Letitia VanSant – Circadian

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins

Twenty Eighteen’s Gut it to the Studs was a sweet triumph. Letitia VanSant’s songs and performance of Folk Country made it a collection of bright upbeat wonder. Circadian, if it truly is cyclical, comes from a darker phase in that cycle. The voice continues to be a delight, but it asks more questions and is a harder judge, over more angular, dirtier music. Much of this album seethes with that Johnny Cash edge. Don’t let Letitia’s vocal and picked guitar at the start of “You Can’t Put My Fire Out” fool you, her sweet delivery hides lyrics and imagery brimming with venom and power. By the end of the track her gospel roar and the electric guitar means the track burns like the most fired up Steve Earle.

“Tin Man” is a tender country song, peppered with some shockingly vivid imagery, beautifully delivered like a gothic Mary Gauthier. The voice is beautiful over Will Kimbrough’s taut electric guitar and Juan Solorzano’s aching slide. That mixture of tender and raw continues through “Something Real”. David McKindley-Ward’s vocals compliment VanSant and the backing of muscular guitar and drums against mandolin creates interest. “Most Of Our Dreams Don’t Come True” is a song about loss, struggle and a touch of spirituality, the eye of the hurricane. Letitia’s vocal is captivating and uplifting with a touch of longing over a musical psych country smoulder. “Spilt Milk” has that seething anthemic, Neil Young, slow tempo. The whole song crackles with self loathing and regret, laying everything bare in some dark lyrics. Letitia’s voice cracks, roars and croons in another breath-taking performance over a bonfire of guitar and languid drums. “Circadian” by comparison is a soothing lullaby, shuffle drums, sweet slide guitar and a pillow of sound. This is a song about quiet moments and the stuff you notice when you reflect, with Letitia celebrating and finding joy. The slow shuffle, the piano and VanSant’s vocal, over washes of guitar, forces you to chill. “The Hustle” is a warm but pragmatic reflection on the life of the small gig venue or musician, a breath of air after all those well-thumbed road songs. Letitia’s voice and the chorus give the song a spiritual or upbeat feel. “Driftwood” with distant chords in the background, like a wordless choir, is a bleak but spiritual song. The piano fits the church atmosphere perfectly, while VanSant’s vocal is chilling. “Rising Tide” is a final shout, a scream against the bitter side of material progress as Letitia struggles, waiting for the rising tide. There is bite and passion in her voice, matched by the electric guitar as she rages against money, business and her own failings.

Choice Track: You Can’t Put My Fire Out (NSV 497)