When was the last time an album reminded you of both Elle King and the Handsome Family?
Welcome Hadley McCall Thackston!
McCall Thackston has a bright, buoyant voice ideal for bittersweet love ballads and moodscapes of melody and melancholy. Certainly as playful as King—it has something to do with how they roll their rhymes—but with depth enriched by lyrical litheness reminiscent of Rennie Sparks, McCall Thackston has unleashed one hell of a debut album, a timeless iteration of Americana, alt-country, or whatever the heck we are calling it this month.
Whereas King sings of “Exs and Ohs”, McCall Thackston takes on “Ellipsis,” perhaps the first time this particular punctuation has had a ‘love’ song built around it: not even Dan Baird and Terry Anderson went there. “Wallace’s Song (Sage Bush)” rubs against country sentimentality—that’s a positive from where I stand— with “Ghost” delving into more introspective territory. Jane Scarpanoni’s cello serves as counterpoint in duet with McCall Thackston’s voice in “Somehow,” a tremendous song and performance.
It is on songs like “Ghost”—and “Redbird”, “Devil or Angel,” and “Last Mountain Waltz”— that the Handsome Family come to mind. Lyrically evocative with distinctive, atmospheric melodies, these songs establish Hadley McCall Thackston’s mystical montage, each rooted in her experience. Producer (and more) Hugh Christopher Brown has surrounded McCall Thankston with incredible, intuitive instrumentalists—including Elijah, James, and John Abrams, Gregor Beresford, Burke Carroll, Joey Wright, and Teilhard Frost who further embellish the ten songs with texture and colour.
She also explores the immediacy of contemporary circumstance. “Change” challenges current events head-on, concluding with “Another black man’s life cut short by police,” while “No” is only slightly more circumspect in its imagery: “You cannot board a boat to sail upon my land, because I’ve already claimed it for myself. So there you’ll stand, while you’re begging me for refuge cuz you got no place to go…”
Hadley McCall Thackston is a product of the south, Georgia specifically, and has musically matured within the emergent Wolfe Island community. She came to my attention through vocal contributions to Stephen Stanley Band’s outstanding (and unfortunately overlooked by Polaris Prize jurors) Jimmy & the Moon album, and this splendid self-titled album has elevated my regard for this delightful and strong singer, songwriter, and artist.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald