Austin-based folk singer-songwriter Natalie Jane Hill releases tranquil album Azalea.
Something a little different for your Sunday listening – not an awful lot of folk music makes it onto Turtle Tempo’s blog (unless prefaced with ‘alt-‘), but Natalie Jane Hill’s new album Azalea has instilled a sense of calm in me and my morning tea that not many artists can. Azalea will have you going from shoulders-up-to-the-ears tense to melting-in-a-bubble-bath chill in the space of only one song, and the remaining nine are just an extra treat.
Natalie Jane Hill showcases her bespoke guitar picking patterns from beginning to end of Azalea, and each song brings about new nostalgia. ‘Goldenrod’ is the musical equivalent of sun rays breaking through a cluster of clouds, and makes for a beautiful starting track, followed up with the moodier ‘Flooded’ and its stunning harmonies. ‘Usnea’ is tranquil in all its simplicity, like riding downstream on a tiny boat and calm waters, showing off Natalie’s impressive vocal range from years spent doing what she does best. ‘An Envy Burns’ injects wonderful energy with complex guitar picking patterns to preface a beautiful instrumental interlude in ‘Quiet and Still’ – this one does what it says on the tin.
It was during my listen of ‘Emerald Blue’ that I tuned into how detailed the imagery is that Natalie uses in song, and began to sink into a world of her painting. Perhaps my personal favourite is track seven, ‘All the Things I Never Saw’. Harmonically lush and unrushed to reach its destination (wherever it may be), this song addresses the listener directly and plays to the idea of the changing seasons that underpins this entire album. I can’t help but feel that Natalie pays homage to Central Texas, where she grew up, in ‘Wild Home’, and Great Blue Heron showcases her distinctive vocal style arguably more so than on any other track. ‘River Light’ makes for a sturdy and glorious conclusion to Azalea‘s journey, and to the first of many times that I will play this album.
This record is uniquely raw and stripped-back in its production with the intention of giving each song adequate room to breathe, and breathe is exactly what they do. Natalie Jane Hill’s writing style is so full of life and wonderment. To the reader: please listen to Azalea, even if it is the only thing you do with your day. You will not regret it.