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Though only 22, this New York City-raised (and now again based, after living in San Francisco for most of her teen years) singer/songwriter has already released three LPs and two EPs. Having written music since she was eight, composing for and performing in Anton Chekhov plays at eleven, and mastering ukulele, guitar, piano, and bass — the latter she learned to play “flipped” on her lap, due to a broken right wrist; see the video for “Dear Lord” — her beguiling 2015 debut Lucille was recorded when she was 14. On her two subsequent albums, 2016’s The Hollows Hold the Healing and 2020’s Leave Me Be, her already alluring, wide-ranging voice became more robust, articulate, and haunting, as evidenced on provocative and entrancing Leave singles “Grown Bones,” “Half of It,” and “The Dead.” That said, her new single “Stranger,” which Blue wrote in 2018 while on tour in the Midwest, is more in the vein of the hushed, Nick Drake-like folk displayed on her 2021 Not Yet EP and its delicate, Lily & Madeleine/Lindsay Clark/Amy Bezunartea-evoking single “Simple Song.” But along with Blue’s delicately strummed acoustic, Damon Daunno’s lightly-shaded lap steel and Saskia Lane’s softly-picked upright bass give “Stranger” a rustic, down home alt-country/Americana feel.
While the more intense aspects of Blue’s delivery are tempered — she’s not growling like a possessed shaman as on “Grown Bones,” for example — her soulful, introspective voice is still unearthly and captivating, again making you want to drop everything and pay attention. She also sounds heartfelt and reassuring, with a honeyed, vivacious lilt that conjures Alison Krauss, MaryLeigh Roohan, Linda Draper, and The Loose Salute’s Lisa Billson. Describing the subject matter of “Stranger” on her Bandcamp page, Blue says: “[T]he song has begun to echo many of my feelings navigating my experiences as a queer human being. Looking back on many of the lyrics, I can feel the ways in which I as a seventeen-year-old was navigating the hidden aspects of my sexuality and craving a space — or in the case of the song, a stranger — to express them to.” Despite such a personal, specific explanation, the song’s themes are universal and relatable, regardless of age, gender, or sexual preference. When Blue sings the lines “I’ll never tell you my name, you wanna know why?/‘Cause our names were picked by others/And those names can carry lies,” she’s expressing a commonly shared desire to confide in someone who won’t judge based on ingrained or preconceived notions, which can be harder to dislodge with those you are close or familiar with. But however you choose to interpret the song, “Stranger” has a timeless and spiritual aura that demands repeat listens.