Country soul, dream pop and strings are a winning mix on an album full of strong songs.
Erin Rae’s first album ‘Putting On Airs’ came out over three years ago, and that time has seen a shift in her sound. The dream pop, soul and psychedelic influences have become far more obvious, although there is enough of the folk and country still there to avoid alienating her previous fans. Produced by Jonathan Wilson there is more than a touch of his own work and Father John Misty, who he also works with. The opening trio of songs ‘Candy + Curry’, ‘Can’t See Stars’ which is a duet with Kevin Morby and ‘True Love’s Face’ are hard to beat for quality songwriting and variety of arrangement. Ballad ‘Gonna be Strange’ has a string arrangement from Drew Erickson who also plays keyboards across the album. ‘Cosmic Sigh’ is the other big ballad here. It is almost fifties in style, with string swells behind a vocal that Jeri Southern or Doris Day would have been happy with. Following this with the pop country of ‘Modern Woman’ is a bit of a jolt but Rae seems to be deliberately setting out to challenge the listener with regular shifts in style. If Linda Ronstadt had sung this in 1980 it would have been a huge hit. The gospel of ‘Enemy’, and the atmospheric ‘Undone’ close the album. In between those two are a couple of songs that do drift a little, but that’s only by comparison with the very strong songs elsewhere.
For a Judee Sill fan this album is a treat, with the baroque pop arrangements having a lot in common with Sill’s work. Elsewhere comparisons have been made to Bobby Gentry and that is certainly valid. ‘California Belongs To You’ has a definite feel of Gentry’s style to it, and is the favourite on this play through the record, although that has changed several times already. Rae’s press for this release says “It really is beautiful record & one that deserves to be played time and time again.” And it’s hard to argue with that. With this album and The Delines, 2022 is turning into a vintage year for Country Soul.