Written By: Emily Cahill
Label: Side One/Dummy – Rating:
The title “Haunted” is fare warning as this EP might depress you just a little bit. Each of the five songs is about some particular tragic circumstance. However, the imagery used is so classic and thoughtful that it makes each song artful and definitely worth a listen.
“The River” has a country-ish beat, but not a country sound. It plays with the age-old image of a river and sin, but does so beautifully and thus it does not feel like a rerun. “Lord I can’t swim/but it’s alright/’cause all my sin would drag me down/even if I could,” says the song, which puts a new twist on the river washing away sin—here it seems to be the punishment for the sin, rather than the absolution. The lyrics play at being a narrative but they never reveal exactly what is going on, which is the great strength of the song. It has meaning without outright definition.
“Eli, The Barrow Boy,” and “Sullivan’s Letter” are special in their treatment of death. The imagery and language used to describe Eli’s drowning and Sullivan’s death on the battle field are familiar and classic, but these old settings lends room for Audra Mae to move forward with new ideas on these old scenes. It is not uncommon in art (television, stage play, music, novels, anything) for a woman to be receiving a letter her husband had been carrying on him in war after his death. In fact, it’s the whole plot of the very famous play Cyrano de Bergerac. What Audra does is make it so unique that even though you have probably seen this a hundred times in your life. When you hear, “when the breeze brushes against your cheek heaven is sending you my breath,” you’ll be ready to cry of the lost love all over again.
Also worth noting while you listen is the way Audra Mae plays with sound and meaning. Listen for a fairy-tale sound in “The Fable,” eastern tones in “One Silver Dollar,” and the military march at the beginning of “Sullivan’s Letter.”