The newest addition to the every burgeoning Bella Union label, Holly Mcvae, has released her debut record Golden Eagle, and deserves the plaudits she is sure to receive.
The opening track, ‘White Bridge’, sets the tone for the record. The sparse instrumentation (Mcvae is accompanied by a softly plucked guitar) is designed to highlight Mcvae’s voice-and what a voice it is. It is a languid affair, but this is to the record’s credit. As Mcvae sings ‘I’ll never be the same again’, it is easy to believe her. Mcvae has a certain quality to her voice which creates an aura of realness. It is very much in the same vein as one of North America’s premier songwriters, Sharon Van Etten, who transmits truth and honesty through her lyrics and delivery.
This honesty carries itself through the record. ‘The Corner of my Mind’ carries on in much the same way ‘White Bridge’ ends, although there is a sonic shift with ‘Heartbreak Blues’. Discerningly, despite the title, the track has a rather jaunty feel to it, and is very much Parton-esque in its delivery. Tinged with the sounds of Nashville, Mcvae has the ability to pull it off without falling into pastiche, and it is easy to see country singers queuing up to cover this in bars across the USA. The refrain; ‘Every single road that you choose/is going to end up at the Heartbreak blues’ lends itself to be repeated back at Mcvae when performed live.
The rest of Golden Eagle never really deviates much from the emphasis placed on the quality of Mcvae’s voice, although when Mcvae can sing as well as this, it is no wonder producer Paul Gregory (from fellow label-mates Lanterns on the Lake) has placed her front and centre. This is a record that could have been released at any point in the past 40 years, and should see Mcvae heralded as one of the leading lights in alternative country singers.