Don’t Write Love Songs, the debut album by Oklahoma based artist Kierston White, is a stunning, fully realized, remarkably confident, tour de force. White’s masterful interpretation of American Roots music transcends the genre and becomes something wholly unique and exquisite. I’ve had this record on constant rotation since it’s release and I can affirm to one and all that Don’t Write Love Songs is, most assuredly, Essential Listening.
The album’s centerpiece is White’s gorgeous, inviting, vocals. Rarely, have I heard a singer with a voice that simultaneously channels such vulnerability and resolve, strength and catharsis. My friend who listened to the album told me White’s voice reminds her of a fine scotch, smooth and rich but with edge and a bit of bite. I fully agree (and wish I had thought of the analogy). White uses her voice to great effect by singing her songs just a bit behind the beat, creating a heightened sense of urgency and intimacy. Ms. White is a young lady but she sings with an authority and maturity well beyond her years.
“Alcohol” is the excellent first track on the album and lead single. It’s a song about the questionable decisions we make and will continue to make; as long as there is a friendly face behind the bar willing to serve us another round. “Big Star” is a terrific, upbeat, vaguely Irish sounding tune, with band member Elizabeth Forsythe playing some of the finest fiddle I’ve heard. “Big Star” is reminiscent of the acoustic, joyful, songs that Chuck Ragan does so well. Mid-tempo,country-song “Warren” has one of my favorite lyrics on the record:
I do consider myself a good person even in your bad situations/ And I do love you with the strength of a curse through my best and your worst intentions.
My favorite track “Ride On” is a mournful ballad of loss and struggle with a haunting chorus. It’s the only track on the album where White loses the defiance and resolve and instead sings with resignation and anguished weariness for most of the song. Yet when White hits that last chorus she sings with such conviction, such yearning, as if she is trying to undo the mistakes of the past with the very power and resoluteness of her voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if she succeeded. “Ride On” is a chilling and brilliant song.
The production by Samantha Crain on Don’t Write Love Songs is flawless, creating the feeling of White and her band mates performing live in your living room for your very own private house show. Whether conjuring a sense of sitting by a fireplace in a mountain cabin as the snow piles up outside, or strolling the French Quarter after a summer rain, there is a sense of warmth and bittersweet intimacy that permeates and radiates from Don’t Write Love Songs. The subtle melodies of the songs reward repeated listens but White’s voice captivates immediately. I highly recommend Ms. White’s excellent debut. Don’t Write Love Songs may very well be my favorite album of 2014 and is Essential Listening.