Martha Scanlan The West Was Burning
Sugar Hill Records
Any discussion of this one-time Missoula resident turned Nashville starlet begins with her distinctly delicate vibrato. Reed thin and dangerously fragile, Scanlan’s voice is the perfect vehicle for her evocative lyrics of love and loss. That voice comes through best on the achingly spare “Up On The Divide,” when, accompanied by nothing more than a six-string guitar, she sings, “The grave on the hillside is long overgrown / Been 22 years since I gathered the stones / Twenty-two more years since I made her my bride / And the springtime’s a-coming up on the divide.”
“Up On The Divide” is one of seven tracks the award-winning songwriter penned for The West Was Burning. The remainder of her solo debut is a collection of intriguing departures, from an electrified cover of James Cleveland’s “Get Right Church” to a lazily sprawling version of Bob Dylan’s “Went To See The Gypsy.” Backup musicianship from Levon and Amy Helm and producer Dirk Powell only add to a mix that’s vaguely reminiscent of Scanlan’s work with Reeltime Travelers, but an entirely more varied animal.
The one reliable constant, however, is her unmistakable pipes. And as long as they remain at the forefront, Scanlan’s fans will not be disappointed. (Skylar Browning)
Martha Scanlan plays The Other Side Thursday, June 14, at 9 PM. $8.