The self-produced CD unfolds like a live set, beginning with four originals based on traditional North American forms with English lyrics, moving to South America for five songs with Spanish lyrics (of which two are originals) and ending with three more originals in English. Many of the songs contrast infectious, even danceable instrumental work with darker lyrics. The opening “Black Light” is a brisk reel capturing the moments of a gathering, wild storm; the next cut “Open Bottle” is a travelogue of truncated aspiration wrapped in a lyrical fiddle tune. Later, “El Cerro” lays down driving guitar and cajon work under soaring vocals that contemplate the landscape one travels to reconnect with an angry lover.
Not all the songs are dark: “He Venido Caminando” reinterprets a traditional South American lullaby as a lovely waltz for banjo and voice; and Pinkerton’s reading of “Cardo o Ceniza” pulses with sensual anticipation. The closer, “Kingdom Down,” rocks out with awakening strength and assurance in the face of the aggressions of nature and man. The understated arrangements on Valparaiso provide elegant settings for Pinkerton’s crystal-clear voice, clean instrumental work, and efficient songwriting. You can learn a lot listening to this CD, or you can just allow yourself to be drawn into Pinkerton’s richly textured, multi-cultural alt-country world (Green Jeans Records, www.emilypinkerton.com).
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