Life isn’t easy. The longer you are alive you will enviably be tested with the loss of family and friends. It’s not all that uncommon for musicians to funnel their emotions into their art when they experience loss in their personal lives. Funeral by Arcade Fire comes to mind.
While coping with loss in her own life Nellen Dryden starting writing the songs for her debut album Little Stray Heart. Little Stray Heart seems to directly deal with the aftermath of emotions one has to deal with after someone has passed as well as other existential questions that happen after death.
Luckily, these somewhat intense subjects are beautifully presented with exceptional music. Dryden has a great voice with a slight country twang. Artists like Bonnie Raitt and Mazzy Star come to mind. The album is lush with instrumentation. She implements upright bass, pedal steel, organ, Wurlitzer, goat hooves, worm cocoon shakers, guitar, percussion and more on this instrumentally rich album.
She opens with “Almeron” which is a highlight. It starts off with acoustic guitar and vocals. Initially the vibe is melancholy but the vibe shifts when slide guitar, bass and drums enter the picture. She absolutely belts it out and sounds fantastic.
She follows up with “Around” and proves the opener is no fluke. The song is powerful, dynamic and catchy. “Alpaca Room” has a hazy, dreamlike Mazzy Star vibe and is more subdued than the previous two songs. A good change in pace. “Heart Moves” is a downright danceable country tune. I loved the groove here. “Part of You” seems to reflect on the passing of someone she knew. She sings, “I guess a part of you was good for me / Now its much too late for me to see / That a part of you was good for me / Now the angels say to let you be I'll say goodbye.” “Shepherd” is another song that deals with death but this time revolves around the afterlife. She sings, “Left it all behind in hopes of an afterlife / Did my time, did my time / And Now my life is leaving.”
As the album progresses with listener/fan-proclaimed single “Me and My Buffalo Bill” and the tear jerker “Back You Go” she continues to inject just enough diversity into each song.
Little Stray Heart is an exceptional album. She puts just the right amount of emotion in these songs and knows when levity is needed. I didn’t feel drained after listening to it as Little Stray Heart feels like both reflection and celebration of life.
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