From a Nashville basement haunted by the ghosts of what music could do to a family life, Cortney Tidwell has done well to usher this mini album debut from the darkness, blinking into the… darkness. Shot through with an explorer’s heart, as genres flick over the desolate terrain like tumbleweed with eerie ease, from blues to country to folk and any stopping place in between. For a debut album this is a chillingly accomplished treat.
You know you’ve found something special when seasoned music hacks go running for their thesauruses in a way not seen since the Cocteau Twins were described as conjuring “cathedrals of sound”. Fortunately, Cortney Tidwell is worth wading through the pretentious attempts to pin her down in print.
Mama From The Mountain is spaced jazz over sleepy beats threatening to burst from its blues into clubbed-doubt (sic) euphoria, like early Bjork with a grainy sand-papered feel. Lyrically abstract in mood, it’s all about atmosphere.
The post-coital strummed out breath of Drink Up threatens to spill its beer before being swept up with the dog-ends of another lost night of spent emotions. Bruised blues but brave is the vocal spirit flickering over this funereal-paced ballad, which bleeds with feeling similar to Cat Power or early Cowboy Junkies over stumbling piano chords, acoustic strumming and the shuffling of drums.
Hard 2 Tell bears hallmarks of the swirl and storm of early Cocteau Twins, tracks where Cortney’s vocals swoop and intertwine in comforting harmony and scare in beautiful discordance. Almost entirely skydiving vocals and drums that roll around like thunderclouds, this is thrilling jazz shot through.
The Light could be Neko Case in all its torch, twang and torment. A pedal steel guitar peels notes off while the guitar slaps them down in the dust as Cortney recalls a lost love leaving loose ends undone “way down deep”.
So I’ll Go Out And Meet My Love comes over like the spectral folk of Sandy Denny, Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan, and even the spook-tastic Beth Gibbons. This is frail, skeletal, but heartfelt 3am music lost in a fog of booze, smoke and acoustic strings, as it mulls over the ashes of the day’s emotions. A beautiful tragedy with a life-affirming ‘up-swoop’ near the end to throw some light onto the shade.
Fever Queen almost threatens to evaporate altogether in its spacious pulls and sways as vocals slide over some heat-haze slide guitar and percussion. The perfect way to end an album of dark emotions given such beautiful shade is with a sigh like this one.
If there is a fault to be found here it is in the tantalising length of this mini-album, but if this mini-epic is anything to go by, a full length album will definitely be worth the journey from basement to the wide open spaces.