One of the most infallibly rich, sweet and moving voices on the planet has got to belong to Claire Campbell of Athens, Ga.-based Hope For Agoldensummer. Campbell sings low and sometimes sleepy, but her vocal is free of rasp. And, for all of its lush darkness, there are tones of light and easy sweeps into her upper register. It’s there that Campbell makes pulses race and memories collide with immediacy. And when her voice combines with the falsetto of her younger sister, Page Campbell, Hope For Agoldensummer is in full effect.
Claire is not just an astonishing singer, but a brave musician whose experiments (bowed guitar, singing saw, ankle bells…) often turn up great results. According to her bio, “she once scored a Nick Nolte film called Off the Black” — truly, Claire’s compositions should be on film. The songs are so nuanced, so thoughtful, so emotive and cinematic. “Be Free” is among the most pop-savvy on the band’s upcoming (Tuesday, May 1) release, Life Inside The Body — iit opens with moody strumming and the breathless question, “If you lost me tonight, do you know where I’d be?” The music aches and sighs and stretches into its own ringing chasm of longing like those catchy ’90s pre-dream-pop hits by Everything But The Girl. But Claire Campbell (and I’m theorizing here) has never been willing to be the radio darling that Tracey Thorn became. Instead, she’s been a purple-haired, roller-skating, Athens townie vegan (I made that up, but it could be true) artist — in the best sense.
A favorite track for me is “Daniel Bloom.” It’s a carryover from Claire’s earlier band, Claire and Baine’s Maple Yum Yum. Here, it’s rewritten as an Americana slow-burn. This could be vintage Emmylou and Townes. Guitars weep. It’s barely recognizable as its first iteration but for the line, “Daniel won’t you come by my school, I want to educate you,” sung in a Margo Timmins hush. That notion has only ripened over the past decade.
There are tracks — “Cold, cold bed” and “Come back” — that are a cappella. The Campbell sisters shape their voices around space, somewhere between Appalachian ballads and something else. Something that just comes from being sisters and singing together out of childhood, through long car rides and into a career on stages and in concert halls.
The 16 tracks of Life Inside The Body are mostly short. Poignant “Fix this” is under two minutes; “Louise eckonomides” is a slight 44 seconds. There’s a sense that the album is a collection of snapshots and intensity — that of emotion or quirky impact or artistic expression — matters far more than any verse-chorus-verse formula. There’s a sense that even the heavy songs were born of a joy of creating, playing and signing. “Secret Song” nods to burlesque, “Corn maze” is a comic romp with a three part harmony.
And still. The album feels complete. It feels lived in and authentic. It’s lavish yet spare, it’s orchestrated yet folky, it’s quirky yet weighty, it shines through its own avant-garde leanings, poetic yet lean and straightforward. It’s an album that says exactly what it came to same.
Hope For Agoldensummer performs at The Grey Eagle on Thursday, April 12, with Midtown Dickens (see the full story in this week’s Xpress) and Curtains. 8:30 p.m., $8 in advance or $10 day of show. Xpress will give away a pair of tickets tomorrow on Facebook.