The guitar parts in the debut album from Sarah Lee Langford, Two Hearted Rounder, aren’t necessarily the only reason why I would recommend that audiophiles check out the ten-track LP this November, but they’re undeniably just as much of a centerpiece as Langford’s own sensuous serenades are in songs like “Watch Me,” “Bar Stool” and “Coattails.” From Two Hearted Rounder’s title track all the way through to its concluding string-led melody salvo “Sing My Own Love Song,” there’s no turning away from its lush harmonies and uncompromisingly sweet strings, both of which rank among some of the strongest that I’ve heard out of a greenhorn country/folk player this fall. Sarah Lee Langford might be an unknown at the moment, but provided she keeps making records like this one, her obscure status won’t remain that way for long.
There’s a really old school feel to the title track, “Coattails,” “Painted Lady” and “Keep Your Diamonds” that I instantly fell in love with upon checking out Two Hearted Rounder this week. You can tell that Langford grew up with Joni Mitchell and Flying Burrito Brothers records playing in the background in these songs, but there’s nothing present in their melodies to suggest that she’s merely interested in recycling the hit beats of yesteryear – far from it. She’s applying a classic formula to a very contemporary folk/rock sound in tracks like “Painted Lady,” which has the kind of crossover appeal with millennials and baby boomers that most artists in her position would kill to achieve.
Though “What Came First” and “Growing Up” are steeped in very folky textures, they’ve got a decidedly countrified arrangement to their swing that makes them distinctly tangible to anyone who has been sick of the plasticized sound of the Nashville establishment as of late. Langford never weighs any of this material down with the bells and whistles that come pretty standard in most mainstream country albums these days, and by adhering to a barebones style of play in the bulk of these songs, she’s able to strike a near-perfect balance between two genres that have always had more in common with each other than most. Americana buffs in particular will really dig tracks like “Keep Your Diamonds” and “Big Women,” both of which tread on genre parameters without hesitation all in the name of harmonious hybridity.
Sarah Lee Langford’s first official record is quite the amalgamation of traditional themes, throttling melodies and bittersweet poems of the most emotive nature, and I think it’s one of the smarter debuts I’ve reviewed in the month of November. She’s got a very promising future ahead of her, and if she’s able to channel the same kind of magic that she does in the studio on stage, she’s going to end up stealing away a lot of the thunder from a fizzling alternative country movement in the next few years. Two Hearted Rounder is an awesome way to get the ball rolling, and it’s absolutely an album that I plan on revisiting again before the year has expired and the next decade in western music begins.