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It was some 15 years ago as student journalist when I went over to Beaner’s to see a new emerging artist, Rachael Kilgour. She was a bright-eyed, activist, gem of a young woman. I was impressed that she had been playing for around a year and her knack at songwriting was fresh and every bit as good as many that I’ve seen playing for years longer than her. Over the years she has become quite an accomplished acoustic singer-songwriter and I was excited to do a review of this latest album titled “Rabbit in the Road” until I heard it.
You might be thinking, “wait, is this going to be a negative review?” No, not at all. The music is probably some of the most honest, heart wrenching, and personal as I’ve ever heard. It’s to the point where I almost feel uncomfortable talking about it. The album is about Kilgour’s divorce and growth afterwards, and if I’ve ever said that I wish there was more feeling behind an artist’s lyrics, I can’t say that with this album. Kilgour and her ex aren’t exactly my best friends, but I do know them and throughout the album I can’t help but think, “don’t feel that way, Rachael, you’re better than that.” Or some sort of statement of consolation because this is a pretty depressing album that is filled with the chaos that surrounds even the strongest person when they had a plan in life and then the rug gets pulled out from under them.
There are two perspectives in the album, a willingness to move on and then the bitterness of defeat. Overall, the album leans towards the later. She really took that relationship seriously and it’s fair to say she’s pretty messed up even three years after her break up. Dead Man Winter just released the album “Furnace” and while these are both beautiful albums, to compare and contrast, Dave Simonett admits some guilt in the downfall of his relationship. Kilgour speaks of suffering both before and after her relationship ends.
Overall, I’m hard pressed to think of a more personal album. Usually there’s some metaphor or something, but in tracks like “Still My Wife,” my heart just sinks at the play by play of the downfall of her relationship. It’s very exact and specific. If you’re like me, I find power in music. Music, even sad music, opens opportunities to heal. If someone is going through a tough break up or just got through one, this might be a great album to have that good long cry, or several months or years of cries. As Kilgour says in the song, “Don’t Need Anyone,” “If I’m going to fall apart, I’m going to put myself back together.”
A good songwriter has to have some life experiences or else the music will end up being weak and shallow. The only way around that is a stunning imagination. This album won’t be for everyone, because not everyone loves to feel a first-hand account of shattering loss. I totally respect this work for what it is and if there was ever a reason to write music, I think Kilgour is certainly entitled to get what’s on this album out of her and into songs.