If it’s possible to create the musical equivalent of a literary masterpiece, or one deserving of this sort of high minded consideration, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leland Ettinger has fashioned one beautifully on her latest album whose title is also the name of her band, Leland and the Silver Wells. Thoughtfully and gorgeously blending an array of influences ranging from pop, rock and folk to classical music, she weaves a narrative worthy of her legendary idol Joan Didion.
She pays direct homage to the famed novelist and essayist in two clever ways: first, with the name Silver Wells, a fictional Nevada town in Didion’s classic 1970 novel “Play It As It Lays” – which, hardly coincidentally, is the echoing haunting final track (or dare we say, chapter) on the album, a sprawling instrumental full of spurs, dusty roads, banjo licks (by Leland herself) and edgy, percussive strings. That’s the journey’s end, but it’s the getting there that makes Leland's passage so inviting and compelling.
Her first album in 11 years, it’s a lengthy, emotional trip (both narrative wise and production wise) that began with her trying to write songs after the birth of her daughter. With all the jumbled emotions connected to that life changing event and the responsibilities of motherhood taking precedence, she thought she might never be able to complete another song. But fragments caught on an iPhone sometimes add up to magic, and when she put a few together and finished a few songs, she called her producer Mark Doten and took a plunge that her longtime fans – and all the new ones she is sure to gain – will be delighted that she did.
Leland’s beautiful vocal tones, rendered in both gossamer sweetness and rock edginess helps convey the lonely longing feeling of the album’s protagonist as she journeys through a never-ending road of heavy obstacles and rich triumphs. The lyrics flow like rich poetry, depicting ventures through valleys and swamps, dark alleys, across oceans, into forests and atop mountains seeking meaning and redemption.