Floating in on a bed of delicately plucked banjo and strings, the latest album from Kansas native Polly Windham is an autobiographical offering. As caked in dust and as steeped in melancholy as one might expect from an artist who perfectly embodies the image of the American troubadour, American Daughter is a driving country rock album that takes it’s listeners on an emotional journey that’s as meandering and as turbulent as the waters of the Mississippi River.
Detailing the Windham’s journey from travelling musician, to her decision to join the army through to basic training and beyond, it’s both heartbreaking and optimistic in equal measure. And though a handful of the tracks do hang around just that little bit too long, it’s impossible to listen to Windham’s lyrics and not be transported into a world of whisky, grand vistas and sleazy southern state dive bars.
Indeed, tracks such as ‘Over You California’ and ‘Share You With the Whisky’ harbour enough booze-soaked sadness and guitar slides to appease even the most heartbroken of listeners. As one might expect from a musician as seasoned as Windham however, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The likes of ‘American Daughter’ and ‘Shadow on the Range’ are bold and brash rock anthems, allowing Windham’s voice to really show what it’s capable of. Elsewhere things meet somewhere in the middle with the likes of ‘I Left My Home’ bridging the gap between country rock and country and western.
And it’s these shifts that keep American Daughter from stagnating, though there are tracks whose runtimes could be befit from being shorter, for the most part it’s a record that gallops more than canters, and showcases just exactly why Windham is the musician she is, a bold and brooding autobiographical exploration that’s well worth spending some time with.