Rachel Sumner and Traveling Light “Rachel Sumner and Traveling Light”

Independent, 2022

Rachel Sumner and Traveling Light delight with a debut album that bubbles and fizzes like Appalachian spring water.

Rachel Sumner first came to the attention of this website’s readers last year when she was voted runner up in our search for new talent the “Twang Factor”. Now the Boston based singer has released her debut album with her band Traveling Light – ‘Rachel Sumner And Traveling Light’ – not the most imaginative title for this imaginative and evocative album.

The album is made up of nine songs, six written by Sumner and three covers, ‘If You Loved Me’ which uses a Johnny Cash poem for the lyrics, the Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ song ‘Strangers Again’ and Joanna Newsom’s ‘Colleen”. This is one of the most interesting tracks on the album as well as the longest at over six minutes. It sounds like a Celtic story ballad with handclaps and is almost reel like in feel.

Sumner’s own songs are mainly ballads although ‘Come Along Rowan’ is an instrumental featuring Sumner on banjo which was written to inspire a friend to go into labour – presumably Rowan was the result. The other five self-penned songs have a gentle, bucolic but emotional feel to them and as Sumner says, “There’s a thread through the songs in this Traveling Light album of people feeling other or finding they’ve transformed into strangers, whether it’s to someone they were once close to, or to themselves”. 

Although recorded at The Record Co. in Boston, the album sounds as if it was recorded somewhere in the Appalachian mountains near a gentle spring with the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Sumner’s last band was the bluegrass influenced Twisted Pine and she never strays for from those roots on this album. Most of the tracks have a similar line-up with Sumner on acoustic guitar superbly backed-up by Kat Wallace on fiddle and delightful harmonies, Ira Klein on acoustic guitar, Alex Formento on pedal steel and Mike Siegel anchoring everything on upright bass.

Above her superb musicians soars Sumner’s almost brittle sounding vocals. She has a cutglass edge to her at times which enables her to wring the emotion out of her songs, some of which have been years gestating before she got the chance to record them. The three covers are given new and interesting takes, putting her stamp on them and making them her own.

The result of the Twang Factor’s vote shows there’s no doubt that the readers of this website know talent when they hear it and that Rachel Sumner And Traveling Light have repaid their faith in her talent by releasing an excellent album that augurs well for the future.

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