There’s no getting around heartbreak. It’s something Sarah Lee Langford experienced firsthand and documented on her debut Two Hearted Rounder (Cornelius Chapel Records), a personal, deep dive into living beyond a breakup.
A mother of two and music teacher at the Alabama Waldorf School, Langford— who previously recorded a folk album under her married name, Gurganus, in 2017—tells stories for the broken-hearted, specifically surviving divorce, on Rounder.
Title track “Two Hearted Rounder” kicks things off in a moody, bluesy tale of love lost, while the more bluegrass movement of “Growing Up” evokes a stronger Langford facing her sorrows head on: It’s a Tough Pill to Swallow / It’s a long hill to climb / Put one foot down in front of the other / If you ask me, I would say I’m fine. Marching drums push along “Keep Your Diamonds,” a perfect segue into Langford’s own empowerment anthem “Big Women.” In the video for the track, Langford even portrays a very Rosie the Riveter welder for the track, which gradually picks up on her penchant for moving onward, upward—and even finding the right man—singing You don’t like strong women / With their love a-running wild.
Langford tapped into some of Birmingham’s top musicians for Rounder, including bassist Keelan Parrish of Vulture Whale—she previously worked with him in a cover band side project called Fist City Country Show—guitarist Will Stewart and Ford Boswell on pedal steel guitar, who she’s known from their prior work with Cornelius Chapel Records. Langford also pulled in Dexateens’ drummer Brian Gosdin, who she had already known from teaching his children at the Waldorf School.
“All of these guys have projects on Cornelius Chapel Records, and we all know each other through recording with my old friend Lester Nuby at Ol Elegante,” Langford tells American Songwriter. “All the guys in the band are highly sought after musicians, and I’m so fortunate to get to play with them.”
Recorded at Ol Elegante studio in Homewood, AL the result was 10 tracks melding honky tony and old country aches and strengths all directed by Langford’s harmonious, and matter-of-fact, swagger.
“We live tracked the album in a day, with guitar and pedal steel overdubs the next day, so the project came together with ease,” says Langford. “I can’t imagine another group of musicians in Birmingham to bring this sound.”