There’s something so comforting about a strong alto croon. It’s as if you’re being invited into this intimate safe space where you’re encouraged to drop any pretense, guard, or walls that you might have erected around your heart. Please don’t interpret this as chauvinistic, misogynistic, or paternalistic, as I tend to enjoy female folkies much more than their male counterparts. It’s just that I find the rich low vocal tones of an artist like Angel Snow more engaging for my ears and hospitable for my soul.
And on her self-titled, sophomore project, this Nashville songstress manages to wow you consistently with her appealing, soulful country-folk. The tone of this 12-song album hails from familiar origins – Gillian Welch, Neko Case, and Alison Krauss all come to mind – but there are strong pop sensibilities at play. Moreover, her voice displays remarkable range, whether we’re talking about the notes on a scale or emotional states addressed. All told, she holds much in common with contemporaries like Cheyenne Marie Mize, Bosque Brown, and Shellee Coley.
The talented backing band provides a markedly restrained accompaniment. This is meant as a sincere compliment, since it’s Snow’s haunting voice that deserves to be front-and-center. A sturdy acoustic guitar of both the plucked and strummed variety serves as the lead instruments, while brushed drum fills, touches of strings, and amiable swells of both lap steel and organ ably round out the sound.
Based upon this relatively austere picture I’ve painted, you might get the feeling that the music is rather desolate and lonely in tone. Don’t be fooled. The overall sensation I feel from the record is one that could be best described as “a calm in the middle of the storm.” Snow is more than aware that life really sucks sometimes, so she weaves intricate, detailed stories designed to remind us that we don’t have to face those trials and tribulations alone. We can and should depend upon each other when times get tough.
Admittedly, I find the second half of the album a bit too chill for my tastes. “Windows Open,” “Coals and Water,” “Holiday,” and “A Place Outside” lack a bit of energy and tension. These songs are sparse and minimal in the wrong way in that the lone singer-with-guitar aesthetic often needs something distinctive to help it stand out from the pack.
On the whole, I find Angel Snow to be a charming record that features lush arrangements and fantastic production quality. Specifically, Snow’s fantastic vocals and songwriting acumen shine forth best on “As You Are,” “Civil Things,” “Stay Away,” and “You Won’t Cry.” If you’re ever in need of a voice to serve as your welcoming refuge in the midst of a cold, blustery night, this might be the album for you.