Sarah Siskind | Modern Appalachia | (Red Request Music)
4 out of 5 stars
Although Sarah Siskind is a consistent contributor to the Nashville songwriter scene — her songs having been recorded by the likes of Alison Krauss, Wynonna, Randy Travis, Madi Diaz, and numerous others of a similar stature — her natural allegiance is to her home state of North Carolina, as is evident in Modern Appalachia, her ninth album to date and her first in nine years. While the title implies she’s following her archival instincts, it’s anything but a series of back porch ballads. While certain songs convey an aura of hushed happenstance — “Me and Now,” “Danny,” the title track — the ethereal ambiance manifest in each of the offerings conveys a decidedly knowing point of view.
Part of what makes these songs so compelling has to do with the deeper themes that they share in common, sentiments and scenarios that revolve around those things that circle every individual regardless of social standing — the fears, uncertainties, decisions and disappointments that each of us encounter at various times throughout life’s tenuous journey. To her credit, Siskind conveys each of these topics with a clarity and grace befitting her spiritual stance. The clearest comparison is to Joni Mitchell, particularly on “Carolina,” “The One” and “Porchlight,” songs that share an elegiac overview of her beloved environs, as well as a vibrant musical tapestry as well.
Siskind gets some able assistance in constructing the latter, courtesy of a cast of support musicians that includes Mike Seal on electric guitar, Jeff Sipe on drums, bassist Daniel Kimbro and cameos from guitarist Bill Frisell and backing vocalists Rose Cousins, Justin Vernon, Julie Lee and Elizabeth Foster. The results are both mesmerizing and melodic, a singularly effervescent embrace that soothes even as it satisfies. Even the more uptempo tunes — “A Little Bit Troubled,” “Rest in the River” and the telling “Punk Rock Girl” in particular — manage to convey a certain delicacy even in the midst of a determined delivery.
Ultimately, Modern Appalachia takes a timeless stance befitting its descriptive title. Richly resilient, it’s a tour de force of sorts, a well-woven melodic tapestry that ought to finally propel Siskind into the upper realms of success and stardom. At very least, it leaves no doubt that she’s so definitely deserving.