Some artists live through their music. Ana Egge, on the other hand, has actually lived her music. Having grown up on a small farm in a remote region of North Dakota, she learned the ways of the world from a very specific point of view. Her parents were hippies who escaped the city to live off the land. Alfalfa sprouts and tofu were essentials. Shoes were not.
It’s little wonder then that secular sentiments and honest emotions are so instilled in her music. Seven albums on she’s at the peak of her form, a mature, emotive artist who sings ageless songs that sound tied to tradition even though they come across with a freshness and vitality that are immediately affecting. It’s a timeless quality few artists are able to muster, but Egge is clearly capable of purveying without any hint of doubt or self consciousness, After all, she has reason to be assured. Married, with a child, and a reputation that’s drawn the likes of Steve Earle (producer of her last album) and the Stray Birds (her collaborators on her latest) she writes music that’s both introspective and inviting, a rare combination and one that’s not always easy to achieve. In short, Ana Egge has come into her own.
There’s no better evidence of this than what is heard on Bright Shadow, an album so instantly engaging, it makes an immediate impression well before the final song fades away. It begins somewhat strikingly with the first track dubbed “Dreamer” — a simple bass line that evolves into an arrangement featuring only fiddle and Egge’s nocturnal croon. It’s as if she’s suddenly fancying herself as some cocktail lounge chanteuse, all murky sentiment and come hither advances. Yet that tact changes quickly, and by song number two, the rustic sounding “Flat Top Guitar”, she’s delving into absolute down home designs, a place she fits in with quite naturally, even though she sometimes shows her reticence to commit herself to it entirely.
Still for every song that appears tentative, meditative or contemplative — tracks like ”Jenny Run Away” and “Fifth of July” in particular, there are plenty more than tug at the roots with an expanse as vast as that North Dakota prairie where she was raised. She may reside in Brooklyn now, but the fact that she can cover “Wildflowers”, a Dolly Parton standard, and still sing it so convincingly goes back to the fact that having lived that lifestyle, she still covets it and conveys it in her sound. It’s admirable to say the least, especially when people are prone to compare you to Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith or Patty Griffin. But her ability to carry it off is what makes it particularly impressive. Especially when you can record a track like “Turning Away” and have it sound as if it’s been floating through the ether forever.
Ana Egge has yet to ascend to the top tier of the singer/songwriter elite but it’s not talent that’s holding her back. With Bright Shadow, her career is illuminated further indeed.