Archive for March 8, 2023

Cinder Well: Cadence

March 8, 2023

Singer, songwriter, and musician Amelia Baker has been featured here before with a Power of Okinawa review of her previous album No Summer. Her ‘experimental folk project’ goes under the name Cinder Well and Cadence is the latest nine track release.

Baker is originally from California but has spent a good deal of time in County Clare, Ireland where she studied Irish traditional music performance, and with these new songs she draws on both her Californian and Irish influences. These songs drift between the hazy California coast where she grew up, and the wind-torn swells of the west coast of Ireland. “I was continuously trying to reconcile having homes in two places,” she says. “I was trying to hold both of those parts of me.”

Last time she included some traditional songs (there was a particularly good version of ‘The Cuckoo’) but the new album has all original compositions. Another development is the addition of other musicians on drums, bass, viola, fiddle, and organ, while Baker herself plays mostly guitar and fiddle. Notable among those lending a hand is Cormac MacDiarmada of Irish band Lankum who adds some expansive string parts.

This is not to say that the album goes for a big sound or heavy production. Quite the opposite. It’s still fundamentally the same Cinder Well with Baker’s strong voice leading the way while the other instruments offer a fuller background in contrast to the minimalist approach of the previous album. The lyrics are often subdued poetic fragments or vignettes, frequently rooted in nature and folklore. 

Amelia Baker (Photo: Georgia Zeavin)

The album’s title refers to the cycles of our turbulent lives and to the uncertain tides that push us forward and back. Themes of oceans, returning to our roots, and of being between two worlds recur, no doubt the result of Baker’s relocation to California and the attempt to recapture the rhythms of life after a time of isolation. She says: “So much of my music has been made far from home. There was something about recording in California that felt cathartic.”

The opening three tracks – ‘Two Heads, Grey Mare’, ‘Overgrown’, and ‘Returning’ – set the tone and are also the standout songs. Baker’s genre has previously been described as ‘doom folk’ and it’s certainly slow, deep, and meditative at times, but ‘Overgrown’ is a rare composition in a major key and is the nearest thing here to a catchy song.

The Irish influence is most obviously apparent on the penultimate track ‘A Scorched Lament’. Then the album ends on a slightly different musical note with Baker playing piano on ‘I Will Close in the Moonlight’ a song that has echoes of some of the solo work of Sandy Denny.

Cadence was produced by Amelia Baker and recorded in studios in Venice Beach, California, as well as in Dublin. It’s a step forward for Cinder Well and a more than worthy successor to No Summer.

Cinder Well will be playing live in Uppsala, Sweden on the 13th May and then in Ireland from the 18th to 27th May. 

Cadence is released by Free Dirt Records on 21st April. It will be available on CD and LP as well as digital download.