A year after the high watermark of her last album, ‘White Tiger’, comes this latest opus, ‘Is it the Kiss’, and she has managed to maintain that exceptional high standard.  Ana Egge has long shaken off folk/country singer categories, moving further towards the loose concepts of Americana, to experiment with instrumentation, and push her vocal abilities, in different directions.  She has moved in exalted company in the last few years; John Prine, Iris DeMent, Steve Earle, and Lucinda Williams who called her “An exceptional talent… The Nina Simone of Folk”.

That’s quite a quote to live up to.

The new album opens with the addictive (no pun intended) ‘Cocaine Cowboys’. It brings to mind the romance, mystery and charm of the Willie Nelsons, and Merle Haggards of this world. There are a comfort and a high from the music that she shares in that crystal voice.

But there’s a vulnerable nature to the voice as well. The melodies can be soft and beguiling, but the words are always probing. Speaking about ‘Hurt a Little’, Egge states:

When you fall for someone, that doesn’t mean that it’s a onetime choice to be with them. Every day you wake up and choose.

That can signal change or reaffirmation. The choice is the listener’s.

Why do it, if it isn’t gonna hurt a little. First step is always learning how to fall. Don’t worry just because it’s never happened before.

It’s a mellow album, that bears fruit on repeated listening. There is a gentle grace in her voice that insists you pay attention to the lyrics.  From the storyline of ‘Teacake and Janey’ to the entreaty of ‘Stay the Night’, From the “when they go low, we go high” sentiment of ‘Rise Above’, this is a little treasure of lasting melodies, and ruminations. Egge has been vicariously compared to Emmy Lou, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell and I hear elements of Natalie Merchant, particularly in the lovely duet with Iris De Ment ‘Ballad of the Poor Child’.

But she remains very much her own woman, with warmth and underlying intensity, that others will envy and few will equal.

‘Is it the Kiss’ is released on Storysound Records on 6th September 2019.