The COVID-19 pandemic created havoc for the Accidentals. The trio had to cancel roughly a year’s worth of gigs, workshops, festivals, and such, along with whatever revenue these would raise because of the disease’s impacts. On the positive side, this caused the group to slow down and work on their music and other related projects rather than tour. The indie-folk band transformed the attic of their shared house in Traverse City, Michigan, into a recording studio.
“During the Lockdown, we focused on the songs, the songwriting, and really had time to consider the production,” founding member Savannah Buist (lead vocals, electric bass, acoustic violin, electric violin) said in the press notes. “We’ve been super influenced by the artists we’ve toured with, and we’re really streamlining what our sound is now.” The other two associates are Katie Larson (harmony vocals, electric guitar, cello) and Michael Dause (harmony vocals, drums, electric guitar). The Accidentals, originally formed when the players were in high school, have toured extensively since their graduation in 2016 and have performed over 200 gigs a year. The trio have shared the stage with such noteworthy acts as Brandi Carlile, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Andrew Bird, and the Decemberists and performed string parts on albums by artists as different as K-Pop’s BTS and one-person jam band Keller Williams.
Buist became quite adept at using live-streaming technology, which brought her in contact with other musicians who sought her help and advice. This EP is the direct result. The five songs on Time Out – Session 1 are co-written by the Accidentals and notable folk artists they met over Zoom during the pandemic, including Kim Richey, Tom Paxton, Dar Williams, Maia Sharp, Mary Gauthier, and Jaimee Harris. The guest stars contribute to the songwriting but do not perform on the album.
Tracks such as “Anyway” (Tom Paxton) and “Wildfire” (Kim Richey) possess a formal beauty thanks in large part to Buist and Larson’s violin and cello duets. The songs set moods as much as tell stories. “Night Train” (Dar Williams) relies more on the vocals of the three band members, in addition to Larson’s acoustic guitar playing and Dause’s steady drumming, to tell its story of traveling and being on the road. “Might as Well Be Gold” is the most electric cut (Buist on electric bass, Larson and Dause on electric guitars), but the ode to being thankful is still somewhat subdued in its approach. They don’t shout “Hallelujah” at their good fortune but simply acknowledge their appreciation of how things seem to work out.
“All Shall Be Well” (Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris) is the simplest and quietest song. It features all three members on vocals and acoustic guitars. Its charms are honest, thanks to its basic foundation. As the track’s title suggests, the group looks forward to the future. “Change always comes / the world spins on,” they sing in harmony. Rather than dwell on the past, the folk trio have used the “time out” to work with others. They resolutely look forward to when things will be better with faith that this will be so.