The old story about right place, right time, is a cliche, but it is nevertheless one that holds true.
There is an element of that about this debut record from Georgia’s Hadley McCall Thackston. Her debut album might not have been made at all if it hadn’t been for her best friend convincing the shy Thackston that the songs she was writing and playing for friends on their porches were worthy of something more and posted one on Facebook.
Long story short, one of those was seen by Producer Hugh Christopher Brown, who wanted to work with her.
Long story even shorter: whilst I genuinely believe that social media does more harm than good, in this case it was one of the latter cases, because Hadley McCall Thackston is not someone you’d want to miss out on.
First and foremost she possesses a quite wonderful voice. Secondly and just as important, those songs she honed on the front steps of all her friends and family, are wonderful.
“Butterfly” opens up with an acoustic strum, but the music is perfect, as the song – written about a young friend and her newborn niece – is lovely. An odd word to use, perhaps, in a review but entirely apt here.
“Ellipsis” adds a bluesy hook, but the catchiest pop chorus you can imagine, while that expressive voice is at it again, this time sounding all sultry.
“Redbird” has an electro pulse, as if to exemplify that nothing is really off limits here, while the natural world – used as a metaphor for many things throughout this collection – is a vehicle for a thought-provoking discussion on religion here. (“I’ll keep wishing on my Redbird, you keep praying to your God”).
All the way back to the porches, this is a record that belongs, it seems, to a different time. The folk tradition, the fine fiddle playing in “Somehow” is an example of that, but then the lyrics are resolutely modern. “Change” is a social commentary worthy of Springsteen, dealing with Black Lives Matter and gun crime in general. Like everything else here it strikes a perfect tone.
But this record is one that understands light and shade. “Wallaces’ Song (Sage Bush)” is part love song, part hoedown, and the line “you’re the Johnny to my June, for you I’d always walk the line” is a subtle nod to a history and musical lineage that Thackston is now a part of.
“Devil Or Angel” adds something of a New Orleans flavor, while the quirky “No” with its jazz stylings is a hint, perhaps that there’s a lot more to come from HMT.
“Ghost” with its a bass and piano sounds, is about someone looking to hide in the shadows, and while Thackston avoids the limelight by all accounts such us the skill here that she’ll surely be in demand.
Indeed as “Last Mountain Waltz” ends things with its yearning for the freedom of the open air, you do wonder how far this widescreen, ambitious record can take her.
This debut is a magnificent statement, and one that comes from an artist you can only guess has a lot more to come.