Korby Lenker – Thousand Springs
Soundly Music – 16 March 2018 (UK/European Release)
It may be his seventh album, but I confess East Nashville based Korby Lenker’s a new name to me. It’s an acquaintance I intend to nurture. Recorded in assorted locations holding personal meanings in his home state of Idaho, including his undertaker father’s mortuary, it’s a generally musically muted affair that favours acoustic settings and slow tempos. As such, it opens with the delicate, reflection on lost love Northern Lights, Michael Rinne ‘s upright bass complementing Lenker’s forlorn tones.
Co-penned with bluegrass star Molly Tuttle, who provides harmony, and featuring Anna Tivel on fiddle, the whisperingly Friend and Friend picks the pace up slightly, suggesting Paul Simon, an influence that spills over into Nothing Really Matters with its Gracelands visitor’s pass and Tuttle on clawhammer banjo.
Having raised the tempo temperature, he turns the heat up further for the bluesy grooved Last Man Standing, an organ-driven number about and sung in the voice of Chief Sitting Bull, partly recorded near his grave at Standing Rock with Anthony Da Costa spitting out the electric guitar licks.
Riding an accordion, hambone and ukulele arrangement, Book Nerd is another sprightly tune, the lyrics about a blonde-haired girl with her head always buried in a paperback allowing him to namedrop, amongst others, Tolstoy, Joyce, Kerouac and Austen, horrified that she thinks “To Kill A Mockingbird is the worst book ever.”
If the romantic-hued Uh Oh is a sparse musical affair, his excitement about falling in love built around just upright bass and acoustic and electric guitars, it’s followed by the far fuller Stormy Seas, Tivel and Tuttle back on fiddle and banjo, respectively, with Tim Lauer on accordion for a funky rhythmic groove.
A co-write with Amy Speace, who also sings harmony, Father To The Man is a lighthearted number about a wild party and flashing on your younger self, that again nods to his Simon influences. That reflection on the changes age brings surfaces again with the Robby Hecht co-penned Late Bloomers about waiting for your right moment to shine. The last of the collaborations come with Love Is The Only Song, a simple piano ballad augmented by warm cello and sweet harmonies from Angel Snow before, back in lyrically playful mood, Mermaids is a gentle, lighthearted number swimming through ripples of trumpets, clavichord and harp with both Carrie Elkin and Kristen Andreassen on harmonies.
The final track, Wherever You Are, is also the most emotionally affecting, a love letter lament for the loss of a close family member recorded live with just acoustic guitar in one take shortly after therapy to restore his voice having lost it for two months in the middle of making the album.
Apparently, Lenker’s been involved in a one-man Instagram-hosted campaign called #MakeAmericaFriendsAgain in which he engages complete strangers in conversation. He’s visiting for a short UK tour in April and plays Purbeck Valley Folk Festival in August, you should strike one up with him.
Korby Lenker UK Dates
Wed 4 – London, The Troubadour, Earl’s Court
Thu 5 – Birmingham, Kitchen Garden Café
Fri 6 – Saltaire, West Yorks, The Live Room, Caroline Social Club
Further April dates to be announced
+ Saturday August 18 – Purbeck Valley Folk Festival