Sally Barker and Vicki Genfan – In the Shadow of a Small Mountain

Album Review | Small Mountain | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

This album grew out of a fifteen friendship between singer songwriter Sally Barker and American Vicki Genfan.  In a melding of old and new the material was written in a summertime Appalachian cabin, the title suggesting the extent towards a sense of place informed the writing.  The songs were then finessed via transatlantic Skype sessions and recorded in snowy New Jersey studios.  In the Shadow of a Small Mountain is forged in a meeting of technologies and the acoustic traditions of both sides of the Atlantic.  This is very definitely an album about connections and synchronicity with the guitars and voices of Sally and Vicki blending together perfectly.  “Hopes Songs Dreams” although a joint composition grew out of Sally’s Skype explanation of who Sandy Denny was, with the explanation becoming the song.  Sally’s pure vocal, echoed by Vicki’s and wonderful guitar from both opens the album.  “Holding On” is another perfect blending of two strong singers, but listen out for Vicki’s gospel vamps in the middle.  The interplay between two fine guitar players is also very evident on tracks like “Feels Like Flying” and “Little Red Box”.  “Little Red Box” is a slight melancholic anthem for the lost red phone box and all of those stolen moments spent inside.  Barker does regret and loss so very well, building an atmosphere and looking back into her own life.  “Something Blue” has a wonderful blues shuffle feel, languid brush work on the drums, jazzy guitar and perfect vocals that drip with emotion.  “Moonshine” is filled with the imagery of illicit hooch, over some very cosmic, spry guitar, lovely slide and banjo add to the Americana feel.  Fine interplay between the two vocalists too, especially on the vocalise vamp that closes the track.  Just when you think you have the whole album figured out, African percussion, what sounds like a thumb piano and a low whistle stretches the envelope, building a very different atmosphere.  Andrew Finn Magill’s whistle and Vicki’s bass at the end build a wonderful Celtic groove that Davy Spillane would have been proud of.  This is a wonderful album, the music is intimate and inviting.  The two musicians so connected that while the styles are sometimes different they blend into a beautiful whole, the groove on tracks like “Weekday Harvest” is infectious.  Americana, Country Folk and Jazz are all in the blend, this is feel good acoustic music with a bounce that will leave you with a smile.