First heard providing harmonies for Emmylou Harris on her iconic early albums, Luxury Liner, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, Elite Hotel and Pieces of the Sky, duetting with her on Spanish is a Loving Tongue and Green Rolling Hills, Fayssoux Starling McLean dropped out of music for some years to teach, resurfacing in 2008 with her solo debut, Early. I Can’t Wait is her long overdue sophomore return and, while Emmylou is absent this time round, she has another guest legend in the voice of Tom T. Hall who joins her for a duet on his own country-waltzing I Made A Friends Of A Flower Today.
Hall isn’t the only familiar country name among the writing credits. The album opens in relaxed form with Kieran Kane’s peace in the hereafter title track, fiddle and mandolin underscoring its homespun wisdom, the fiddle and banjo accompanied My Brain is by blues veteran Mose Allison, Mama’s Hungry Eyes is Merle Haggard’s honky tonk classic while Jim Lauderdale’s tender Some Things Are Too Good To Last brings things to a gentle, lullabying close. David Ball may not be as famous as they are, but his bittersweet When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me certainly stands tall in their company, McLean bringing echoes of those halcyon Harris country-folk days.
There’s one other cover with the bluesy Hell On A Poor Boy by poet R.B. Morris, but the remaining five tracks are all self/co-penned, the first up being the slow swaying Golightly Creek, a song about returning home to find peace, Running Out Of Lies a banjo-backed wearied number about scars on the heart, Find Your own Light an introspective, dobro-accompanied song of self-searching and the mandolin-led Ragged Old Heart a jazzy swing tune redolent of the hot club 30s while The Last Night Of The War is a post-Civil War tale given a sprightly old school bluegrass folk treatment.
Harris has declared McLean to be one of her favourite singers and she’s earned similar praise from the likes of Rodney Crowell, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton and while the album may not set the roots-Americana world ablaze, it will most certainly kindle a warm glow in those who hear it.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now on Red Beet Records