My biggest regret from the Noah Gundersen show in Pittsburgh last month was not meeting his younger siblings Abby and Jonny. It is Jonny and fellow sibling Lizzy Gundersen who are the key artists in Le Wrens, a Seattle-based folk-country act that should stop people in their tracks. In fact, I vow to never write about these two in relation to their brother. They are certainly artists in their own right, evident throughout their late release of Don’t Forget Me, an EP that unfortunately stops at four songs. Suffice it to say I want more for all the right reasons.
The first song on the album “Chances” captures the folk country feeling from the very start. It is subtle and smooth, unlike the in-your-face commercialization of pop country. Lizzy’s entrance into the song is so clear and precise… it’s hair-raising in the right way. Then when the rest of the group joins her with harmonies listeners are immediately transported to an existentially delightful place. It’s (pardon the Seattle pun) nirvana.
The second song, “Don’t Forget Me” has a wonderful full and endearing sound. There’s something soft and sweet about the sound. It’s something that I feel has been missing from contemporary country music. There’s no sense of Lizzy needing to be a diva country star here. She’s no less powerful, singing a power vocal that reminds me of Reba McIntyre in her heyday. It’s not sassy for the sake of being sassy, but rather a strong vocal that intends to drive home the message of a lasting relationship. There’s a little bit of bitterness here and it goes a long way. Oh, but then the soft ending reminds me of Sara Watkins. That’s about the highest compliment I can give a female country artist.
“Tickets for Teasing” has Noah’s songwriting flavor all over it. I don’t know how much influence he had on the song, or if Lizzy just picked up some things from him over the years, but from the chords to the phrasing it’s absolutely a Gundersen song. “We can hang up old clothes and lessons learned, but there are some bridges that just have to burn.” That, friends, is a country lyric. It’s a good one at that. The song meanders a bit, comfortably, like a walk through Alabama high cotton. It certainly captures a southern ethic far more than the great northwest. The steel guitar totally makes the song. That and of course the violin.
The fourth and final (*tear*) song on the album is “Home.” A little more rhythmic and alternative than the other songs on the album, there’s a driving beat to this one that gets the old toes tapping. “So keep on wading through the deep waters… keep your head held high. And when you think you’re gonna drown just know that home is your solid ground.” What a great, positive lyric! It gives a nice punctuation on the album. It’s full of life and energy in all the right ways. Lizzy’s vocals on this one are again powerful, but with a somewhat different character. She sounds more mature in a good way.
This album is a tease from beginning to end. It makes me want a LOT more from this talented group of musicians. As much as I enjoyed the Gundersens playing together in Pittsburgh, I can’t help but wonder what influence the success of Le Wrens will have on touring with their brother. The album is at its best with the sibling harmonies on “Tickets for Teasing,” which I hope to hear more of in future Le Wrens work. The takeway, if you haven’t gotten it yet, is that this is a must-have album. Chip in five bucks and put this on repeat for your summer jams. You will not be disappointed.