Posts Tagged ‘If Only There Was a River’


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The first single on singer/songwriter Anna St. Louis’s debut LP If Only There Was a River was the song “Understand,” and it’s about what you’d expect: wanting to understand, wanting to be understood and the aha moment when you finally do/are, as well as the frustration in not understanding. “Untangled, finally,” St. Louis sings. “Put it all out on the table/ Understand me, do you understand?” If Only There Was a River, released in October on Woodsist/Mare Records, carries on in that same tone throughout its 11 tracks, one of comfort, low-lighted by the kind of delicate, spare acoustics that inspire deep and thoughtful respites. St. Louis, who’s making her full-length debut with the record, often retreats to a similarly soothing zone for her songwriting, which she’s only been doing for about five years now. Although, after spending time with If Only There Was a River’s carefully contrived ebbs and flows and smartly observed lyrics, you’d never know she was a spring chicken.


If Only There Was a River would certainly please any folk fan, and it bubbles over with natural, woodsy energy. St. Louis couldn’t have picked a better time for its release: It seems to usher in all the crispness and change we’re so desperate for in October after a long, steamy September. Nature creeps beyond the album’s treeline in pockets of sunlight and smoke. From the looseness of the album opener “Water” to St. Louis’ ample finger-picking on the mostly instrumental “Daisy” to its winding title track and kicker, If Only There Was a River is laden with quiet, warm music for a loud, cold world


Anna St. Louis’ First Songs were just that — someone reaching into her favorite sounds to find her own. There was promise in those early experiments, as the John Fahey-inspired fingerstyle guitarist tried her hand at ’60s-style folk songs with a little bit of drone underneath. But like Steve Gunn or Itasca idiosyncratic solo guitarists who’ve found success in full-band, vocal-driven records Anna St. Louis has discovered her own path through lyrical songwriting.

If Only There Was a River is Anna St. Louis‘ proper debut album, backed by drummer Justin Sullivan (Night Shop) and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo) and co-produced by Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) and Kevin Morby. The Kansas City-raised, L.A.-based songwriter leans into the pastoral alchemy of her songs, as her crystal-clear cadence sets guide stones over grassy hills.

“Understand,” premiering here with a flower-filled video directed by Christopher Good, lopes along like Loretta Lynn backed by sweeping strings and the loose vibe of Van Morrison’s Moondance band. It’s a familiar sound, yes, and it even channels some of Karen Dalton’s oblong, hiccuping soul. But St. Louis‘ lonesome howl seeks more questions than answers, certain that there’s more truth in uncertainty.