and memorable collection with very fine vocals from Baker.

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About David Jarman 111 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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