Sally Anne Morgan “Carrying”

Thrill Jockey Records, 2023

Triumphant Modern Appalachian folk that speaks for embracing a simpler life.

There’s currently a particularly rich seam of modern Appalachian music, and  Sally Anne Morgan’s latest release ‘Carrying‘ is amongst the strongest within that subgenre.  It’s a rich blend of the purest folk sounds and a staring into the sun Cosmic moment of clarity shining through a glorious, and purely spiritual, folk-rock that shimmers, gleams and cuts through with a determination to make the most of life and to live a life that holds true meaning and eschews the artificial.  It’s a set of songs that takes on another layer of significance when one considers that Sally Anne Morgan sees it as a reflection on the pregnancy – a literal carrying – and  birth of her first child.  So it’s a surprise that the album opens on a gentle instrumental – the delicate solo banjo frailing of ‘Beekeeper‘ with its hypnotic repeated melody lines.  And then, abruptly, we’re launched into ‘The Center‘, all fluttering flutes (courtesy of Lou Turner) and Morgan’s distinctive vocals guiding us through “the holy darkness eyes cannot see / Swallowed up we return / to ancient books forgotten forms / we are returned becoming other / again child again a mother.”  It’s a sound that recalls records like “Leige and Leif” or “Cruel Sister“, there’s a real feel of the early English folk-rock.

Dawn Circle‘ expands on an embracing of a simpler, purer, form of life, with Morgan walking the dewy morning grass to “say a prayer to the morning say a prayer to the day” whilst enacting small and secret rituals of nature worship never to be shared.  With drummer Nathan Bowles and guitarist Andrew Zinn providing the main accompaniment there’s a simplicity broken by chime bars and a deep bass rumble as Morgan expands on her intention to lose herself in an equally ritualised day “may the work come willing not to waste it away /  to sleep easily at the end of the day / sweep the fire and chop the vegetables / and do it all again just like we did before.”  Yet this is far from drudgery, it is the repetition, and the care of the repetition, which forms in itself a higher achievement, as a way to “say a prayer to the mother and say a prayer to the child.”  There’s a losing of self suggested here that feels like no loss at all, as so much is to be gained.  It’s a beautiful sentiment.

The vibrato electric guitar of ‘Awake‘ ushers in a similar musing on finding one’s place in the natural world, and of awakening from the mundane of the daily world, a world that Morgan would assert we are simply sleepwalking through, disconnected through thoughtless distractions from what is both a simpler and more authentic reality.  Even when Morgan steps away briefly from the common theme running through most of the album’s songs to reinterpret ‘Streets of Derry‘ and ‘Diamond Joe‘ she brings an intensity of emotion through her clearly deeply held connection to these songs, her vocals carrying a quality of timelessness and purity well suited to her song choice.

If you’re ever making a list that includes Gillian Welch, Diana Jones, Kassi Valazza, then you need to make space for Sally Anne Morgan. ‘Carrying‘ is as refreshing as a walk in the mountains – and it provides a similar vision across creation.

8/10
8/10

About Jonathan Aird 2694 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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