A fine blend of folk and bluegrass on a fine debut album
Hailing from a sparsely populated and remote region of North Carolina, Heather Sarona is a latecomer to recording. She’s been playing guitar and banjo and writing songs since her teens but ‘Head Above Water’ is her debut album, her one previous release a three song EP some five years ago. She plays guitar and her voice is attractive – light and airy – and she’s accompanied on the album by a dextrous bunch of musicians including Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange/Watchhouse. There is a bluegrass feel to the album but Sarona’s songs and delivery is more akin to folk and acts such as Maya de Vitry of The Stray Birds and Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys while some folk have compared her to Alison Krauss.
It’s an impressive album for someone who professes to a bit of a loner in terms of playing. This is apparently the first time Sarona has headed a real combo but she does so quite assuredly and the songs, written over the years, serve her well. There are several jaunty knockabouts such as ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ and ‘A Little More’, an early number she describes as a fun, sweet, bouncy little song, but she is at her best on the more reflective offerings here. ‘I’ll Be Lost’ has a slight Celtic air to it, particularly in the fiddle playing, while ‘For Me’ finds Sarona exploring her emotions as she rebounded from a relationship into a new one with her now husband. Best of all is the closing song, ‘Window To Break’ which finds her baring her teeth a little while the band accord the song that delicious bluesy folk tinge which was once purveyed by Pentangle. It might have taken her a while but ‘Head Above Water’ is a debut to be proud of.
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