A soft, plaintive voice croons, “I been running all my life, I’m still running,” and you picture the open dusty road, wooden rocking chairs on porches in the midday sun, and a beat up American flag. Naturally the song is performed by four girls from East Vancouver. Even with that geographic background, Po’Girl has deep roots in folk and country. Trisha Klein is a member of the alt-group group Be Good Tanyas, while Allison Russell and Diona Davies have backgrounds in diverse genres such as jazz, samba, funk and bluegrass. The album Home to You is a collective effort from the band, featuring songs written by each member, and is a follow up to 2004’s Vagabond Lullabies.
Employing mainly acoustic guitars, with the occasional clarinet or banjo thrown in, Po’girl makes folk music that has been favorably compared to Tracy Chapman or Natalie Merchant. Their music is light and airy and not altogether memorable, but it leaves the listener with a pleasant feeling that lasts.
The album begins with Trish Klein singing about the road and running. Her voice is graceful and soothing, slowly drawing out the words, “I’m still hopin’.” It is a perfect complement to the subdued music. It represents a running theme through the entire album, and thus sets the tone for the rest of the songs. The idea of being on the road that the song brings out is a reflection of the fact that the band has toured for most of the past two years.
Unquestionably the album’s best song is the third, “‘Til It’s Gone”, a folk spiritual of sorts. Allison Russell’s gravely, deep vocals lend the track an air of gravity, while the lonely clarinet in the background creates a feeling of deep desolation. And lyrics such as “God bless this beautiful morning ‘til it’s gone” give credence to the tempered hope that the songs brings out. Russell also shines on “To the Angry Evangelist”, where she uses her voice cuttingly, indicting through song the poor soul that has wronged her. Lyrics like “I’m sick of someday soon things will be better / that creed kept slaves, slaves of my ancestors” seem clunky on the page, but Russell manages to pull them off.
Although there is definitely a folksy, rustic mood to the album, there is enough variety to sustain interest. The variety comes forth in part from the fact that there are multiple vocalists. Russell and Klein do most of the singing, but everyone else in the band is given a chance as well. “Drive All Night” is distinctly country due to Awna Teixeria’s deep drawl, but has a bouncy, pop feel too. “9 Hours to Go” features the guest appearance of rapper C.R. Avery, which makes the song feel more modern.
Alt-country, Americana, folk rock: whatever you want to call what these girls sing, the music is sweet, serene, and beautiful. The album sounds like one of those lazy summer afternoons that seems to stretch to forever. While it is nothing revolutionary and not something you will remember for the rest of your life, Home to You is an enjoyable experience.
// Notes from the Road
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