Oregon-based Margo Cilker’s debut is a well-lived, road-worn collection of songs that transcend genre, dipping in and out of folk, Americana and modern roots offering a nearly flawless record from the opening track on. Geographically, “That River” starts off in the Pacific Northwest but across the album, Cilker takes her characters down South, up through northern California and a slew of places in between.
Her trademark throughout the record is writing vivid lyrics that could stand alone as short stories if you stripped away the music. A song like “Brother Taxman Preacher” – which also boasts a distinctly brilliant acoustic guitar riff that’s repeated throughout – is remarkable in its straightforwardness; “And I wish I was a preacher/I could tell you who to love/I could tell you who to vote for/Who to pity, who to fuck”. Her lyrical prowess alone is enough to make this one of the strongest Americana records to come out this year, but her vocals are just as strong. The aching delivery on the album closer “Wine In The World,” brings the longing, and the sadness drips from a song like “Flood Plain.” Elsewhere, on “Kevin Johnson,” backed by classic country swing music, she unfolds his life story piece by piece, teasing out each and every phase of his life.
With the help of fellow musician Sera Cahoone producing, they pulled together a formidable band comprised of local musicians including Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists), Jason Kardong (Sera Cahoone, Son Volt), Rebecca Young (Lindsey Fuller, Jesse Sykes), Mirabai Peart (Joanna Newsom) and Kelly Pratt (Beirut). They also took advantage of the album’s engineer John Morgan Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson), who plays a number of different instruments on the record. Margo’s sister Sarah Cilker sings harmonies throughout. For a debut, Pohorylle is a remarkable career starting point, that grows more impressive with each listen.
Photo credit: Matthew Kennelly
Strong and deeply felt album- great band fleshes things out.
Fave tracks on first listen: Chester’s, Broken Arm in Oregon, Techapi