Observant in self-exploration, the mellow rockers' sixth album is driven by slow-burning beauty.
In 2020, after recording Plum in the verdant Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas made their return to the city. Having lived there for a handful of years, their home on the Hudson River at the foot of the Catskills was a fitting place to write and produce a record tender with symbolism of regrowth, nourishment, physical touch and toil.
But however much of a muse the area was for these mellow folk rockers — as it has been for many others before them, long before it hosted Woodstock festival over half a century ago — immersing themselves back into the chaos and community of New York City was a return to action, rediscovering the energy that formed Widowspeak in the first place.
The Jacket, Widowspeak’s sixth studio album, is the product of this energy, though the duo still amble contently at their own slow-burning pace. “Watch the world, it’s just turning on”, Hamilton sings on the gorgeously reflective opener ‘While You Wait’. “Someone left the lights burning all night/ Someone was up, working in the quiet/ And now it’s broken by their morning song”. Here both the early workings of the city and the exhaustion of those who dwell in it are caught as if on a morning walk to a coffee shop.
But the record isn’t so much a city album; at times there’s a whiff of country rock and blues in Earl’s guitars, particularly on the sweltering title track and in the deep booms of ‘Everything Is Simple’, whilst on ‘Salt’ there’s a cool breeze of the 60s West Coast. We are told that it was originally intended as a concept album based on the lifecycle of a fictitious band, one of those “country western, art rock, ye-ye cover bands that populate the street’s bars after dark”, probably as a way of vignetting Hamilton’s deeply pensive and astute writing style.
And yet, it’s exactly this that stands on its own on The Jacket as it did on Plum, questioning the wider implications of life as it happens, both as a band twelve years down the line and as individuals who continue to work and observe and aspire.
The Jacket is out now via Captured Tracks. Read more Discover reviews here.