Throwback Album Review: Kelly Hunt – Even the Sparrow

I need to begin this review with an apology to Kelly Hunt. I’ve had this album sitting in a “to review” drawer for over two years. But going with the mantra “better late than never” I still want to share this remarkable album with our readership. Kelly Hunt is a talented banjo player, songwriter, and vocalist. The trifecta is evident on this album from start to finish. Call it folk or Americana, roots if you will, but it’s a sound that’s sure to soothe the soul of a lot of listeners. Give Even the Sparrow your attention and you will be blessed by the hearing.

The opening salvo is “Across the Great Divide,” a song about adventure, travel, and immigration. The lyrics have a timeless quality to them. There’s also a spiritual gravity to the track, which is an ongoing theme throughout the album. The plaintive banjo fingerpicking allows the listener to feel a sense of calm while processing the deeper philosophically rich lyrics.

The titular “Even the sparrow” has a direct scriptural connection. There’s a heaviness to the lyrics on this one that definitely makes it stand out. The feeling for the track is solemn, if not actually heartbroken. It reminds me of a story of a broken family and a broken home. It weighs heavy with poverty and isolation; it sounds like lonesomeness and pain. But… there’s a hopefulness to the spiritual dimension. There is a lot of faith that emerges from this sort of pain.

The next two tracks both make connections to the American Civil War. With “Back to Dixie” there’s a connection to the rambling past. It’s not quite a romanticized South in the sense of antebellum imagery, but it’s more of a regional pride anthem. The use of the term “Dixie” definitely carries some connotations. “Men of Blue and Grey” leaves little doubt that it is about the Civil War. The lyrics highlight wartime photography, something I’ve never heard a song about. It’s a beautiful piece of songwriting capturing a morbid and necessary part of the war.

There are no “skip” tracks on the album, unfortunately for brevity I do have to skip a few for the review. The next track I’d like to highlight is the unconventional “Bird song.” The melody feels like it takes a turn a little away from the traditional Appalachian style of the early tracks on the album. “Bird song” has a little more of a Nickel Creek or Punch Brothers vibe to it, more of a modern polish. Then “Nothin’ on my mind” feels similarly contemporary, with a rolling melody that has shades of blues to it. In fact, the production on “Nothin’ on my mind” makes Hunt sound a bit like the iconic Norah Jones. I love the genre blending on this one. It just might be my favorite track on the whole album.

The last track “Gloryland” concludes the album with a gospel flair. The energy is optimistic and all about redemption. There’s even a fun “singalong” sense on it. I don’t know Hunt’s story, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she has a church background. Everything from the spirit of the song, to the lyrics, and the charisma to the lead vocal all feels joyful and delightful. It’s a bright and beautiful way to end the album.

If you’re a fan of traditional, rootsy country music definitely give Kelly Hunt’s album a spin. There’s a lot of different Americana elements here that are sure to please fans of a wide variety of music. I wish I had featured the album sooner, but I really do hope that our readership will run out and support this remarkable artist and this wonderful album.

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