Preview Thousand Springs by Korby Lenker.
Thousand Springs by Korby Lenker
That storytelling and songwriting are inextricably linked goes without saying but there are few albums I’ve heard recently that have bound the two quite as tightly as this. For release on July 14, Thousand Springs by Korby Lenker is a collection of songs, often deeply reflective, but all beautifully crafted, accompanied sparingly and sung in his haunting memorable voice. The album feels like a musical continuation of the collection of his short stories, Medium Hero and other Stories.
The album’s creation is unusual. Having raised the money to record a new album through a crowdfunding campaign Lenker didn't go to a studio but equipped with his guitar and portable recording gear he headed to the mountains of his home state Idaho then a travelogue of other places; Austin, Boston, various hotel rooms, his father’s mortuary, a Nashville bookstore then finally a studio near where he lives in East Nashville to add the finishing touches.
Korby Lenker says he writes to find out properly what he’s thinking and if these songs are any guide, his thoughts are deep and varied. There is an edginess, an almost nervous feel to some, as if he’s not convinced his thoughts will make it through the song to create an impression on the listener. I hope I've got that wrong because the impression he created on me is of someone who is at complete ease with language and communication whether written, sung or played. Lenker wrote all the songs but he has had help from friends; Molly Tuttle, Amy Speace, Carrie Elkin, Nora Jane Struthers and Chris Eldridge.
The album splits into two broad categories; the voice and the guitar then the collaborations which tend to be more upbeat. All are good but if I had to choose a favourite, I’d go for a collaboration, ‘Book Nerd’. This is a delightful song that best combines Lenker’s literary and musical talents, inspired by and recorded in Nashville’s famous Parnassus Books. It trips along reeling off Lenker’s good taste in company both on and of the page. Of my other picks, the most haunting is perhaps the first track, ‘Northern Lights’ where Lenker’s singing and playing shimmer like the lights themselves. There is more than a touch of Daniel Lanois here.
‘Friend and a Friend’ could almost be a soliloquy as Lenker reflects on the need for friendship and its importance. When that happens you get the next track, ‘Nothing Really Matters’, another tightly arranged composition with some perfectly timed fiddle in the background. ‘Uh Oh’, as its name might suggest tells of how that companionship turns into something more, ‘uh oh, there goes my heart’.
As with the first track, ‘Stormy Seas’ feels like you're outside with Lenker and his portable recording kit. It is very atmospheric. ‘Love is the Only Song’ has Lenker on piano almost whispering the lyrics but to huge effect, a hallmark of the record. That intimacy intensifies on the final song, ‘Wherever You Are’, probably the record’s deepest that deals with a time of great emotional upheaval in his life.
A record of 12 songs, none longer than 4mins 40 may not seem a listen requiring much effort but to appreciate Thousand Springs, play it a few times as each one will reveal a little more until you begin to reach the core of what Lenker is thinking. It’s well worth the effort and to finish I recommend dipping into his website under ‘Dont Go Here’ to read extracts of his wonderful prose.