Karen Dahlstrom - "Gem State" EP
Karen Dahlstrom of the indie folk band Bobtown is a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter of the traditional Americana variety. The Gem State EP is her long-awaited self released solo debut release. She was born and raised in idyllic Idaho which is known as the “Gem State”, hence the title of the sparkling EP. The organic acoustic-based five song collection of traditional folk was inspired by her home state after she noticed that the Western states lacked the musical history that the South and other regions of the country possessed. So she took it upon herself to create some of her own and her descriptive lyrical themes of railroads, trains, mountains and miners are based on the state’s rich history as well as her own experiences in her hometown of Boise. The music references and is reverent to the bluegrass, old time country and folk traditions of the past but with a slight modern twist. Even the beautiful album artwork, created by her friend, New York City based graphic designer and illustrator Becky Munich, is a rustic wood-burned-like portrait that invokes the spirit of the music and the state of Idaho perfectly, completes the package.
“The Miner’s Bride” opens the EP with a driving, lap slapping bluegrass inspired rhythm, ghostly background vocals that swirl like the cold wind she sings of and whining steel guitar that sets the tone for a story about love and loss and a nineteenth century mining camp for a perfect introduction to her retro folk sound. The slow waltzing “Galena” follows, featuring bellowing accordion and Karen’s yearning and pining vocals that possess the same smoky, worn around the edges quality of Adele or Chan Marshall of Cat Power along with the authenticity of Gillian Welch. “Starling” is an emotional and haunting ode to lovelorn regret with gently strummed acoustic guitars, flickering mandolin figures and a mournful vocal that perfectly captures the melancholic darkness of Southern Gothic Americana music. The sepia-toned standout track “Streets Of Pocatello” is a room-filling acapella-sung Appalachian Mountain ballad of revenge set in a rough railroad town. The song is performed with a soulful, convincing swagger that might suggest Karen is just pawning off some of the dusty records she found in her grandparent’s attic as her own because it is simply that good and that true to the tradition without even a stitch of pastiche or off-putting pretentiousness. The evocative “One More Time” closes out the rootsy EP with a more straight forward approach with gospel-soaked vintage organ, steady strummed acoustic guitar and gorgeous, close knit vocal harmonies. Karen longs for summers past and an old flame on the stand out song that was co-written by multi-instrumentalist Kenny Siegel of fellow New York City based folk band Johnny Society who also mixed, engineered and co-produced and performed on the excellent EP.
With her beautiful voice and strong songwriting bearing the torch of tradition every song feels instantly familiar, like any classic record should. And after finally striking out on her own, Karen Dahlstrom proves with Gem State, her promising debut EP that she is an artist on the rise and should be considered a major player in the traditional American folk revival.
For more info click here: http://karendahlstrom.com/