Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hilary Scott: “Freight Train Love” (2014) CD Review

In December of last year, Hilary Scott released a four-song EP on vinyl. Titled Flowers On Mars, this record gained her an award from the Rural Roots Music Commission of the National Traditional Country Music Association. Three of those songs appear on her new full-length CD release, Freight Train Love. On this album, Hilary Scott combines country, rock, folk and pop to create a wonderful and diverse collection of songs. This singer/songwriter has a voice rich with emotion and power. This CD also showcases her songwriting ability, for she wrote or co-wrote the majority of the tracks. There are just three covers, two of which were written by Kevin Fisher, including “If You Don’t Love Me,” a country duet he performs with her.

Hilary Scott has gathered a seriously good group of musicians for this release, including Mike Finnigan on piano and organ. If his name isn’t familiar to you, you’ll certainly recognize the names of some of the people he’s played with over the years: Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, for example. And Bob Glaub is on bass. He’s played with Leonard Cohen (he did that bass intro to “Closing Time”), Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond, among others.

The title track, “Freight Train Love,” opens with a good groove, with a slight reggae thing happening. I love it, but it’s the song’s first lines, “I’ve got a head full of nothing/Since I’ve got a heart full of you,” that grab me. What a perfect description of an intense, consuming passion. It’s an excellent song about being under someone else’s power, and has a sweet vibe. And I love the lead part on keys by Mike Finnigan.

“Help” is one of the songs that was included on her 2013 vinyl release, though a different version from that which is included here. It features some good lyrics, like these lines: “When you look at me like I am a stranger/You should know I feel the same about myself.” There are some pop elements to this song, and her vocals remind me of Dar Williams at moments.

My favorite track is “Diamonds,” which Hilary Scott co-wrote with Michael ONeill. It’s beautiful and moving. It opens with a sweet and kind of quiet intensity, with these lines: “Sometimes we don’t really want to be known/All these mistakes we collect as we go/Misdirection’s taken me too far/That’s who we’ve been, it is not who we are.” It then builds a bit, but retains that gorgeous groove. This is the song that really made me fall for this album, and for this singer/songwriter.

“Whiskey Bottle Dry” is another favorite of mine, partly due to this line: “You’ve been messin’ around more than I’ve been drinking.” I love these beautiful, sad songs about relationships in trouble. “How am I going to sleep when the whiskey bottle’s dry/What I’m going to see if I close my eyes.” The song builds in intensity, as if the power of her voice might save things, might make everything better. And for a moment I believe it will.

Hilary Scott does a cover of “Lotta Love,” a song written by Neil Young that was a hit for Nicolette Larson in 1978. Hilary's version is good; her vocals are so smooth, over that simple beat.

Freight Train Love ends with “Didn't Make It Alive,” a kick-ass country rock tune with some surprising lyrics about a man heading for trouble, and the woman seeming to want it to happen. After all, she sings, “Don't want to see your name in lights/Just on a cross by the side of the road.” Wow. And it’s delivered with a sense of humor. This is an unusual song wrapped in the clothing of a typical country rock bar song. “There was a time I thought I loved you/But I was drinking then.” How’s that for a great country rock line?

CD Track List

  1. Freight Train Love
  2. Help
  3. Get Your Love
  4. Diamonds
  5. Losing You
  6. Flowers On Mars
  7. Whiskey Bottle Dry
  8. If You Don’t Love Me
  9. Lotta Love
  10. Didn’t Make It Alive

Freight Train Love is scheduled to be released on November 4, 2014 on Belltown Records.

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