Her fifth album and only the second to feature all original material, Held In The Arms, Comnes’ follow-up to 2015’s Love, Hope & Tyranny, again produced in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and sometime co-writer Gawain Mathews, is another Americana package of folk, blues and country, this time with songs centred around the theme of ‘things that nurture’ – friends, family, nature and women – as emblemised by the embracing arms design of the cover.
‘Winter in the Mountains’ kicks things off in suitably sprightly style, Comnes on fiddle and Rob Hooper providing the brushed drums, evoking Dolly Parton on a song about going home for Christmas, the shuffling rhythm taking a midsection break for a slower semi-spoken passage before the fiddle sparks it off again. Mathews on mandolin and the other number to be propelled by Hooper’s kit, ‘On The Farm’, the lyrics of which provide the album title, is another bouncy bluegrass tinted track, written for a friend who founded the Big Mesa organic vegetable farm in Bolinas, California.
The tempo slows for ‘Grace’, co-writer Robert Mitchell on guitar, a Nashville country celebration of gathering round the kitchen table, building bridges, swapping conversations and linking arms to give blessings. There’s a touch of Grappelli fiddle to go with the Spanish guitar and saloon piano on the portrait sketch of the fantasising enigmatic ‘Lady Tamarind’ and if there’s a hint of ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ to the melody, Cohen colours are more noticeable (‘Suzanne’ to be specific) on the slow waltzing ‘Matilde’, another character sketch, here of childhood and the passing years.
From children to four legged friends, ‘Good Hands’ in a jaunty, fiddle-driven Appalachian country number about caring for and connections with various horses, taking things down again for another slow waltz in the poignant ‘Side By Side’, a song about sisterhood bonds and the walls that can sometimes come between. One of three written with Mathews, the female friendship-themed ‘Mirabelle’ is more of a rock track, driven by punchy drums and electric guitars with Comnes giving it a descending la la la la refrain.
Although perhaps not entirely politically correct, unless you’re Donald Trump’s sons, with Mathews on Dobro and accordion it’s back to family for the backwoods folksy feel of ‘The Hunter’, the story of an uncle growing from a child hunting rabbits with his father and wild deer to a grown man hunting the plains of Namibia.
Another reaching-out, friendship-themed number, ‘I’m With You’ has an itchy, almost sultry samba flavour, albeit with a couple of folksy fiddle interjections, while the Appalachian rooted ‘Song For Mama’ is a self-explanatory daughter-mother love letter and ‘Morning Star’, which features fiddle, dobro and Kyle Caprista on drums, comes in blended shades of Southern country soul and mountain folk.
It ends with the slow march swaying ‘The Sleeping Lady’s Daughter’, another mother-daughter love song, except here the mother’s bosom is the land of her childhood and the song a celebration of the simple joys of watching the sun rise and fall over the redwood hills and blankets of mist, riding the swell of the tide to the call of the quail. In her bio it says her songs seek to reconnect people with nature and their own roots; let them give you a big hug.
Artist’s website: www.luciacomnes.com
‘Grace’ – live: