Erin Rae and the Meanwhiles
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Nashville’s Erin Rae and her band spent only two days recording their debut album (an EP was released five years ago) but you can’t tell from the relaxed, organic and tranquil performances. There is an airy, almost ghostly beauty to these songs. They never seem rushed yet reveal their secrets in less than four minutes.
Rae exudes a natural sweet huskiness in her voice that falls somewhere between Patsy Cline and Aimee Mann. The economical arrangements feature her acoustic guitar leading a stripped down backup of bass and drums with occasional pedal steel, keyboards and even cello. The lyrics generally concern matters of the heart but also examine topics as varied as her upbringing (“Pretty Thing”), a protagonist’s dying father (“Futile Attempts”) and giving a camera to someone she is leaving so they can take pictures of life events while separated (“Minolta”).
The mood stays deliberate throughout the disc’s 40 minutes. But instead of getting repetitious, Rae’s voice is so expressive and alluring, and these tunes so well constructed that the album feels like a multi-angled portrait showing different sides of an artist who has found her sound and digs into it.
Along with her reserved, low-key approach, the melodies don’t jump out and grab you. Repeated plays reveal subtle hooks that, like the title track, entice you back for another listen. Once you take time to absorb the words and Rae’s lovely voice, the album feels like a cohesive statement, rather than a set of disparate songs. Perhaps the short recording time or the fact that the tunes were tracked live with no overdubs keeps the ambiance consistent.
Unlike many singer-songwriters releasing their first project, Erin Rae isn’t interested in stealing the spotlight and grabbing you with a hit single. Instead she invites you into her world, letting you live with her thoughts and stories which, with her beautiful songs and stunning voice, is a far more appealing option.