On Sara Syms’ new album, Way Back Home, the Nashville based singer-songwriter creates a rich lyrical and musical landscape onto which she explores and evokes the complex concept of “home”.
Way Back Home was recorded in Brooklyn where Syms lived before moving to Nashville, and it was produced by Chris Cubeta and Nick Africano who both provide vocals and instrumentation to the project.
The album has a definite autumnal feel to it, there is a relaxed, comfortable mood evident in music from the opening notes of the first and title track. Syms’ smoky, earthy voice contributes to the feeling of crisp air and colorful leaves and long drives to get back to a place or person or an idea.
On the title track, Syms sings, “when the days are long (so long) and the night so cold (feel a shiver)/ lie inside all those memories in your arms/thinking of you to find my way back home.” The words, Syms’ vocals, and the music paint a very familiar picture of being far away from “home”. The song is effective no matter how one considers the concept of home. A child spending a first night away from their house and family, a young person living in another city or state, or someone who feels separated from their own emotional/spiritual center - the song speaks to all of those and more.
“Running Away from Me” speaks to the latter concept of being far from home. The music is more upbeat but maintains the casual, hazy mood. “Sometimes it feels my life is running away from me” speaks to life in the early part of the 21st Century and the idea of excessive busyness that tries and fails to fill up one’s life. The song ends up being at least somewhat hopeful with words like “wish upon whatever star” and “promise take good care of me” offering solace if no clear cut answers to “life’s revolving door”.
The album strikes a delicate balance between offering a diverse collection of songs while maintaining a unified feel throughout. One highlight of the album is Syms’ bold reworking of the classic and often covered Robert Johnson song, “Crossroads”. Syms imaginatively remakes the song to fit squarely within the framework of the album while necessarily and successfully maintaining the core of the legendary song. The track that follows - kind of a companion piece - “Land Where the Blues Began” - masterfully paints a gorgeous picture of a scene of loss and letting go of painful memories.
The album closes with “In Time”. It is a slow, down beat song that utilizes a pedal steel to bring to mind heartbreak while the lyrics return to a feeling of loss and disconnection from self and purpose before leaving the listener still on that long road home, but with the optimistic line “I’ll find my way in time” echoing like an affirmation.
Way Back Home is out now and available through most of the usual sites.