South Branch Road CD Review by Jenni Peal

May 12, 2015

Review by Jenni Peal – Everybody’s Folk Music Blog

JenniPealA stream rushes alongside a tree-lined country road. A window looks out on a railroad track. Crows gossip above a graveyard. Cherished souvenirs meet odd ends in a vacant house. Kids dream ice hockey fame on frozen ponds. With every song of her newest album South Branch Road, Nancy Beaudette takes listeners to exactly where the action is, into personal stories. Are they all from Beaudette’s own life? Storytellers need not specify, but if you’ve seen her live, she’s told you that many of them are. The way those times felt, what was heard and seen; all of that has gone into the music.

Start listening by clicking here.

Like the time she tried out for the lady’s ice hockey team in college: “college girls out on the ice, suited up under the lights making it look easy … I showed up with my figure skates dull from years of idle waste …” She didn’t make the team, but even trying out was a dream from an earlier time when “we’d meet up at Billy’s place with a stick and a puck and a pair of skates … clear a patch long and wide, drop the puck in center ice …” Oh yes, this Texan gets a shiver from “Shoot to Score,” and also a grin for the heat of competition and pure joy exuded by the song. Be sure to watch the music video below.

Beaudette has a warm, smooth voice and resonant guitar style. Her compositions are full and tasty. And though high-spirits (“Starlight,” “‘Til The Tomatoes Ripen,” “You’ve Got It Going On”) win the day, her story book provides a depth of darker moments. Sensations of coldness are important in several of these stories just like on the smooth ice, low temperatures that the native Ontarian and present-day Bostonian must surely know from first-hand experience. “I walk in fields of yellow and grey … the wind is cold today …” brings us into a reflection on death and the continuance of family. I can imagine her sitting in a cemetery, “In the Company of Stones,” crows overhead in bare branches and a notebook and pencil in her hand. But she could have imagined all that as she leads us into each place, just as she imagined the heat of a house on fire and her ancestral family left out in the cold in “Build It Up.”

Elegant arrangements combine mandolin with bowed-bass string orchestrations (“Company of Stones”) and electric guitar rawness (“Build It Up.”) The pulse of “‘Til The Tomatoes Ripen” feels earthy. What is that, wash-tub bass? “I watch the train lights disappear … how long have I been standing here?” (“End Of The Line”) gives us train song banjo to hang melancholy on like a wooden peg. Spacious piano takes us into rooms recently vacated by the rude surprise of death in “Something Tells Me.”

I’ve enjoyed my time on South Branch Road and I know I’ll return. Her imagination, mastery of musical story-telling and excellent use of sensation and detail have brought me into Nancy Beaudette’s world. I look forward to discovering the stories she’s told with her previous seven albums, and what’s to come. You can buy your own copy in physical or electronic form from her website as well as CDBaby.

Jenni Peal

Jenni Mansfield Peal is a songwriter, musician, and blogger. Most of her music career has been in Texas, with Dallas as home base. Everybody’s Folk Music Blog is a continuation of work done as a broadcast radio DJ on KNON 89.3 FM Dallas, 2012 -2014.