To pun or not to pun, that was the question before scribing any thoughts on the debut Annie Oakley album. Eventually, temptation caved in and reluctance not say that it hit the mark subsides. Adopting the name of an historic sharpshooting hero is a curious and smart move for this Oklahoma-based trio. Maybe there is some intentional gender association on the back of the Babb sisters (Sophia and Grace) teaming up with third member Nia Personette to offer a delectable take on harmonious indie-folk. WORDS WE MEAN had its world bow on October 12 with a release on Horton Records and hence a focus on the UK market via the good guys at At the Helm. The social media age abbreviation RIYL denoting association can often raise eyebrows on press releases and assorted blurb, but stating artists such as The Wailin Jennys, The Staves, First Aid Kit and in more left field, The Milk Carton Kids is generally travelling down the right highway.
Admittedly, this album has had a stop start existence in these quarters. Initial promise from the early single ‘Did You Dream’, did not transmit to the first couple of album spins. Even as the luscious sound and wispy tendencies took hold to move the release out of the potential into the review pile, the omission of a killer track keeps the album in check. Ultimately, keeping the reins on any hype surrounding Annie Oakley.
However, the potential for the trio to develop is limitless and the sublime hand at their disposal is likely to evolve in a fulfilling direction. The sweet and silky harmonies act as the redeeming feature alongside a lo-fi sound that drips into your subconscious in mesmeric portions. The acoustic vibes come courtesy of some delicate banjo and fiddle, while the injection of the electric guitar provides the indie tinge, most prominent in the midway track ‘Into the Light’.
Apart from the aforementioned single, the most appealing song on the record exists in the opening position with ‘Pomp and Swell’ soaring above its counterparts in the melody stakes. As the album gently floats through its forty-five minute duration, further high spots emerge in tracks such as ‘Brother’, ‘If I Were a Ghost’ and ‘Nothing to Say’. ‘Sweet Time’ also does a neat job in signing off the record and sealing the potential of where next.
There are probably some clichéd inner thoughts about Oklahoma music in my mind. This stems from exposure to grittier earthy artists such as Carter Sampson, John Moreland, John Fullbright and Parker Millsap. The sound of Annie Oakley could not be further from this style, even to the extent that you could envisage listening to a folk trio from the urban northeast (NYC rather than Tyne and Wear!).
So with any association with dusty twang dismissed, it is over to the precious tender moments and subtle gear shifts that mark out WORDS WE MEAN as an album to mark the card of an up and coming act. Once studies are out the way, Annie Oakley intend to step up their music activity on a grander scale. Adding some muscle and a couple of killer tracks will boost their presence and we might just be well seeing the beginning of something special.