Heartbreak on the River Bank with Margo Cilker
Artist: Margo Cilker
Sub-Genres: #indiefolk #americana
Label: Fluff and Gravy Records
Non-Airable Tracks: Brother Taxman Preacher, That River
A message to snarky Tinder bios everywhere: saying that you like all music except country doesn’t make you interesting. It also means that you’re missing out on a wealth of brilliant and talented new artists in the genre, like Margo Cilker.
Margo Cilker is an Oregon-based singer/songwriter who is making her debut with the recently-released Pohorylle: a soulful and bittersweet love letter to rural America and its musical traditions.
Already, Cilker has established a distinctive and intoxicating sound. Cilker performs the opening lyrics of That River with a folksy wavering in her voice, the vocals ebbing out of her like a tide. She draws out her words and lingers on them until you feel their full weight. And it’s a hefty weight, owing to Cilker’s delicately constructed lyrics. This is the kind of album that requires close listening, because the lyrics provide a narrative and nuance that can be lost otherwise. In Flood Plain, she mournfully drawls “And I’m sorry I hold you tighter / Than I ever held myself.” In Broken Arm in Oregon, a woman recovers from an assault and “Now every room she sleeps in / She’s gotta map out her escape plan / Imagine all those hours devoted to bigger things.” Reading through the album’s Genius page is one emotional gut-punch after another.
Despite the often heartbreaking content of the lyrics, this is not a cheerless album. Slow, sentimental tracks are tempered with more upbeat, ragtime sounds, as evidenced by the track Kevin Johnson and Cilker’s single Tehachapi. Tehachapi is likely the best song on the album, providing jaunty piano accompaniment and an incredible jazzy brass interlude in the middle.
As much as the piano shines, the violins are the real star of this record. The violins give the entire album a haunting, pastoral, and distinctly Americana feel. Without them, the album wouldn’t have the same sense of scope and dramatism.
Cilker pulls from a variety of folk influences from across America, from New Orleans jazz to more traditional Southwestern country. All these influences combine to make an album that breaks your heart as much as it lifts you up, and makes for a stellar debut by Cilker.
Brother Taxman Preacher
Reviewer’s Name: John Konrad
Date of Review: 11/30/2021