As intoxicating as a bottom shelf bourbon but far easier to digest, the vocal Barbara Jo Kammer gives up in the song “Cheap Whiskey” is undeniably one of the strongest featured on her new album Big Blue Sky in the Morning, but it doesn’t especially dwarf the performances she gives in tracks like “You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley” and “Shine On.” The truth is, Kammer’s singing tends to be the strongest catalyst for emotionality in this album, from the slow-rolling melodies of the string-heavy “Free Again” to her duet with Greg Blake in “A Perfect World.” Produced by the remarkable KC Groves, Big Blue Sky in the Morning doesn’t sacrifice detail for perceived production decadence, and if you follow popular music, you know just how big a gem that makes this Americana-inspired LP.
Despite most of the content here being cover material – save for the title track – Kammer scarcely misses an opportunity to breathe fresh vitality into songs like “Cattle Call” and “Sister’s Coming Home.” Her aesthetical interests span from country and moderate southern swing to western twang, bluegrass and a self-aware folk music synonymous with scenes in Wyoming, Arizona and her home state of Colorado, and yet there isn’t any unfocused conceptualism to be found in Big Blue Sky in the Morning. Her approach to the rocking “That’ll Be the Day” is as original as her brooding attack in “Springfield Mountain Coal Miner” is, drawing together continuity amidst a backdrop otherwise too diverse to be united by a single artist.
MORE ON BARBARA JO KRAMER: https://www.barbarajokammer.com/
This tracklist enjoys a spectacular flow from start to finish, and for me personally, it feels quite reflective of the gripping fireside performance we’ve been mostly deprived of in 2020 due to circumstances created by nature and mankind alike. “Come from the Heart” gets us on a roll with its lush electric melody, and past songs like “Revival (feat. Darrell Scott)” all the way to “Carnival,” there’s never an instance in which Kammer sounds anything less than confident and on-point with the music, as if to suggest a stream of consciousness not typically afforded to studio albums. It makes Big Blue Sky in the Morning all the harder to put down once it’s been picked up for the first time, and I doubt I’ll be the only critic to say as much before the season is over.
A stunning blend of Rocky Mountain-style bluegrass, folk, conservative country harmonies and a uniquely western moxie behind the microphone in general, Barbara Jo Kammer’s Big Blue Sky in the Morning is a must-listen LP for Americana fans around the world this September, and absolutely one of the smartest records of its kind to have come across my desk in the last couple of months. It’s been an interesting era for the Americana movement in general, with some of the brightest players the genre has seen in a generation coming forth with a colorful take on its standards, and if you’re curious why the momentum behind it only continues to swell, I’d recommend giving this album a spin for immediate clarity.
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