REVIEW: With “Someone Else’s War,” Sylvia Rose Novak Makes a Vital Contribution to the Tradition of Southern Musicians Grappling with Their Heritage


A rumination on human nature and the nation’s current political climate, Someone Else’s War is driven by the sensational, Dixie-accented vocals of Sylvia Rose Novak. The Opelika, Alabama native’s soulful voice conveys her reflections on Southern life: “The Devil” appears in two song titles, as does “The Road” and a “Two-Lane Town.” The familiar scourge of alcoholism looms over “God, The Devil, and Me:” “You’re drunk from dawn to sunset,” Novak sings.  On “Two-Lane Town,” a chronicle of small-town, Southern life, she sings, regretfully, “Dreams come and go, but babies don’t wait.”

Someone Else’s War encompasses various sonic styles. It begins with acoustic guitar on a gentle folk ballad, “Bombs & Blossoms.” “Devil’s In the Details” begins with vocals against a drumbeat, courtesy of Blake Bolton, leading into Kelen Rylee’s electric guitar. Novak’s fiddle and Bolton’s banjo introduce welcome rootsy element into several tracks, and Courtney Blackwell’s cello is a nice touch on “Wildflowers” (not, to be clear, the Tom Petty tune.) Novak, showing her versatility, also splits bass duties with Lester Nuby III. When the album gets to Santa Ana, Christo Case’s keys provide a welcome change of pace.

Someone Else’s War includes one cover, Warren Zevon’s “I Was In The House When The House Burned Down.” Zevon may not seem like an intuitive choice for a cover on Americana album, but it works here. (While some, perhaps most, music fans, have limited tastes, I have found the same is not true of musicians. Most artists, I find, have diverse tastes and listen to a wide range of music, much of it very different from what they themselves create.)

Americana, and American music, is intimately tied to the music and culture of the South. The dissonance between the beauty of that region’s musical heritage and the frequent ugliness of its history and politics provides no end of stimulus to its artists. With Someone Else’s War, Sylvia Rose Novak has made a vital contribution to the tradition of Southern musicians grappling with their heritage and identity.  For our interview of Novak, click one of these words in bold. To get your copy of the album and check for tour dates, here:

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