There is a quote from once-indie band Rilo Kiley about folk singers that I continuously thought about while I listened to Audra Connolly's newest album, Dear Friend: “Folk singers sing songs for the working, baby. We're just inspiration for all those doctors and lawyers.” Connolly is pure folk, at its best; she's entertainment in the form of soft sounds and friendly words.
Connolly may find herself compared to Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis; they have similar voices and strum guitars (and even look a little alike), but Connolly is far more folk than Lewis ever dared to be. She belongs in the category that Joni Mitchell and, more recently, Aimee Mann belong in. Connolly cites Sheryl Crowe as an influence, but her music has none of the overwhelmingly repetitive pop choruses that Crowe's does; Connolly is a rare find in current music: an artist seemingly interested only in making music she loves.
Connolly says she was born into a family of an art teacher and an outdoorsman, and it shows. “I was taught to love/and try to rise above/all the stuff out there/that just ain't fair” she sings on the album's opener, “Eternal Youth”, and on “Thinking of You”, she says “Oh how Mother Nature unravels her schemes/the moonlight is shining in streams/mind, body and soul on separate teams”, proving her hippie-esque background. Her lyrics range from nature to men to loyalty, and all of them are fantastic and inspiring, in the least annoying way possible.
Though she's classically trained at piano, Connolly sticks to guitar on Dear Friend, with her brother Aaron playing an electric behind her. A wide range of instruments – from djembe to bassoon – wraps the songs together and helps tell the stories Connolly has written. The music isn't phenomenal, but it's what folk music is – soft, melodic sounds that tie together a well written song.
Connolly manages to achieve something on Dear Friend that recent artists like Colbie Caillat have failed at – a folk album written for today's audience. Her sweet songs and melodies are soothing instead of sugary, and she manages to sound like she's reaching out to friends she hasn't met with a smart, outdoors-y approach to life.
February 2, 2010
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