Cinder Well merges traditional folk styles to transcend place and time on No Summer | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Cinder Well merges traditional folk styles to transcend place and time on No Summer 

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click to enlarge Cinder Well

Cinder Well

Jim Ghedi

Cinder Well is the brainchild of Ireland-based, California-bred singer and multi-instrumentalist Amelia Baker. As part of the Santa Cruz anarchist folk-punk scene, she’s previously played with dusky folk trio the Gembrokers and metal- and Klezmer-influenced collective Blackbird Raum, among others; in 2015 she launched Cinder Well as a solo outlet where she could collaborate with a shifting cast of musicians. By the time she released Cinder Well’s 2018 debut full-length, The Unconscious Echo, she’d developed a sound that draws from haunting traditional English, Irish, and American folk, using to explore themes of generational and historic trauma tied to white supremacy and fascism. Baker’s new record, No Summer, is steeped in American folk; it combines her reworkings of three traditional Appalachian songs with original material. Baker recorded No Summer in a converted church in Anacortes, Washington, with Nich Wilbur, joined only by violist and vocalist Marit Schmidt and violinist and vocalist Mae Kessler, and the combination of their bare-bones music and her striking vocals packs major emotional heft. She sets the tone for the album by opening with a take on the traditional “Wandering Boy,” an ode to wanderlust and homesickness; as she launches into her original piece “No Summer,” it’s clear that feelings of isolation, longing, and being torn between worlds and desires can transcend places and years. Despite its centuries-old roots, No Summer is absolutely a record of its time—and it’s easy to imagine its diaristic confessions and observations resonating with generations not yet born.   v

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