TL;DR REVIEW: AIDED BY FLUTES, MANDOLINS, AND ALLITERATIVE REFRAINS THAT ENCOURAGE SINGING ALONG, LEAH SHOSHANAH'S A CHILD LIKE THIS DIGS DEEP INTO TRADITIONAL FOLK TO CREATE AN ALBUM THAT SOUNDS REFRESHINGLY ORIGINAL IN 2017. THROUGH HER UNBELIEVABLY ADAPTABLE VOICE, SHE SHIFTS TONES FREQUENTLY THROUGHOUT THE ALBUM BUT BALANCES FOLK MINIMALISM SO WELL.
Oftentimes modern folk albums are heavily influenced by the 1960's, as this was a heyday of acts such as Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Joni Mitchell. One can picture musicians sitting on stools, legs crossed, singing sweet harmonies over a lone acoustic instrument. This image so epitomizes folk music in my brain that I sometimes forget how far back the history of this genre goes. Aided by flutes, mandolins, and alliterative refrains that encourage singing along, Leah Shoshanah's A Child Like This digs deep into traditional folk to create an album that sounds refreshingly original in 2017.
This nostalgic influence is present on the subject matter of the album as well. According to Leah's website, "the title refers to the birth of an album as well as the content... The songs...explore childhood dreams, the meaning of animal totems, love, heartbreak, abortion, and summing up the courage to be stronger than you ever knew was possible." Even when singing about the innocence of childhood there is a melancholy to these songs. "I miss you my friend" she sings wistfully to herself as a child on the title track, "I'll always remember you."
Going beyond theme, this is an unbelievable display of music. As always, I have a few favorite moments to point out. The bridge of Dear Daughter that sounds like pure Sharon Van Etten, the achingly beautiful chorus to Oceanrider, the thoughtful guitar picking that introduces Skyhunter, and the stunning choral precision of the backing vocals on the chorus of Ai Ee Ai all stuck out to me. Shoshanah will typically invite a single instrument to emphasize her idea rather than hiding a bland melody behind a large backing ensemble. The pristine cello on the chorus of Somewhere In Africa is a perfect example of this.
Through her unbelievably adaptable voice, Leah Shoshanah shifts tones frequently throughout the album but balances folk minimalism so well. She wisely chooses to end with two tracks featuring no additional musicians or overdubs. "I fell in, I fell in love" she sings in an eerie tone. "I fell in love with the thought of you" she reveals. Nothing is simple in her messages or in her brilliantly written songs. Indeed this is an album that warrants repeat listens. Check it out on her website.