Fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Sarah Louise’s new Deeper Woods is a love letter to the natural world | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Sarah Louise’s new Deeper Woods is a love letter to the natural world 

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click to enlarge Sarah Louise

Sarah Louise

Claire Learned

Fingerstyle guitar is a peculiar thing—it’s a practice that often sucks its practitioners into a rabbit hole at the expense of other approaches. That’s certainly not the case with Sarah Louise (née Sarah Louise Henson), the North Carolinian who made her mark with a couple of dazzling solo instrumental albums before demonstrating a larger sonic palette with her Appalachian-flavored folk duo House & Land. Last month she pivoted even more dramatically on her new album, Deeper Woods (Thrill Jockey), a thoughtful, often psychedelic meditation on nature, particularly the verdant hills of her native Asheville. She sings on every song, and though she plays her usual 12-string acoustic guitar on most of the album’s seven original pieces, the music is much more dense than her previous material, often taking a swirling ensemble-oriented approach: closer “Fire Pink and Milkweed” features just her overdubbed voice, but elsewhere she adds electric guitar, electric piano, recorder, and synthesizer and is joined by several regular collaborators including fiddler Sally Anne Morgan (of House & Land), drummer Thom Nguyen, and cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt. On Deeper Woods her incantations delve into the mysterious beauty of the rural spaces she resides in, embracing the names of flowers and plants like saxifrage, pinwheel moss, gentian, and primrose as much for their sound as for the splendor they represent, and extolling nature’s balmlike qualities (“On Nights When I Can’t Sleep” she sings of climbing a white oak tree, which brings her a sense of peace). Several songs reflect on the boundaries between human civilization and the untouched wild; “The Field That Touches My House and Yours” turns the notion of property rights on its head, while “Up on the Ridge” posits that being one with the natural world might just be the most profound kind of love.   v

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