Album Review

Louise Mosrie - Lay It Down

 - Error

Balancing personal landscapes with historical reflections

At the dawn of the 21st Century, Mosrie released a couple of acoustic pop recordings, then in 2004 relocated to Nashville and set about refocusing her approach to songwriting. Between 2009 and 2011, success came her way in festival song contests at Kerrville, Wildflower, Telluride, and Falcon Ridge. Early 2010 witnessed the release of Mosrie's rootsy collection Home. Peaking at #1 on the Folk DJ chart, the album consolidated her standing as a touring acoustic folk/country musician on the rise. Mosrie’s life journey has, however, been somewhat rocky of late with fifteen years of marriage ending and her English-born mother succumbing to a brain tumour. Maybe the maxim is, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  

Where Home was a band production featuring a coterie of well-known Nashville studio musicians, Lay It Down is, relatively speaking, sonically stripped bare. Produced by singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt and recorded in his Williamsburg, MA home, the gatefold card liner credits him with playing numerous instruments – acoustic guitar, dobro, steel guitar, high string guitar, classical guitar, bass, piano, organ, drums, midi string, and percussion. In truth, the foregoing are subtly embedded way in the backdrop of this 10-song collection, such that they don’t intrude but certainly enhance. Concurrently, located centre stage throughout, Mosrie’s voice and acoustic guitar deliver the songs exactly in the form they arrived in this world. While not a unique approach, here it works extremely well.

Over the past couple of years, the pair have regularly toured together, and Eberhart's exposure to Mosrie's songs in a live situation goes a long way to explaining how he evolved his production approach.

A love song, album opener “I’ll Take You In” delivers an unconditional invitation. The uplifting “Singing My Heart Out” bids the listener to rise above life’s many tribulations. Founded on a similar premise, “Lay It Down” proposes that we bury our problems rather than wrestle with them interminably. Narrated by a farmer’s daughter,

“Leave Your Gun” is set in what she describes as “the valley of death.” After the American Civil War encroaches upon her parent’s Tennessee land, the family dig a shallow grave, say a prayer, erect a wooden cross, and bury a dead Union soldier. Reflecting further upon the futility of war, the narrator closes with the repeated and heartfelt lyric: "go on to heaven.” It recals a young brother who “fought alongside those Southern men / Caught a bullet in the gut / Laid up three days in my bed / And mamma cried out loud when he shivered hard at the end.”

Co-written with Eberhard, “Wish” is a love ode propelled by an undercurrent of desire. “Baker Hotel 1929” recalls the opening, in November that year, of a luxury hotel that catered for the rich clientele who came to Mineral Wells, TX, to take "the healing waters." The ghost of “young Virginia,” the farm girl who took a job cleaning rooms and dreamt of “dancing in the courtyard at dusk,” still paces the corridors looking for the love she lost. Set in Tennessee, “Daffodils” is a bittersweet love song to Mosrie’s late mother.

The historically-based “When Cotton Was King” namechecks Eli Whitney (b. 1765 d. 1825), inventor of the cotton gin. For the already rich plantation owners, the economic impact of the gin in the American South was that it made them even richer, and sustained their argument for retaining large numbers of slaves. The penultimate selection “Holding My Breath” is a cold winter tale as well as a reflection upon lost love. Exploring another facet of the events referenced in “Daffodil,” it’s followed by the achingly heartfelt “Land of the Living.”

Brought to you from the desk of the Folk Villager.