Ismay - Songs From a River

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:7 Release Date:2018-02-09
Ismay - Songs From a River
Ismay - Songs From a River

Northern California singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ismay (Avery Hellman), has funneled her adoration of the American West into a five-track EP’s worth of delicacies titled Songs From a River. Her tight, emotive fingerpicking drives the spare songs, along with her voice, a whispered and angelic instrument that reminds me of 90s chanteuse Suzanne Vega.

The backstory speaks to Ismay dropping out of college and going on a sojourn across California through New Mexico, and then back north, where she ended up in the tiny California border town of Klamath, just below Oregon, in the magnificent Pacific Northwest. Herein, the town and river became her muse as she took a two-year horseback trip along the Klamath River, filming, photographing, and writing, the results of which comprise these five songs. The cassette player recordings found their way through some top-notch studio talent to transform them into the EP now available. It’s a lovely piece of art that comes from a talented, heartfelt core.

On the heavenly “Oh Precious Light,” she whispers, “I love the sunset, but night I now fear. What can I sacrifice to bring the day back from the night? I am so afraid.” The metaphors weigh heavy and haunting across the lyrics of every song. “Innifree” and “The Pony’s Lament” are both gorgeous, and have that majestic feel that gets a song into a movie soundtrack. Coincidentally, Ismay created a film of her travels that would seem to be a perfect vehicle for the songs on this EP.

Labeled a “coming of age” chronicle, this is a fragile bit of folk songcraft for an artist on the rise. While I’d like to see a bit more variety in tempo, or at the very least, what her talents would produce beyond the folk confines, this EP is an encouraging, enchanting debut. 

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