Ten years and two full-length albums into her recording career, Duluth-based singer-songwriter Sarah Krueger has released a new album under the name Lanue, a project that doesn’t redefine her sound but polishes it into something more warm, expansive and ethereal.
Krueger has alway been a difficult artist to classify. Some might call her work Americana. Her music touches the soft edges of country with evocative, introspective songwriting and a voice that can be soulful, sweet and sensuous. Lanue makes classification almost impossible as Krueger collaborates with a set of seasoned musicians known for pushing new musical boundaries in bands like Low, Trampled by Turtles and Bon Iver.
Recorded over two sessions in her hometown of Eau Claire, Wis. Krueger and her band of sound explorers create a slow-motion, laid-back sound that washes over spare, poetic lyrical themes of complicated love, life changes and road trip memories. Lanue takes the listener to another place where a soft breeze blows off the lake and the backyard garden is always in full bloom.
The record’s first single, “What I Love the Most” finds a gentle groove and layers it with a haunting pedal-steel. Krueger sings about martyrs, ghosts and the velvet lining behind champagne eyes. The chorus: “Some days I spend all my time hating what I love the most.” It’s a little piece of poetry to ponder before the sun sets and all that golden light is gone.
Other highlights include the slow-burn “September,” where fiddle player Ryan Young carries the song to another dimension as it surges to an end. Krueger brings her best vocal to “Mississippi,” bending a whisper around the song title as she pines to “carve a new path.” And a visit south of the border in “Mexico,” takes listeners on a sunny bicycle ride for tequila and self discovery. “I’m not feeling like myself these days,” sighs Krueger - whether or not that’s a good thing is a mystery.
The record closes with “Days in the Sun,” a song that manages to celebrate both the past and present as the place to be content.
Krueger is assisted in production by bassist Steve Garrington of Low and Sean Carey of Bon Iver. Throughout the record, pianos and electronic effects swirl together and strings find new, unfamiliar places. Guitarist Erik Koskinen and drummer JT Bates both demonstrate a light touch and Ben Lester turns the pedal steel into something other than a country music instrument.
The whole record pushes into territory explored on the Daniel Lanois-produced Emmylou Harris album “Wrecking Ball.” The 1995 masterpiece shined a new, experimental light on Harris, known for her straight country solo albums and unmistakable backing vocals. Lanois turned the Harris sound inside out. He filled songs written by Neil Young, Gillian Welch and other giants with lush, atmospheric production while Harris abandoned the honkytonk microphone and breathed new soul into each piece.
Lanue attempts the same thing here with much success. Krueger has found a new and wonderful sound. While not as radical of a departure as Harris, it’s a fearless step that pushes her work into exciting new territory yet remains true to her Americana roots.
Minnesota Music Reviews on KUMD are made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.