Always a question to wonder about – what should you do for Valentine’s Day that isn’t cheesy, superfluous or slushily romantic? How about listening to Stephanie Hatfield’s new album? Out This Fell is Hatfield’s fourth album, released in the UK on February 14th, is none of those things.
Hatfield is originally from Detroit, has a Kentucky hillbilly heritage and now lives close to nature in the South-West. Throw a few more things into the recipe – childhood singing in a Presbyterian church, youthful holidays doing everything the old fur traders did, moving to New Mexico “on her own with her cat, her snake, and her motorcycle, with no job lined up, and only $100 to her name after her first month’s rent” – and you get a sense of someone who has travelled. Listen to the album and you can hear some of the diverse influences that Hatfield has picked up along the way: some Americana, some Folk, some Indie Rock, and the odd flicker in the arrangements of things more diverse from Mexican to Opera. This jumble might make for a strange brew, but on Out This Fell Hatfield has pulled it all together into a gently creative tension.
Listen to ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ in the link below – you can hear the Americana/Indie sound in the tune and the guitar breaks; there’s a lovely lyric of loss comparing now to previous times when “[we were] Lit inside like the charges from/An electrical storm twisting to the ground”. And above all, there’s Hatfield’s voice, holding all that tension together reflectively and then teasing out the emotion with an operatic interlude.
Have a listen to the haunting ‘In Those Woods’ which includes the title lyric, another great vocal performance, an understated band and the howl of dogs as it builds to the conclusion “Deliver me an end”. ‘Not Her’ is (I think) a description of Detroit “torn down by its pride”, “vines splitting bricks” but now also “A beauty rarely seen/Pockets of resurgence”. These are songs about tough things in life, but Hatfield’s voice and the restrained arrangements and production (by Hatfield and husband/guitarist/keyboard player Bill Palmer) make them easy to listen to.
If you want a couple of tracks which are a gentler introduction to Out This Fell, try ‘Lucy’ or the rather beautiful ‘River Still Runs’ which intermingles a melodic tune to a love story with images of nature such as “Clinging to you/Like Spring comes through a winter breeze”. But the power of the album is in Hatfield’s voice backlit by a delicate band on the tough songs. She’s touring in America currently but this is well worth a listen (whether on February 14th or later in the year) – and there are tracks on here that will stay in the memory longer than most Valentine’s Days.
Artist’s website: https://stephaniehatfieldmusic.com
‘Gone Gone Gone’ – official video: