Erin McKeown - We Will Become Like Birds

27 years old, Virginia born Erin McKeown first came to the attention of the UK when she supported the Be Good Tanyas a few years ago. Who was this feisty young performer with such raw talent? we thought. She was certainly no flash in the pan, her first two albums were folk, blues, country and roots based with Erin's bubbly personality coming through with lyrical dexterity and a voice to fall in love with.

The multi-instrumentalist, singer songwriter's latest album "We Will Become Like Birds" was recorded in New Orleans and produced by Tucker Martine, who's worked with both Jim White and Modest Mouse, with Erin receiving a co-producer credit. For this recording Erin's collaborated with musician's who have previously collaborated with Fiona Apple, Beth Orton and Laura Veirs. "Life On The Moon" is very rhythmic with an almost primal urgency, pulsating with slabs of bass, crisp synths and guitar which is a far cry from her more traditional approach that was home-grown and organic. The vocals sound a lot tougher and more determined on this track as if the wide eyed innocence of yore is a thing of the past.

This new found direction is a slightly more commercial move into the mainstream. Her lyrics as always are rich in depth like the home spun philosophy "nothing more precious than what we don't know", very well observed. "Float" begins with just an acoustic guitar with Erin's beautiful vocals, so naturally pure. The instrumentation never overshadow the moody ambience and the chorus of "Hallelujah" shows what a great range she has. It's a simple arrangement which suits the subtle, fragility of this song wonderfully.

"The Golden Dream" featuring Peter Mulvey is downbeat and atmospheric and this itself isn't a bad thing, but with McKeown I miss her bright and breezy optimism which was a major strength in her first couple of albums. "You Were Right About Everything" sounds like McKeown jamming with Coldplay which despite a superbly judged guitar solo is too restrained and low key with a life affirming lyric "come back to life, come back to everything" failing to rescue this song from forgettable and disappointing.

Third albums aren't called difficult for nothing and while this is well produced it sadly lacks the spark, originality and enjoyment she has previously displayed.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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