Laura Summer – Red Clay Blue Sky

The rustic singer/songwriter style that players like Laura Sumner are taking particular influence from right now has never truly gone out of style, and in her new EP Red Clay Blue Sky, this singer/songwriter is determined to prove as much with one glistening harmony after another. Although steeped in a grittiness that runs much deeper than the cosmetic elements in her music can account for, Sumner’s new record bears a bit of melodic wonderment that isn’t all that easy to blend with an old school compositional concept, given the conservative nature of most retro folk-rock tracks. From “American Man” to “Tides,” this player is challenging the standard with much panache this season.

For all of the sweet harmonies we encounter in “My Mother and Me” or “Cowboy from Queens,” there’s always a flipside on the other end of any song here, waiting to pounce on us with an ironic component to the story we might not be expecting at first. Catharsis, no matter how big or small in Red Clay Blue Sky, comes at quite the cost in these tracks, but that’s the essence of the narrative in this EP. Sumner is a good storyteller, and she’s not afraid to use whatever she’s got at her disposal to establish a mood.

There are definitely some classic rock elements buried in the bones of “Telling Georgia Goodbye” and the aforementioned “American Man,” and I would love to hear Sumner experiment with this part of her sound a little more thoroughly in the future. She’s got understated moxie that could really come into its own with just a little more aesthetical space for her to breathe, and perhaps with the complete tracklist of a proper studio album, all of her different influences and skills could come together under one umbrella seamlessly.

Compared to what we heard in her 2008 debut, Laura Sumner sounds a lot more confident here than what we might have anticipated based on her previous output. This is quite an ambitious look, especially given the unfiltered edge of “Cowboy from Queens” and “Tides,” but Sumner doesn’t sound like someone who isn’t sure of herself stepping up to the microphone in any of these tracks – quite the opposite, in all actuality. This is an artist who has spent time refining her best qualities, and from the looks of this piece, she’s getting in touch with them in a very focused manner.

Delicate where it counts but still pushy enough to make a statement when it matters the most, Red Clay Blue Sky hits on a lot of different bases that a lot of other records only aspire to reach, and best of all it never contains the sort of self-righteousness that too frequently accompanies a work as grand as it seeks to be. Laura Sumner has managed to stay one of the better secrets of the underground in the past fifteen years, but with this most recent offering, I think she’s turning a corner in the most mature way possible.

Check out Laura’s website by clicking here. Pick up a copy of Red Clay Blue Sky on Apple Music by clicking here.

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