It’s a fair bet that readers of Blabber’n’Smoke will be familiar with Loose Music, the record label that’s been a cornerstone of the UK Americana scene since 1998, their roster packed with major US acts, home to Danny and The Champs and of course, the springboard for Sturgill Simpson’s world domination. Joana Serrat is their first Spanish artist and for Cross The Verge she has ventured from her Barcelona home to Montreal to record this vibrant slice of shimmering soundscapes soaked with some vibrant guitar work
Able to whip up a Calexico like storm on Desert Valley, Serrat can also sound like The Cocteau Twins or Julee Cruise, her voice melting into atmospheric keyboards and spiralling guitars as on the enchanting Lover. While the album as a whole veers more towards brash guitar driven Americana the opening song, Lonely Hearts Reverb is a Twin Peaks like calling card, Serrat sounding as tender and vulnerable as Cruise as guitars scintillate, keyboards swell and heavenly choruses erupt. There’s no evidence of Catalonian sunshine on the frosty slow drift of Oh, Winter Come, a delicate finger picked guitar ballad while the closing song, Your Gold Could Be Mine is another simple effort with a solitary acoustic guitar supporting Serrat’s vocals which here recall The Cowboy Junkies’ ice queen, Margo Timmins.
There’s a fine old fashioned country rock strut on Saskatoon (Break Of Dawn) and on I Follow You Child, the latter with a turbo charged thump as banjo and pedal steel whip up a storm over some clattering percussion. A lonesome pedal steel introduces Solitary Road which sashays with some style into an old fashioned waltz time emboldened with some twangy guitar fills. Elsewhere Serrat picks up some vocal partners. Neil Halstead joins her on the effervescent country pop of Cloudy Heart, the pair harmonising well on a song that is peppered with vibrant guitar and pedal steel breaks. Ryan Boldt (Deep Dark Woods) turns up on the dark melodrama of Black Lake as churning guitars and a sluggish rhythm recall the darker works of Will Oldham.
A welcome addition to the Loose roster, Serrat delivers an album that will surely appeal to those who like their Americana delivered with an air of mystery and sang froid, an approach best heard here on Flags, a song that marries a warm buttery pedal steel sound , guttural guitar and her delicate voice, a dreamlike cosmic American music.
Ms. Serrat is touring the UK in May with a Glasgow date on the 10th at Broadcast. Tour dates here