Sarah June, who grew up in Detroit but relocated to San Francisco,
sang the melancholy autobiographical meditations of
This Is My Letter To The World (2008)
in a childish register accompanied only with acoustic guitar.
Her bedroom folk music evolved into a more profound personal experience on
In Black Robes (Silber, 2010).
Simple opener Cowboy presents
a slightly neurotic female version of
but the most significant aspect of the album lies in her guitar playing.
The guitar is the only instrument but delivers a punch comparable to an
Crossbones in Your Eyes is emblematic of her
bluesy anthemic finger-picking, and Judgment Day leverages it to
create a soaring and driving hymn.
Her guitar style is rooted in a sophisticated post-modernist interpretation
of the tradition.
The frenzied syncopated Bluesy Melody displays an affinity of sorts
with the black orchestras of the 1920s, while the "femme fatale" kind of
torch ballad that is Brand ofBitterness (a rare case of a full band
backing her) harks back to smoky lounge jazz of the 1940s.
The Reaper borrows the swampy noir feeling of plantation songs,
a terrific adaptation of ancestral black music to contemporar white spleen.
Her vocals and her guitar work wonders when they mercilessly exploit the darkest
blues paradigm, like in the one-two punch of
In Your Chevrolet and Motown
(first the agonizing mode and then the ranting mode).
With its sudden acceleration, closer `Til You Hit the Pavement sounds
like an almost parodistic version of When The Saints Go Marching In.
From My Window High (perhaps the peak of pathos) emulates
the evocative power of House of the Rising Son
while the vocals intone a simple melody a` la ye-ye girls of the 1960s.
Rarely has a lonely guitar sounded so profoundly intimate and public at the
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