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Let’s be honest here: it’s difficult these days to make a so-called Americana record that stands out. That glossy blend of folk, country and rock – once so fresh due to its insistence on elevating the song over the sound – has entered the realm of well-intentioned homogeny, where imagination takes a back seat to adequately hitting the predictable marks. The best ways to raise one’s head over the edge of a deadly calm pond are to (a) forge a sonic identity that ripples through the water and (b) have really damn good songs.
With You’re Still Here, Sarah Rose Janko, leader of Bay Area combo Dawn Riding, can confidently put checks in both columns. Working with producer Alicia Vanden Heuvel, Janko and her band make a record that sounds utterly out of time, with a simple, stripped-down arrangement style that eschews production slickness for soul. With judiciously applied strokes of horns, pedal steel and feedback that never overwhelm the central performances, these tracks could have been recorded in the sixties as easily as yesterday (or tomorrow). Even better, Janko’s songs come from a deep place, searching both her inner and outer worlds for meaningful truths. Melodic and heartfelt, with zero interest in fitting into anyone’s conception of a scene, “All the Time,” “Hold On” and “Change in Tide” invite us in to sample their writer’s experiences, without insisting that hers is the only viewpoint that matters. You’re Still Here is a lovely, beautifully crafted album that showcases a compelling new voice in rootsy songsmithery.
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