Erin Durant takes her craft seriously. On the road, if a venue doesn’t have her instrument of choice, then she brings her 232-pound piano with her. With this revelation in mind, would this be the first ever 21st century music review to reference Laurel & Hardy if this brought the ultimate in piano removals to mind? The Music Box, 1932, for those too young to have a clue where this review is going.
The reference is made only to highlight how essential that instrument is to Erin Durant. ‘Islands’ isn’t just about a singer songwriter with her piano but it is evident from the outset just how integral to the songwriting process the instrument is. Durant composes most of her songs at the piano, blending her skills as a storyteller with her own personal observations to create songs that ebb and flow, meandering to what seems their natural conclusion until, with a subtle change of pace, they pick up and treat us to another chapter or verse – an epilogue if you will.
Durant has a high, clear tone to her voice – think Lynsey de Paul, think Emily Barker, and the songs have, at times, a dreamscape feel to them. ‘Highway Blue’ allows Durant to bring an almost honky-tonk feel to the proceedings, the injection of extra pace proving highly effective and evocative harmonica helping to elevate the song to album highlight status. ‘Good Ol Night’ is another track that stands out, this time with the unexpected twist of a mariachi band type injection as this 6 minutes’+ epic track of abandonment receives enlivenment from a surprising but welcome source.
Where her 2016 debut ‘Blue Mountain’ was very much a low-key affair, recorded solo live to tape, ‘Islands’ uses these various musical accompaniments to add depth and warmth to Durant’s vocals and ever-present piano. They bring musical diversity and changes in tempo to proceedings at times without ever threatening to overshadow the basic ‘singer-songwriter at a piano thread’ around which everything else is layered and, it is to lovers of that brand of Americana, that this album will have most appeal.