Upon hearing Senora May’s debut album, Lainhart, a few things will be made clear. For one, there’s no hunk of cheese big enough to coax her into the Rat Race. What she wants instead is a life outside the cage where she can stretch her legs and let her soul wander. Senora touches on this and more in her romantic album about life.
Not to be missed are the songs “Elusive,” “By My Lonesome,” and “Lainhart.” Written for a loved one who finds freedom only in reverie, the title track is sung like a letter from home. The bouncing tune reminds Lainhart of being “back in these hills every night in your dreams/ Shovelin’ hog shit while ya sing.” This song is meant to bring someone home, if only for the few minutes it takes to listen to.
At the midway point is “California King,” a stand out track both aesthetically and lyrically. Senora tells the story of love’s radiance fading to the ashes of nothing as cold stares turn to cold shoulders and quiet goodnights give way to the sharp click of the lights going out. As the years have passed, what was once the pain of loss has receded into a deeper understanding of what was and what is meant to be. Her pain has become hindsight understanding as she sings “I can’t even tell ya how we got this far, nor can I navigate the sea without a single star/ But I am the sun and I need no Goddamn moon.” The song ends with the same lines that began it; “There’s an ocean between us, calm as the eye of a storm/ Words won’t break it and tears won’t even cause a ripple.”
If you can’t hear the warbling of those first notes at the outset of “Only Want You,” you’ll need to add volume accordingly. This is a song that one can lean into like a drug when the other half of their heart flies across the country. Senora howls along with the wail of coyotes and together they are a tangled harmony of lovesick desertion. “The coyotes outside are singin’ my song” she says of the lonesome hillside anthem, bringing listeners to the solitude of wherever it is Senora sings her heart out from.
Senora May glows throughout this album, coming across to listeners as sweet, loving, and not to be fucked with. She embodies her own beautifully distinct and poetic fashion of interpreting life through music. Despite her past struggles she has found true happiness which flows at an unfreezable depth. She doesn’t mind being left alone, either, and she’d probably rather you left, anyways.
Live on Red Barn Radio l & ll isn’t the sort of country music album you’ll hear billowing from the open sunroof of a blue Honda Civic waiting outside a hot yoga studio. Instead, it’s a compilation of two live performances played on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo, all in perfect harmony with the one of a kind voice of Tyler Childers. An East Kentucky Man of Constant Sorrow, Childers voice harbours a distinct streak of pain and a generous splash of whiskey.
The songs on this album are the sum of hard times and hard truths. They each contain heartfelt and honest lyrics about loss, love, and the haunting mistress of strong drink. Tyler Childers writes and performs with the disturbing poeticism and power of Townes Van Zandt mixed with Kurt Cobain, offering listeners a raw, unashamed look into the core of himself and his miseries.
The standout track on this album is titled “Whitehouse Road.” The lines “Rotgut whiskey gonna ease my pain/ And all this runnin’s gonna keep me sane” flow into the chorus like a torch stream into the Lake of Fire. “We’ve been sniffin’ that cocaine/ Ain’t nothin’ better when the wind cuts cold,” Childers wails with a distant harmony sung by the Devil sat atop his shoulder. “Lord, it’s a mighty hard livin’/ But a damn good feelin’ to run these roads.” A chilling and honest ballad to the renegade life and that which Childers has found in the granulated embrace of the long white line.
Found at the end of the album, “Follow You to Virgie,” puts the breadth and complexity of Childers songwriting on full display in a piece dedicated to the memory of the “Mountain Beauty” he had once known. “Yeah, I reckon we were heathens/ But in her eyes we were saints” he sings, referring to the grandmother of a high school friend who had, in a sense, become a part of his own family.This song shares the moments spent “making sense of all these strings” with her as the sole audience member. “I can see her in the corner/ Singin’ along to all our crazy dreams” Childers sings, surely finding solace in those unshakeable memories.
This concert album rolls with the rhythm of a man on the run from himself. From “Deadman’s Curve” to “Whitehouse Road,” listeners are taken on a journey through Hell and most of the way back. Though this self proclaimed heathen leans on the Faith of his upbringing in his songwriting, this is by no means the sort of music to share around the fire at Bible Camp. These songs were written by a man with good reason to fear his God.