Back in the ’70s when I was a teenager, the highlight of my year was the annual week at Girl Guide Camp in the summer holidays regardless of whatever the UK weather threw at us! It was quite an exciting event for an “Essex townie”, believe me, and one of my fondest memories of those adventures is the hours we all spent together sitting around the campfire in the evenings. Someone had invariably brought their guitar along, and we’d sing our hearts out to some pretty hideous Girl Guide songs while swatting away mosquitoes and trying not to swallow various flying bugs .
There’s something very special and unifying about groups of friends gathering together in this way, and that is exactly how the new album from Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert and Jon Randall, “The Marfa Tapes” came to be. The three insanely talented artists/writers, all Texan natives, regularly head to the teeny tiny desert town of Marfa in the West of their home state to get away from all the distractions of the modern world and immerse themselves in creativity, and this album captures raw unadulterated versions of fifteen of their self-penned songs recorded during their most recent visit. Using just one acoustic guitar (there’s some beautiful picking) and three microphones it was recorded over five days mostly outside as they sat around a campfire, and you really feel like a fly on the wall as the three friends relax, sing, laugh and joke together without any inhibitions. A bit like a songwriters round in the most amazing setting imaginable.
The atmospheric album captures the crackling of the wood burning from the very start, you can practically smell it in fact, and together with the wind whistling across the open plains the recording really transports you to that special place they all hold so dear. As Miranda explains, “Marfa, TX, is our escape. We go there and let everything go. We hope these songs bring you a little piece of Marfa’s magic through your headphones, so you can hear what we heard and feel what we felt when we wrote these‘.
The track listing (see below) includes both new, previously unrecorded writes together with stripped back versions of songs that will no doubt be familiar, including reworkings of Miranda’s award winning heartbreaker “Tin Man” on which she somehow manages to sounds even more vulnerable and “Tequila Does” originally on her Grammy winning album ” Wildcard”… this version really highlights her fabulous Texan twang…and the three of them giggle as she hilariously struggles to remember the lyrics .
Yes, one on the great features of this album is the relaxed vibe throughout and the inclusion of the little asides and comments from the friends, who share lead vocals and instinctively harmonise so beautifully . Just listen to the stunning cheating song “Am I Right or Amarillo” on which Jon takes the lead, wrestling with his feelings as Miranda and Jack add dreamy back up harmonies.
It’s not surprising the the setting itself helps inspire these seasoned songwriters, on this particular visit last November one of the songs that resulted was the album closer “Amazing Grace (West Texas)” . Inspired by an incoming storm which the watch approaching from over the area’s surrounding mountains. Jack says “That song was like a soundtrack to what we were seeing and the landscape, just the people and the towns and the cows. It’s like a soundtrack to our trip“. A very fitting way to bring a phenomenal and very original album to a close.
Stream/Download ” The Marfa Tapes” here https://ml.lnk.to/TheMarfaTapes
01) In His Arms
02) I Don’t Like It
03) The Wind’s Just Gonna Blow
04) Am I Right Or Amarillo
06) Homegrown Tomatoes
07) Breaking A Heart
10) We’ll Always Have The Blues
11) Tin Man
12) Two-Step Down To Texas
14) Tequila Does
15) Amazing Grace (West Texas)
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)