Helen McCreary’s recently released album, The Lovely Days, is a beautiful example of well-done folk music. The album explores a multitude of human emotions through the use of effortless vocals, unembellished instrumentation, and relatable lyrics.
Throughout the album, Helen McCreary’s voice sounds effortless. Her crisp, sopranic voice allows all of the lyrics to be easily understood, reminiscent of other folk artists like Denise Moser. The first track, “Heart Beats,” shows off her large vocal range; most of the song she stays in the higher sopranic range but she flawlessly transitions to lower notes. “Don’t You Worry” includes a second vocalist that provides lovely harmony. McCreary’s beautiful voice pairs up well with the album’s unembellished instrumentation.
The Lovely Days’ main form of accompaniment is the strumming of McCreary’s acoustic guitar, but there are other carefully picked additions to the overall instrumentation. “Heart Beats” opens with a brilliant cello/guitar combination that lays the foundation for the somber mood of the song. Similarly, “Trace of Your Life (ChristChurch Garage Demo)” opens with the ukulele–a perfect fit for the more cheerful song. Subtle percussion can also be heard throughout the album (“Heart Beats”, “The Lovely Days”, “Don’t You Worry,” “Kaikoura”). “Kaikoura” uniquely contains percussion that is less handheld drums or shakers and more of a full drum kit, while remaining unobtrusive. Overall, the instrumentation is rather soothing.
The relatable lyrics is probably what most ties The Lovely Days to the genre of folk. Many of the tracks tell adorable stories of love and life. “Best Friend” begins with “You are my best friend/ you’re the one I want to hold on to.” As the song continues, she explains how she was “hopeless at flirting” but then this person came and began looking at her as “perfect”; a situation many of us can relate to. “Kaikoura” contains another great story, opening with “Coronas in our pockets/ night falls on the beach.” The song continues to paint the great picture of “sitting on the beach/ while we watch the fire die.” “Kaikoura”’s calming storytelling is reminiscent of older quirky folk songs that tell unique stories.
The album closes with the tale of “Kath & Jim (Live @ Rockwood)”. It’s a really lovely story about two people who fall in love. The lyrics describe times getting tough, where they live on “pasta and tofu.” Yet, the repetition of the chorus, “This is love,” reminds the listener that love includes even the messy parts of life. Those are just a few of my favorite stories contained within the lyrics of The Lovely Days.
If you like music that tells charming stories backed by an acoustic guitar, then you will love Helen McCreary’s The Lovely Days.–Krisann Janowitz