H.C. McEntire — Every Acre
Very early on in the country music drama of Nashville, young Scarlett is convinced by hunky musician Gunnar to turn her poem into a song. Never mind that the song (“If I Didn’t Know Better”) was a (damn good) John Paul White/Arum Rae composition recorded by The Civil Wars – the idea of a poem and a song being essentially the same was gently mocked by those in the actual Nashville. Yet, sometimes, those disparate art forms (and they are QUITE different) end up tangling together and creating something much less definable. North Carolina’s H.C. McEntire does just that on her new album, Every Acre, composing her lyrics in a way that creates images for the listener but requires a close ear and active imagination to complete the picture.
Make no mistake, the ties between songwriting and poetry are purely intentional – the album’s first track, “New View,” has McEntire name-checking some of her favorite writers. But it’s also a sweet, dreamy love song that embraces the idea of surrender of one’s hardened self – “Bend me and break me/Split me right in two/Mend me and make me/I’ll take more of you.” That kind of poetic spareness also serves McEntire in grief – “Rows of Clover” finds her trying to work past agony and despair – “It ain’t the easy/Kind of healing/When you’re down on your knees/Clawing at the garden” – surrounded by a light swirl of guitar and organ. When the words don’t come in bunches, the music helps round out the mood.
McEntire finds a couple of ace singers to help out on Every Acre. S.G. Goodman brings some edge to the pastoral love song “Shadows,” which pairs romantic hesitation with outright sexiness – “I shave your legs ‘til the daylight’s gone/Slowly reaching for a little more.” And Amy Ray shows up for the slow-burn rocker “Turpentine,” a requiem for life’s discards – “Every ending that you ever rushed/Stings like cinder, slow as rust.” But McEntire’s individuality truly stands out in “Dovetail.” Originally recorded as a country stomper, she and her band ended up preferring a piano ballad version that highlights McEntire’s voice as she recalls the different, singular women she’s known – “Some women come knocking/Some come without calling/Tear right through the ticker tape.” It’s like that with McEntire; her unique, poetic approach reflects the uncompromising women in her songs – “Not all will want to have their hands tied” – while displaying the rare kind of artistry we need more of – “Some will never want you gone.”
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Turpentine,” which pushes the six-minute mark with a Crazy Horse-worthy guitar/piano clash toward the end.
Every Acre was produced by H.C. McEntire, Missy Thangs and Luke Norton, engineered by Thangs, McEntire, Kate Haldrup and Amy Ray, mixed by Thangs and mastered by Sarah Register. Music composed by McEntire, Norton, Casey Toll and Daniel Faust, lyrics by McEntire. Additional musicians on the album include Norton (electric and acoustic guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, pump organ), Toll (upright and electric bass), Faust (drums, percussion), Thangs (keys, Farfisa, Hammond, synthesizer), Ray (backing vocals) and S.G. Goodman (backing vocals).
Go here to order Every Acre (out January 27): https://mergerecords.com/product/every_acre
Check out tour dates here: https://www.hcmcentire.com/live