If I wasn’t already keen on Georgia native Ethan Crump’s debut EP by the time the first song was a few bars old, I certainly would have been by the third and fourth tracks, ‘Mary Ann’ and ‘Mason County Blues’, which are delicate pieces of country music songwriting and singing that suggest a lifetime of experience rather than Crump’s nineteen years on Earth. They also suggest the restraint typical of someone who has written enough songs to know what to leave out – except apparently he only started writing in 2015.
Too often a young or new artist, nervous that they might never get another chance, will want to show the audience what they have: all the stories, all the tricks, all the verbal gymnastics. Crump suffers from none of this. He clearly has a strong storytelling instinct that he follows all the way through the five songs on this EP. There is not a single note of doubt about what he is doing, nor is there insecurity – he doesn’t demand attention but, rather, commands it.
The songs are identifiably country music; they feature judicious use of traditional instruments that allows Crump’s voice to deliver his stories, and either he has naturally great diction or he’s made sure that he sings clearly so that his stories are given the best possible chance to be heard.
Some of the early press about Crump has him as ‘the real deal’. Yes, he is. He’s also an artist whose work is worth savouring. There’s enough shade in here to break your heart and enough light to keep you coming back for more.
Hellfire & Amazing Grace is out now.
When Melody Pool released her debut album, The Hurting Scene, in 2013 it felt like a new seam of gold had been discovered in the hills of the Hunter Valley. Hailing from the small town of Kurri Kurri, Pool had honed her talent young and produced a record of incredible beauty and maturity.
She doesn’t live in Kurri Kurri any more, but Pool’s musical output is not, apparently, defined by where she lives because she has produced a second album that has obvious roots in The Hurting Scene yet is quite different – and just as beautiful.
The direct descendants of Deep Dark Savage Heart seem to be the lines ‘What a waste I am/What a waste I am indeed’ from the second song of The Hurting Scene, ‘Open Book’. The lines are incongruous in that song, which otherwise sounds poignantly evocative. The lineage is picked up in ‘Black Dog’, the fifth song of the new album, which is the centrepiece of this extraordinary, compelling piece of work; it’s there in the line ‘Nobody sees what I do to me’. ‘Black Dog’ is dramatic where ‘Open Book’ almost wants to hide from itself, but the development signals that Pool is ready, finally, to accept what is obvious: she is a major talent, and she should get dramatic about herself. She should stand on pedestals and command attention; she should trust that what she is offering is valuable and rare.
If The Hurting Scene was a mature effort from a young woman, Deep Dark Savage Heart is a sophisticated production from a proper grown-up. Pool’s voice is deeper and richer than it was on the first album, although no less capable of the sweetnesses that were evident on that album.
I wrote of the The Hurting Scene
that it made me almost immediately want to lie down and wonder what on earth had just happened. Deep Dark Savage Heart
had the same impact. I’ve still never recovered from the first album, I don’t expect to recover from the second, and that’s the privilege of living in a world that produces an artist like this. Melody Pool is a gift.
Deep Dark Savage Heart is out now through Mushroom.