Madison Cunningham: Love, Loss, Remember (EP)

Are you tired of pop songs that just rotate the same four chords endlessly like they were programmed on a computer, which they probably were? Here’s your antidote. Six songs like A Fine Frenzy, or Sarah Jarosz singing languorous out-takes from Joni Mitchell’s classic Court and Spark jazz-folk album. Cunningham’s 2014 debut album had a Sara Groves/Carole King gospel pop feel: nice, but not astonishing. This time out, complex chords, chill-inducing strings, saxophone, and acoustic guitar and piano textures combine for a deeply satisfying listening experience, courtesy of a stellar band, including master percussionist Jay Bellerose (from too many T-Bone Burnett projects to mention), guitarist Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek), and guitarist Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman). Music runs in her blood; Cunningham’s father Scott leads and teaches worship music at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, but these songs are more slice-of-life than worship-oriented. The first three songs contemplate the aging process as it affects individuals, married couples, and generations respectively: “Time doesn’t wait for anybody. It just turns into the past,” she says while contemplating who she was “many girls ago.” The last three songs form a second trilogy about escaping the lonely prison in your mind instead of “wearing the stripes of the shutter shadows” there. Producer/engineer/pianist/bass player Tyler Chester deserves a Grammy for a crisp “you are there” immediacy that especially pays off on closing stomper “To Another Land.”

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Robert is a Sunday School teacher, music nerd, and acoustic guitar enthusiast. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife and three boys.

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