“Red Clay Blue Sky” (EP) by Laura Sumner
Striking out at us with a sterling groove that seems to overstep the role of the melodic instrumentation all too deliberately, there’s a boldness to “Cowboy from Queens” that feels entirely stronger than what a delicate voice like Laura Sumner should be able to muster – but this is a key theme of her new record Red Clay Blue Sky.
Rather than trying to vault between elaborate aesthetical platforms in this EP’s tracklist, Sumner is taking it easy with the concept and instead focusing all of her attention on the fluidity of her music, which produces some of her most intriguing and unique discography entries thus far in “Cowboy from Queens,” “My Mother and Me,” and “Tides.”
When she isn’t at the microphone, this singer/songwriter’s backing band is kicking up one tonal tidal wave after another, and scarcely is there a moment in songs like “American Man” or “Telling Georgia Goodbye” in which we aren’t made to be wowed by the instrumental arrangements guiding forth every verse. It’s admittedly quite difficult to be casual and creative with the model at the same time, but for those who I’ve come across that know how to do it, this player is by far one of the most talented making music this summer.
The guitar parts in this record are consistently a point of interest, outside of the more vocal-driven “Tides” of course, and even in the case of this closing track, I think their role couldn’t have been filled by another instrument. Laura Sumner has the identity of an old-fashioned troubadour and the drive of someone who has a heavier background in rock n’ roll, but instead of this submitting a lot of predictable folk-rock to the mix in Red Clay Blue Sky, the music is coming out with much more duality than that genre can normally account for.
When Sumner is leading on her backing band, like in “American Man,” it’s supplemental for the narrative and never an accentuation of her ego, which is more than I can say for a lot of her peers when they do the same thing in their own music. The lack of physicality throughout the entirety of Red Clay Blue Sky suggests confidence that is all too rare to encounter in pop music right now, and it definitely makes me intrigued at the notion of what her live work might consist of.
Laura Sumner isn’t out to make another Dreamology with this latest EP, and her eagerness to make a special mark with this record is one of the reasons why I think I’ve fallen for its tracklist as hard as I have this June. This is a singer/songwriter who is hardly afraid to push her voice to the limit, but what’s more important is that she doesn’t hold onto compositional hang-ups that have prevented a lot of her closest contemporaries from reaching the creative heights she’s hitting with these five songs. The sky is the limit for Sumner, and I plan to stay tuned for whatever she has planned next.