Sarah Lee Langford – Two Hearted Rounder

An angsty strut of guitar twang wanders into focus in “Painted Lady” with a bit more of an oomph than it does in “Keep Your Diamonds,” but in both songs it’s as entrancing as a harvest moon. It’s slowed-down and redefined for balladic purposes in “Coattails” and “Big Women,” but the cratering color of the ensuing melodies is no greater a force than it is in “Watch Me,” the pendulous “Bar Stool” or sly “Sing My Own Love Song.”

Whether it be mischievous grooves in “Growing Up” or the strumming of a rustic six-string in “What Came First,” every element in Sarah Lee Langford’s debut album Two Hearted Rounder plays a role in moving listeners, and while some are a little shinier than others (the haunting harmony in the opening cut and title track, for example), all have a very strong spot in the grander scheme of things here.

Sarah Lee Langford is a newcomer to the indie spotlight, but for what she lacks in experience she more than compensates for in original charisma and adept musicianship that is far more common among seasoned studio vets than it is first-timers.

The production quality in this record is sterling to say the least, but in no way is it over the top or too overdone for mainstream consumption. There’s a lot of really raw emotion in “Painted Lady” and “Coattails” that is never filtered out of the big picture, and in tracks like “Bar Stool,” “Watch Me” and “Big Women,” the tonality of the strings actually ends up contributing just as much to the narrative of the individual songs as Langford’s lyricism does.

The glow of the guitars is just as valuable an asset to her sound as the honest, homespun poetry that accompanies it is, and despite the occasionally somber harmonies that hang over the verses in “Sing My Own Love Song,” “Keep Your Diamonds” and “Growing Up,” the essence of the instrumentation and that of the vocal remain separate from one another from start to finish here. This doesn’t make the album come off as fractured, but instead as a fascinating exhibition in artistic duality.

If Two Hearted Rounder is just a sample of what’s going to come out of the studio sessions Sarah Lee Langford engages in over the next couple of years, I can’t wait for more. As it currently stands, her sound could go in a lot of different directions moving forward from here, and though she’s just as good at belting out a country melody as she is a folk-laden ballad, I think that she should stick with the classic singer/songwriter formula as much as she can.

She tends to shine her brightest in the tracks on Two Hearted Rounder that include the least amount of embellishment, and I have a feeling that in a small venue setting, she could absolutely bring down the entire house with only a few of these songs in her setlist. Time will tell for certain, but as of now Langford is a very important artist to watch.

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