H.C. McEntire “Every Acre”

Merge, 2023

An excellent collection of songs that both challenges and sounds familiar.

H.C. McEntire album cover art for Every AcreIt wouldn’t be an understatement to say expectations for H.C.McEntire’s third solo album, ‘Every Acre’, were high after two entries in end of year best of lists for its predecessors ‘Lionheart’ (2018) and ‘Eno Axis’ (2020). Once again, McEntire draws on the talent pool of the North Carolina music community to help her with the new record.  Co-produced by McEntire with guitarist Luke Norton and keyboardist / engineer Missy Thangs, the result is a striking collection of songs blending a lot of styles that we associate with the Americana label.

‘Every Acre’s themes are primal human ones – land, nature, love and loss.  Pretty much every song feels rooted in the rural world.  The very first verse of opener ‘New View’ puts the listener right there:

“High hunter’s moon, golden and full.
The wind lets me choose this new view”.

‘Shadows’, featuring S.G. Goodman on guest vocals, is set similarly and deals with the stresses of struggling to hang on to a relationship. It’s underpinned by atmospheric percussion from Daniel Faust and Norton’s understated guitar.

Turpentine’ opens with a slow guitar rhythm as McEntire sets the scene before the band joins in, along with Amy Ray’s backing vocal, and powers the song through to the chorus after which Norton launches a burst of distorted guitar.  McEntire goes back into the verse/ chorus (“Hallelujah, turpentine! We can tend the land for a little while.  Bones of those beneath the boundary lines – East sets in first, then clockwise, clockwise”) following which Norton goes full throttle over Thangs’ steady piano figure.  It’s inspiring.

The mood switches for the country soul ‘Dovetail’ – Thangs’ piano chord almost seems to run on from ‘Turpentine’ – in which McEntire mulls the range of potential lovers.  The chorus vocals are tracked to give a gospel choir feel.  This is where Side 1 of the vinyl closes and that feels right as the listener needs to catch a breath before the second half.

Another powerful opening couplet – “Rows of clover cover up a season’s worth of wasted dirt” places the listener back in the country with a snaking melody supported by a musical swell as McEntire builds her tale of times and people gone. ‘Big Love’ takes it down a little with soft piano led gentle vocal musing on the hardiness of love. A smoky guitar opens ‘Soft Crook’ in which McEntire describes the settings for a narrative it’s hard for the listener to pin down literally but where you come away with a real sense of the story.  One of the longest lyrics yet one of the shortest tracks on ‘Every Acre’.

‘Wild Thing’ has a slightly old timey feel but some atmospheric effects in the music. It’s a song that will reveal more on every listen. The closer ‘Gospel of a Certain Kind’ wraps up what’s gone before and closes with a new beginning:

“Open-ended afternoons, Rearrange the living room;
A vice, a wife, alone, you choose.”

Even at this point in 2023, ‘Every Acre‘ looks on course to joining its predecessors on the annual best of lists.  It’s an excellent collection of songs that both challenges and sounds familiar wrapped in a classy performance by the artist and supporting crew.

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9/10
9/10

About Richard Parkinson 116 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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