by amy – April 27, 2019 in Music
This short, 26-minute album by the now well-known Gregory Alan Isakov contains seven great little country songs. It’s got well written, down-to-earth lyrics, a feeling of countryside simplicity and a dose of autumn melancholy. It’s perfect for sitting around the campfire, thinking, reflecting and remembering.
I’ve chosen this album out of Isakov’s discography to review because it’s the first one I sat down and listened to, and even if there’s plenty of subsequent songs worth hearing (I highly recommend ‘The Stable Song’), I feel this early release is a perfect introduction to his music.
Isakov writes good, honest songs with acoustic guitar and voice. On certain songs he’s chosen to add a subtle, tasteful accompaniment in the form of violin, drums, a shaker, or a slight effect on his voice. I think of his music not so much as indie or folk – terms that I veer away from since they’ve been widely overused and diluted by now – but as modern country music. I lean toward this definition because Isakov is a musician from my generation who seems to have roots in the truely soulful music from America’s past like old time blues and country.
It’s worth noting that the words on this album are exceptionally well-written, infused with the musing and mystery of a poet. He writes tales about travelling, life on the road and searching for lost love, among other things. These wistful, sometimes sorrow-laden concepts always remain grounded with textures and imagery of everyday things, the mundane objects like “the rubber floor mat in your car” or the “rusty truck” that might serve as reminders of the people we’ve known and the eras we’ve lived. The feeling is always clearly felt in his verses, even when the meanings are a little more obscure (as in the mysterious ‘Crooked Muse’).
The music man sings his mystery songs
He tries to put his finger on
There’s things unfelt that he’s always longed to feel
The things we all are destined to loose
While I seek out that crooked muse
You stole my heart and filled it up with blues
Though Songs for October was only Isakov’s second record, it’s clear that even back then, he was no newcomer to his craft. And indeed, before focusing on his solo work, it seems he had already toured with a band as early as age 16. Yet despite his practiced hand and voice, the songs on this early release are understated in their presentation, just like the cover and the title written across it in a handwritten font, and this is what actually makes this album so appealing. This little, curated collection of well-worked songs is well worth an evening listen.
Highlight songs: Freeway Searching, Black & Blue, Crooked Muse.