By Weadee Mombo
GENRE: Alt Country/Folk
LABEL: Self Released
RIYL: Hand Habits, Lomelda, Bedouine
Through the hollow ache of suffering, Chaya Harvey carves a soft blanket.
What blossoms in the summer is rooted in the silences of spring. A quiet rest where thoughts may flow as often and unheralded as the rain. When all else is quiet, the longing of the soul grows loud and by listening, we may uncover pockets of gold. It is with this idea Chaya Harvey presents to us her delicate EP, Born in Spring. Though planted and watered with tears, her music flowers with immense beauty.
It is not often you hear a voice that stops you in your tracks and forces you to drop everything and listen. And it is important that you stop as the songs are so bare you might miss them otherwise. Harvey’s voice is soothing and pure. Reminiscent of folk singers Gillian Welch, Sibylle Baier and Jessica Pratt, her vocals carry an incredible lightness to them that each syllable that is sung nearly drifts away into the wind. Each song consists mainly of Harvey’s hushed voice over her acoustic guitar accompanied by Jon Evans on pedal steel, Clara Rose on violin, and Conrad Bjorn Shynkar on mandolin. The instruments fill the warm cervices of every space in a way that acts like a duet.
Released on Harvey’s birthday, June 10th, 2022, Born in Spring is a careful collection of intimate songs drawn from classic folk origins. The ep is no longer than 15 minutes yet drips of melancholy that lasts an hour. Harvey has taken the folk acoustics of her previous release, Tender Love and stripped them down even further. The songs call little to no attention to themselves and Harvey seems to hide in their dust. But straining through her hypnotic vocals, it is her exquisite songwriting that roots each song.
The EP opens with the beautifully slow title track “Born in Spring.” Unhurriedly, Chaya Harvey unveils her heartfelt brokenness that has broken through to timid understanding. Despite her almost overwhelming grief, she has found that “silver lining,” a guiding light, for that sadness to spill out. These are ballads for the roving heart. For those who like Travis Henderson, lose themselves in the sparse Texas desert and feel they must silently resign themselves to the pain. Not fighting or giving in but admitting that though their hearts are lonely, here there is space to “throw their sorrows to the wind.”
“Drifter’s Song” continues her extended sigh and is just as beautiful, just as slow, and just as impressive to swallow. The power even now is the interaction between her haunting vocals and the dramatic swing of the pedal steel. The tempo doesn’t shift upwards at any point in the entire album but instead sways gently at a steady rhythm. Her delivery almost recalls a lullaby leading into a beautiful dream but in some ways, it is less of an affectionate send off than an escape from the emptiness of lonely days “where each day is the same thing.” Forlorn is the path but angelic is the way that leads you there.
Born in Spring is an endeavour of immense restraint told through many metaphors and allusions, but admirably, the song “No Woman is a Shelter” is the most revealing of the record. Though again with notable weight, the song is one of rest and release and its narrative like structure creates a fittingly relaxed climax. The strings of Clara Rose come unexpectedly and linger much in the same way the lament: “No woman a shelter for a broken man,” hangs in fragile thought.
“As I Went Walking” and “In the Sun” come together to usher in the last fragments of the ep where Harvey gracefully shifts to singing in first person as she wanders into the woods. On “As I Went Walking” Harvey sings of waiting at the doors of love and when knocking, being sent away though sparrows bless her path. It is through questioning if joy can be hers even in the midst of “waiting for tomorrow’s grace” that the abstracted intensity of the song beams with full clarity. Through whatever plight of hurt Harvey’s songs recount, there must be a glimmer of grace where she holds the ability to turn “lead into gold.” Allowing the songs to never become overly dramatic or disingenuous is a talent that Harvey wields well. The lightness with which she sings of melancholy is perhaps the same lightness that enables her to waltz in the rain with the birds chirping in the remaining scene. As the EP ends with “In The Sun,” Harvey gratefully dips away with soft embellishments. Appreciating that with every dark tunnel, comes the light in the distance.
Chaya Harvey is truly something special and I am certain that her dreamy allure will emerge in full form in the Canadian scene soon enough. Anyone who has likewise traveled the path of pain she sings of will find solace in having a voice like hers to light the way.
EP Release Date: June 10th, 2022