Grace Cummings – Refuge Cove
Grace Cummings, the hidden gem mined by Eric Moore of Flightless Records, releases a folk walkabout album that seems to give coastal Australia a voice. A very unique voice at that.
The vocals at first emergence kinda throw you off. You can’t be ready for them. Your ear must digest it, realize that this voice exists in the world, and that you will go forward with this in mind. It’s like she’s developed her own language, and after you submit yourself to it, you begin to understand. It’s truly not for everyone. It’s a voice that can divide people. Some might even consider it bad. I consider it brilliant. Not entirely unlike Dylan, her voice is one that falls into a key of its own at times, but is remarkable nonetheless. It’s what separates her from the genre where everything sounds like Bon Iver. There’s a striking androgyny in her tone, it brings the power needed for these songs to make you stop and listen. It also seems a lot more genuine for modern folk music because it’s not trying to be folky. She’s just playing out her emotions and creating something that she self-expressed. The lyrics never cease to be amazing because of this. They’re either conveying experiences through intense imagery or deep poetry. Sometimes there’s the faint Dylanism of a witty pop culture reference (Chris Bell, Meryl Streep) or condemning declarations (during the final track, she asserts to “Stop your pissing in the wind”). Her wit is very sharp and it bites back with cunning rhetoric.
This release is relatively short, with nine songs that top out at thirty minutes. Every song is its own pathway to an individual landscape. The song that makes the album is the opener, “The Look You Gave.” It’s an overwhelming movement towards a sullen peak with a piercing harmonica bridge that waters your eyes and recalibrates your ears, giving you a sense of victory at the last note.
Like anything that comes out on Flightless, the mix is art form. It’s perfectly vintage, complete with a thin air that contends throughout the album. This is not an annoying air, which is very hard to pull off. Each track is held down with rhythmic strums from Cummings’ acoustic guitar. The vocals take up all excess space, with the airy hiss creating an ambience and rounding out the sound. At times, songs will enter passages that begin with this orchestral lead that adds a whole other sense to the picture that the lyrics paint.
An album like this proves Flightless has a virtuous ear and can handle a wide catalogue of varying subjects. It is a label that makes artists out of people. They clearly have great scouting abilities and don’t shy away from risk. They’re determined to put themselves on the map by showcasing the abundance of local talent. It’s worked all this way and it’s only showing signs of progress. Flightless records are a sure thing when it comes to good music. Whatever Flightless and Grace Cummings have cued up next is sure to catch the ever-passing fancy of one who seeks the secrets from the land down under.