Erin Enderlin may be an unfamiliar name to many outside the Nashville music scene, but hopefully that is about to change with the recent release of her sophomore album “Whiskeytown Crier” . Fans of trad country are bound to appreciate Erin’s vocals that ooze emotion, the instrumentation ( with pedal steel and fiddle featuring strongly throughout the fourteen tracks ) and lyrics that show Erin to be a great observer of the human condition.
Since moving to Nashville from Conway, Arkansas, Erin has had a lot of success writing for other artists, including “Monday Morning Church” (Alan Jackson) “You Don’t Know Jack” (Luke Bryan ) and “Last Call” (LeeAnn Womack), all of which she included on her 2013 debut album “ I Let Her Talk”, which I also urge you to check out.
Her new offering is a concept album set in the fictional Whiskeytown, “a town just like any other I suppose, full of people with dreams and heartache” we are told in the spoken introduction. The majority of songs that follow describe the ups and downs (well mostly the downs, it’s not an album to listen to if you’re not a fan of a tearjerker!) of its female residents who’s stories are destined to make their way into the local newspaper for all the wrong reasons. Cleverly interspersed between tracks are atmospheric sounds such as bar room brawls, birdsong and the town’s church bells which help transport the listener to small-town America. In fact the production throughout is fantastic, honours being shared by Jim “Moose” Brown (credits include cowriting “ It’s Five O’clock Somewhere”) and Jamey Johnson (who’s album “That Lonesome Song” is in my all time top ten). Both also feature as cowriters, as does the wonderful Shane McAnally among others, and notable names on harmonies include Chris Stapleton and Jessie Alexander.
Two murder ballads get things off to an interesting (!) start. “Caroline” is the achingly tragic tale of a father wreaking the ultimate revenge on the guy who got his teenage daughter pregnant on a one night stand, and “Baby Sister” which is one of the few almost upbeat tracks and is actually fairly lighthearted considering its subject matter! The “sweet” baby sister in question bursts into a motel room and turns the gun on the TV set before killing one of her many exes (“she always was the pretty one”) who is there frolicking with her elder sibling who is spared as “blood’s thicker than love” . Yes, from from the start it is clear that Erin is a storyteller par excellence, she manages to paint pictures of characters and their situations that make them come to life so vividly that it’s like having a movie playing in your mind when you listen .You are right there with them, whether it’s in the bedroom of the woman who wakes up to find her lover gone in “Ain’t It Just Like A Cowboy”
the seedy motel room where another woman is trying to drink away her ex’s memory in “Til It’s Gone” or the graveside of an abusive, alcoholic man where his daughter stands in the pouring rain blotting out the bad times and remembering him just as a loving father in “His Memory Walks On Water”.
A couple of more reflective tracks add some variety…… “The Blues are Alive And Well“ is possibly the most personal of the tracks (“I’m living proof that heart ache still sells “Erin sings in this lilting waltz) and “Home Sweet Home to Me” which is Erin’s homage to the Southern States. And to mix things up vocally there’s a duet with Randy Houser , “The Coldest in Town“, possibly one of the saddest songs I’ve heard about a relationship that has run its course.
Two covers make the track listing, “Hickory Wind” (Gram Parsons) and “Til I can Make It On My Own“ Tammy Wynette) and although they are beautiful re-interpretations I admit I would have preferred to hear two more original writes in their place (apparently there were plenty to chose from).
It’s hard for me to pick favourites from this album as they change with each listen, but always up there is “Broken ”, which I defy any to listen to without tear in their eye (or in my case running down their cheek ). Intense doesn’t even begin to describe this one, the only solo write on the album. It’s the tale of an eighteen year old marrying a “bastard, even though he knew his daddy” who made the tough decision to put their child up for adoption in the hope of giving him a better life than she had, as “when broken’s all you know, it’s all that you know how to be”.
This is definitely an album that demands your full attention, possibly over a glass of wine or two, and is definitely not something to put on as background music….but be warned, I got so engrossed on first listen I burned my dinner!
Erin has kindly agreed to an interview which will be coming shortly, and I’m so excited that she wants to tour the UK……..of course any details will be brought to you as soon as we hear the news, and you can also follow her via all the usual social media sites and at erinenderlin.com
Review written by Lesley Hastings