Those bitter Midwestern winters we love to gripe about have indirectly given us one of modern folk music’s greatest treasures in Katie Dahl, a singer/songwriter and masterful storytelling poet who caps her first decade as a recording artist with Wildwood – a powerfully compelling collection of modern and historical, personal reflections and heartfelt, colorful family stories branching from the Minnesota native’s beloved adopted ancestral home region of Door County, Wisconsin.
Katie was a college freshman when she slipped on a patch of sidewalk ice and broke her wrist. Unable to play oboe in her school’s orchestra, she taught herself guitar – playing chord shapes while strumming strings with her stiff right hand. Under the production guidance of JT Nero, frontman of Americana/folk band Birds of Chicago who shares a lifelong history in Door County, Katie is still strumming her melodies beautifully, enhanced on this graceful, ballad dominated set by spirited pedal steel (Steve Dawson), fiddle (Kristin Webber) and vocal (Allison Russell) harmonies.
Yet it’s her soulful, expressive and inviting vocals and the clever, colorful and insightful narratives she weaves that make Wildwood the glorious journey it is. Even as she takes an overriding loving view of the region and her ancestors that settled there, she is upfront and honest about fears and hard times (hers and her antecedents) as well. “Anna Lee” finds her seeking the solace of a mysterious visiting bird to bring light, calm and healing. Katie balances the solace of a California vacation with fears that it’s all a teasing mirage by calling “Worry my Friend.”
Other key tracks include “Helen” (about the desire to escape the north country for less confining realms), “Good Northern Ground” (a grand tale of her ancestors’ discovery of “good Northern ground),” and “The Fisherman’s Daughter” (a lyrical gem from her second musical of the same name). Katie also breaks the ballad mode a few times with a whimsical romp about her ongoing affection for her home state of “Minnesota” and Pat MacDonald’s swampy and whimsical “Valmy.”
To purchase Wildwood: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/katiedahl4