Erin Enderlin - Faulkner County
This is the next step in the emergence of Enderlin with her third solo album. It’s very much is a continuation of the sound and arrangements of her 2017 effort Whiskeytown Cryer. Her credentials as a songwriter, for the top-drawer Country music artists, are well established yet her own solo profile only merits acoustic sets in smaller clubs. This must surely change.
Over 14 tracks with assistance from some stellar friends (Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Terri Clark, Alison Krauss, Jon Randall and Dillon Carmichael) she delivers staggering Country songs. Her rich and expressive voice suits these traditional arrangements. Such is the power of this instrument that your attention cannot waiver from absorbing the poignancy of each ‘story’. Each narrative is classic Country – drinking, heartbreak, loneliness and moving on.
This is not bright and shiny contemporary Nashville Country with its predictable arrangements or sounds. However, if they were to appropriate a song off this album then “Hometown Jersey” is a fine pick. The story is the making of a boy by being a school football star. His sparkling sporting career is ended when he dies tragically in a road crash. A clever lyric sees him star and depart in the aforementioned garment. “These Boots” is underpinned by the lure of the siren call of Smith Curry’s slide. Again showing Enderlin’s talent, a terrific lyric recounts the journey and memories that the boots have taken the owner on.
“I Can Be Your Whiskey” starts with Celtic fiddle before an acoustic guitar joins the mix as she makes her plea to a rejected and jilted lover. Her sales pitch being to replace his liquid solace. Jon Randall lends harmonies. “Broken” opens with the lines “he was a bastard”. I think we’re certain where this is going – teenage marriage, a child given away and a path she regrets. If you could bottle weapon-grade sadness then this would a brand leader. Her heartbreaking story is told over a piano and slide. It’s this kind of composition that lifts Enderlin away from the pack and into a league of her own.
These songs are delivered in the first person as a conversation. Her characters desperate vulnerabilities come through in redemptive themes. These lives are lived and all the failures are acknowledged and not forgotten as they attempt to move on and make the best of their often sorry circumstances.
There’s a lot to love here and I could have picked any of the tracks to write about. It’s not hard to draw a parallel with Brandy Clark. Clark was not on the public’s radar despite having built a reputation as a ‘go to’ Country songwriter. Eventually her exceptional songs, sentimental and observational lyrics, and a terrific voice led to her filling major venues and winning critical acclaim in her own right. I hope that Enderlin is on this trajectory and gets the size of audience she rightly deserves.