Gemma Laurence is an indie folk singer/songwriter from Brunswick, Maine, currently based in Vermont, where she is attending Middlebury College. Half British and half American, Laurence’s childhood was divided between Maine, London and Oxford. Laurence totes the line between singer/songwriter, folk and bluegrass genres with creative flourish. Her time on both sides of the Atlantic has led her to explore with free range foot-stomping Americana as well as British folk.
Blending in her love of poetry with her penchant for storytelling, Laurence named her debut album Crooked Heart after a line in her favorite W. H. Auden poem, ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’: O stand, stand at the window / As the tears scald and start; / You shall love your crooked neighbor / With your crooked heart.” Evoking an Auden-esque nostalgia for place, Laurence’s timeless recordings transport you beyond ordinary circumstances into something that is beyond extraordinary. Hinging off of her own memories of dogwood forests and train station platforms, the set of songs off of Crooked Heart retain a timelessness that will resonate with listeners long after the record has stopped spinning.
Crooked Heart opens with “Judas” that starts off with some distinct finger-picking on the banjo. Laurence’s vocals evoke a vulnerable and pressing sound. A stirring sense of urgency underlines this track. Some vibrant strings also accompany the song. About the people in your life who have a way of letting you down with their destructible tendencies, Laurence sings, “This is not the man I knew you to be / Who told you would be true to me / As we sat in the bathroom floor / And you told me there’s nothing to be scared of don’t you see / I’ve always got your back so you can count on me.”
Dynamic numerating on the guitar on “Leave Me Out To Dry” encompasses the beginning of the track as the cadences of the cello weaves in and out. This is an upbeat song as plucky finger-picking on the banjo reels in this song. About constantly being left out on the back burner as the special person in her life focuses on other things in their life, Laurence sings, “I’m tired of hanging off of this post-line / I’m wasted and you leave me out to dry / But it was my fault that I set my hopes up so high / I don’t know why this caught me by surprise.”
On “Lovebites From Leeches,” noodling on the acoustic guitar starts off this track. About a vampiric relationship that sucks the soul out of her, Laurence croons, “Please don’t let me alone / You beg my heart is stone cold / I might be a masochist because I love it when you hurt me this way / Hurt me this way.”
“Forgive and Forget” starts off with some persuasive plucking from the cello that underlines the gamut of this track. The acoustic guitar also paves the song. The sliding on the acoustic guitar will loosen listeners up.
The build up to several of these tracks are really suspenseful. What you get is some tightly wrung compositions underlined with a strong sense of urgency. This is obvious on the vibrant finger-picking style on the banjo on “Moonlight,” on the simply rendered “Three Thousand Miles,” on the mellow and laid-back “The Mourning Dove Song,” on the title-track which is a highlight with its soulful and sun-soaked vibe, on the choppy sounds coming from the banjo on “Don’t Slam The Door” and on the chilling and poetic closer “Wayward Child.”
About being on the receiving end of a loveless relationship, these are lovelorn songs that harness a happening and relatable sensibility. This ten-track collection is a compelling accessible group of indie folk-rock songs.
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