Gwyneth Moreland – Cider
California based and born singer/songwriter Gwyneth Moreland’s ten song release Cider represents the early peak of what is sure to be a long and illustrious contribution to the music world. Her songwriting may be firmly ensconced in the folk tradition, but Moreland frequently brings other elements into play as evidenced by guest shots by important musicians such as pedal steel guitar master Gene Parsons and drummer Ralph Humprey – among others. In some ways, this songwriting is a natural outgrowth of her journey to this point – she pursued a career as a veterinarian technician for a number of years and the deeply emotive nature of her musical talents hints at the depths driving one to follow such a path. Gwyneth Moreland’s album Cider is a reminder of the folk song’s tireless power but, likewise, stirring evidence of its eternal flexibility. This is a can’t miss effort for fans of the genre.
“Movin’ On” is an entertaining number from the beginning and never sets an undue pace for itself. Moreland does an awesome job of mixing traditional folk and country-ish elements with bluesy flourishes like the song’s lonesome streaks of harmonica. Harmony vocals make frequent appearances through Cider and add some more vocal color, but Moreland’s voice is more than enough to make these songs stand out – everything else is just gravy. “Broken Road” shows how she’s able to turn those skills to a more meditative musical presentation without sacrificing any of her talents for phrasing and melody. Her songwriting and singing alike create an evocative atmosphere without ever over-emphasizing the song’s theatrics. The songwriting takes another turn with the track “Farmhouse” and the chugging chords lay down an impressive foundation for one of the album’s better and deceptively simple songs.
“Eloise” is certainly the most outwardly sad moment on the album and there’s very little here to temper the gloom beyond the redemptive power of Moreland’s voice. It’s another of those moments on Cider when her artistry references the past in a completely personal context. A similar occasion comes with the performance of “The California Zephyr”. Gene Parsons’ banjo skills bring a lot to the song, but its presence is never so enormously that it threatens to throw the entire track off balance. “Your Smile” is a much more straight ahead folk song and eschews added touches like banjo, pedal steel, or harmonica while its harmony vocals carry the song further skyward. “Danny Parker”, however, is firmly rooted in the singer/songwriter tradition while still magically invoking the timelessness of the form. The title song shifts emotional gears some and has a much more overtly poetic feel than the aforementioned tune while simultaneously obscuring its traditional roots a little more cleverly than most songs on the album. It makes for a great prelude to the last cut “Summer Song”. Some of the melancholy pervading earlier tracks breaks completely here and listeners find themselves ending Cider on a much different note than they perhaps expected. This is one of Moreland’s most attractive qualities – she finds a way to take risks without this stereotypically narrow form and it proves she’s one of the folk world’s biggest talents working today.
9 out of 10 stars