Joana Serrat’s second album on Loose, Dripping Springs, was recorded with label mate Israel Nash in Dripping Springs, Texas. So far, so straightforward. It’s not always that simple. In Serrat’s dream-like creative landscape, things are often not quite what they seem.
In Western Cold Wind, the lyrics are bleak but the sound is warm and rising as the cymbals become increasingly insistent. Evocative imagery anchors the album. The expressive, powerful lyric “down in the river where my mind goes wild” is classic Serrat.
The widespread and inventive use of pedal steel guitar that characterised Serrat’s stunning 2016 album, Cross The Verge, is continued here to great effect. Lost Battles is a dreamy song that’s catchy as the vocals combine with the instrumentation to form a tight melody line.
Trapped in the Fog is a jaunty little number, the tenor again defying the wintry scene it describes. For anyone familiar with Serrat’s back catalogue, it should be no surprise that this Spaniard is still singing of fog and cold. Branching out into a 50s sound, crossing a prom dance lilt with a surf pop jangle, is a surprising but successful new touch.
Unnamed drops the tempo down which allows Serrat’s pure vocals to take centre stage. That is until the instrumentation takes over with a solo that seems like it will never end, and you might not want it to. Eventually, Farewell gently leads us away into a serene waltz.
Shadows of Time has a Western sound but the desert backdrop doesn’t save it from lyrics steeped in dreams, night, and oblivion. A minute from the end, it really gets interesting. The tone shifts completely to a Miami Vice nights soundscape. No explanation is offered. None is needed.
Candles is a plaintive lament about lost days and uncertainty, surrounded by whalesong-like sounds . As is typical for Serrat, the musical line undercuts the lyrics. A serene sound envelops the doleful refrain “we can see no future waiting for us.” A short, jangly earworm of a song, Come Closer, breaks through Candles‘ vibrato outro.
The Garden is another atmospheric waltz-like tune, reminiscent of Lonely Heart Reverb from Serrat’s previous record. Walk In Sin has shades of a film score. The final 30 seconds are particularly rich and luscious.
The record ends with Keep On Fallin’, a melodic track with an extended intro that positively shimmers. The lyrics are packed with Serrat’s signature themes and poetic worldview, such as “in these dreamy hills of eternal sunsets/and let the fire burn away.”
The song gently rises to an abrupt end. That only amplifies the silent sense of loss now that Serrat’s beautiful soundscape is gone. It’s just as well that you can get it back by inviting Dripping Spring and Cross The Verge into your life as soon as you can so you can immerse yourself into her ethereal, elemental world at will.
Dripping Springs is out now. Head on over to Loose’s website to buy it at a bargain price of £15 for the vinyl or £8 for the CD.
While you’re there, you can also catch up on the latest from label mates like Israel Nash, Courtney Marie Andrews and the incomparable Danny & the Champions of The World.