Gwyneth Moreland - Cider
The personal nature of Gwyneth Moreland’s songwriting is a hallmark of the best folk music, but her musicality is equally powerful. There’s melody galore filling the album’s ten songs and rousing vocal performances that never takes the path of least resistance and, instead, obviously invests enormous emotional capital in getting over the lyrical content. There are country and blues music influences making their presence felt throughout the release, but the guiding spirit behind these recordings is Moreland’s phrasing and the highly literate quality of her material. Much of the credit for the album’s presentation must fall on Moreland’s producer David Hayes, a veteran of working with no less of a legend than Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison. In the end, however, Gwyneth Moreland rises to the occasion time after time again with a wide ranging interpretation of her own material that never risks imitation despite her countless influences.
One of the strongest added influences on Cider is, certainly, classic country music. “Movin’ On”, on the basis of title alone, certainly invokes those motifs, but Moreland never goes in for a craven regurgitation of that style lacking any personal punch. The shuffle beat never manifests a lot of energy but it’s an excellent way to introduce listeners to the album’s musical world. She definitely restrains herself even more with the second song “Broken Road”. Moreland has an interesting skill for writing material full of obvious love and deep feeling, yet bring emotions to bear connected with loss and heartache. There’s a craftsmanship emerging from the album early on that will completely bring listeners into her world. She invokes traditional folk music at a number of points throughout Cider and one of the zeniths of that inclination comes with the song “Little Bird”. The language of her songwriting, however, is never remote from our modern experience and it makes it clear she views the traditional music template pursued her as a vibrant vehicle for her own emotional explorations.
“Farmhouse” is one of Cider’s more musically direct cuts with straight-forward strummed guitar and big, blocky chords that strongly announce themselves yet never lack their own melodic value. It’s certainly one of the album’s lighter musical number, in the sense that there’s no real feeling of downcast to be heard throughout its duration, but nonetheless fits in quite nicely with the remainder of the release. “The California Zephyr” is a traditional folk song ripped from an uniquely geographic experience, yet it magically invokes both country and folk traditions without any stylistic confusion. “Danny Parker” is Moreland’s finest writing on Cider – hands down. This is a lyric rife with detail and the music is equally up to the task of dramatically depicting the emotion it invokes. The album’s closing cut, “Summer Song”, ends Cider surrounded by a brighter hue than many of the other songs aim for and this slightly surprising final turn is perfectly in keeping with the sense of daring that makes much of the album work so well. Gwyneth Moreland’s talents are considerable, but perhaps her greatest talent is for understanding exactly how to present her own vision in a way that promises to draw in the most listeners.
9 out of 10 stars