Banjo-wielding multi-instrumentalist Kendl Winter's second release on Olympia's K Records is rich and earthy, drawing its subtle strength and strong storytelling from a love of the Pacific Northwest. The same region specific details that tied her first full-length with the label (2010's Apple Core) to the Puget Sound are present here as well--there it was banana slugs, here it's chanterelles, Doug Firs, and crows--but these 13 tender tracks have evolved in style.
On Apple Core, that album's strained yodeling and psuedo-bluegrass orientation gets cashed in for a rootsy, raspy vocal register (at times like Basia Bulat, or some high-and-lonesome cowgirl), accompanied by light accents of psychedelic banjo and a charmingly jangled string sound that, like the hummingbird Winter references in the album's title, hovers delicately between indie folk and Appalachian mountain music.
Songs run the range from slow-sweeping ballads ("Summertime") to jumpy toe-steppers ("Quit your Job Joe"), and while I rarely jive with all the flowering praise a press release would like one to believe, I leave you with this [truncated] write-up that sums up the artist and album in true, natural light:
A traveler, a dreamer, a banjo player, Kendl sprouts alfalfa beans in mason jars in the back of her tour van and counts the days until she returns home to her house boat to write songs on her banjo through the rainy afternoons. Growing out of her previous release, Apple Core, some songs on The Mechanics of Hovering Flight are folk. Some are bluegrass. Some smack a bit more of country, with twangy guitar and foot-stomping rhythm, but somehow Kendl has created an album that is one moving piece, that tells a story between the liner notes. Perhaps it is her voice...perhaps it's her pure dedication to writing the perfect song that serves her so well--to write a song that plays to the seasons, to the harvest, and speaks to the truth about life. About love. About the simple love of a singer and her banjo. In line with her organic vision, Kendl invited her friends to record and sing on many tracks. Their joy and spirit of community are palpable, even in the darker songs of the album. But it is Kendl who is storyteller, who takes the listener by the ears and holds them, captivated, until she is finished.