Gwyneth Moreland – Cider
The songwriting brilliance personifying Gwyneth Moreland’s album Cider is further reinforced by musical excellence that plays in an easy going, confident fashion. Her talents are the beating heart of the album, but she’s accompanied by an array of first class musical contributors like drummer Ralph Humprey and pedal steel player Gene Parsons. Collaborators such as this are a clear clue that Cider isn’t just a strictly folk release – classic country and blues influences run through the songwriting as well and they are further enriched by her poetic feel for songwriting that remains accessible throughout and never risks obscurity. Moreland emerges from these ten songs as one of the most formidably talented songwriters, any genre, working on the indie scene today and her profile is sure to only grow as a result of this album. She’s a fine interpreter of her own material and surrounded by the right people to help make her ambitions come to fruition.
There’s real magic coming alive during these songs. Moreland spares no effort in trying to convey the message behind these tunes and, without fail, they are about themes relating to all of us. The combination of traditional arrangements with tasteful strains of color comes together quite nicely with the personal quality defining all of these songs. Many tracks like “Little Bird”, “Broken Road”, and “Eloise” seem to focus on other people, but Moreland’s songwriting has enough nuance to say just as much about herself as she does any of her subjects. The primary instrument driving the album’s ten songs is the acoustic guitar, but she brings other traditional elements into the songs – beautiful harmony vocals, steel guitar, and harmonica are a few of those sounds that help to flesh out the songwriting. There are more upbeat musical moments on Cider – those come with songs like “The California Zephyr” and the album’s last song “Summer Song”.
Moreland also specializes in wreathing her songs with a genuine poetic quality. “Broken Road” is an early example of that on Cider and the delicacy she employs because an important stylistic shift crucial to the album’s success. It has some intelligently played percussion courtesy of Ralph Humprey that falls in all the right places. “Your Smile” never rushes itself, but the slower pace doesn’t mean it falls into some sort of meandering pattern. There’s the same combination of accessibility and subtlety making this song excellent and one of Moreland’s most heartfelt vocals. Perhaps the greatest invocation of this approach, however, comes with “Danny Parker” and “Cider” – the first track is much more of low=key, even melancholy affair while the title track has a somewhat wistful, reflective air. There’s a stunning variety evident in Moreland’s approach and it results in an album that’s across the board satisfying. California born Gwyneth Moreland’s music conjures all of the same vistas and haunted landscapes to make for one of the year’s most imaginative and emotionally driven efforts.
9 out of 10 times