Call It My Garden
Carrie Elkin made her new album in the “brilliant and bright home” of her friend and fellow Austin musician Sam Baker. It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s encountered Elkin or Baker that the album begins with laughter and continues with a couple of upbeat songs that sound like a jam session. The joy that she clearly felt at making what she says is “the album I’ve always dreamed creating” is clear from beginning to end. And it’s a piece of work suffused with beauty, even when tackling sad topics.
Produced by another of Elkin’s friends, Colin Brooks from the Band of Heathens, the cast of musicians and backing singers reads like a who’s who of the Austin music scene. As well as Brooks on multiple guitars and vocals, Baker on vocals and Elkin’s partner Danny Schmidt on vocals and percussion, she’s called on artists including Raina Rose, Robby Hecht and AJ Roach.
Elkin wrote all the songs except for a cover of Dar Williams’ “Iowa”, a song Elkin has long been singing in her live set. The standout song is the achingly beautiful song of love and separation “Landeth By Sea”, but it’s hard to actually pick a standout in an album of consistently high quality. Many of the songs suggest the growth of a long-term relationship, the “garden” of the album title. Elkin also makes reference to her partner Schmidt as her “Man of Many Moons” – the title of his new album.
“Dear Sam” is Elkin’s tribute to Baker and his resilience and strength in the face of a terrorist bomb that left him critically injured and facing a long recovery. Sometimes I feel guilty for complaining about a thing, she admits. Baker himself sings harmony vocals.
Returning to the notion of a jam session, the final song “Edge of the World” was recorded in a single take and without rehearsal. It’s not hard to imagine the group of musicians sitting around in an Austin living room.
Carrie Elkin is one of the most exciting and complete songwriters in Austin today, and the power and beauty of her voice, plus the quality of the friends she surrounds herself with, make Call It My Garden arguably the best album of the year so far.
Carrie Elkin is on tour in the UK in April. See the gig guide for details.