Laura Sumner delivers a strong debut in the EP Red Clay Blue Sky. The five-song collection is a rousing mix of contemplative lyrics and vibrant soundscapes. Fixing for a chance at building a bigger audience and finding a place for her music, I think it’s realistic to think that Sumner has herself a fighting chance at getting to the show – Red Clay Blue Sky is that good. Sumner, based in Connecticut, recorded the EP at New Jersey’s Sound In Sound Studios. She worked with Grammy-winner and songwriter/producer Marc Swersky.
The opening song, “Cowboy From Queens” quickly establishes Sumner as something special. At times her voice echoes the giddiness of young love, and in other moments, she’s a seasoned veteran of heartache and disappointment. Finding a way into both your heart and mind, “Cowboy From Queens” has a steady rhythm with a refined, but freeing flow. Drank my last wine, I don’t mind, she sings. Her heart is still with the guy that got away. I liked the gregariousness of the lyrics, the way Sumner puts the listener immediately to a time and place. Coming along for the ride in her ditty are an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, a bit of piano and an easy-going drum percussion.
The next two tracks are “Tides” and “Telling Georgia Goodbye”. I felt like these were almost a different artist from “Cowboy From Queens” because Sumner’s voice sounds so much different. She unravels a new layer – the quaintness in her vocal delivery is sturdier in “Tides”. It’s a song that has a bit more of an empowering feel to it, with a western-like steel guitar at the beginning. In “Telling Georgia Goodbye”, I loved how this song itself could make for an entire movie or TV series. She really brings to life characters in her songs. She sings, she’s sitting on her front porch in her nightgown. Later in the song she sings, when he knew this land like the palm of his hand. The tone of the song is Americana-roots, but it also feels strangely heartwarming and devastating all-at-once.
The last two tracks are “American Man” and “My Mother And Me”. “American Man”, a song that Sumner previously released as the first single, is also an emotional roller coaster. It’s sad and endearing. I loved how the acoustic guitar, though melodic and honey-dipped, is also calloused like the working man’s hands. I think she has that rare magic – the kind that Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and even Carole King have – the heartache in their voice is also so soft and loving you want to give them a hug. “My Mother And Me” leaves the listener with a mark of that love for sure. Beneath her voice is a rolling piano tone. Her vocals are a bit airier, but she doesn’t miss any steps in her songwriting and building up the drama. All in all, Red Clay Blue Sky is a success story for debut EPs. Laura Sumner has a voice of the people and her pulse on America’s heartbeat.
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