Tucked neatly at the emotional center of the 12 attitude and soul transforming tracks of Shine –Keturah Algood’s first album in 17 years and first ever on streaming – is a deeply encouraging lyric that captures everything the Americana singer/songwriter is about, sharing her personal truth and triumphs over adversity while encouraging the world to see past its differences and aim to do the same.
On the heartfelt, at first gently lilting then more emphatic power ballad, she reminds us that “It’s so easy to get discouraged and disillusioned with the lies,” yet optimistically, almost defiantly declares “But I’ve got a light/I’m gonna let it shine” before later lifting us into that rarified air of optimism during dark, challenging times: “Let your light shine through all those dark and stormy clouds.”
There’s two fascinating ways to immerse in and experience the arrival of this insightful and compelling artist, whose insightful, poetic and charming lyrics perfectly match the beauty and dusky, world-weary magnificence of her vocal timbre.
We can listen to Shine as her rebirth as an artist after years of personal turmoil which interrupted her budding career in the 2000s. From the bluesy, rollicking opener “Radio” – a tantalizing narrative about shutting out the harrowing news of the day and finding peace simply by listening to music – through the tender-hearted life on the road love acoustic love ballad “The Show,” Keturah is at last sharing her truth with an album reflecting who she is as an artist and person. Driven by her belief that music can unite us, she is all about using her ample talents as a storyteller who has overcome darkness to bring sorely needed kindness and compassion.
Along those lines, the other way the listener can understand Keturah’s artistry is to understand these songs as universal calls to transcending our differences and overcoming the sense of gloom and despair that was surrounding her and her talented musical colleagues – led by multi-instrumentalist Bradford Carson, her longtime collaborator, musical director and touring partner – while she was recording amidst the pandemic.
As she says, “When I was writing these songs, I felt like we were facing a worldwide epidemic of suffering. It seemed at times like there was no hope on the horizon and we were just doomed to stay in the cycle of endless darkness. I really wanted people to see and feel and believe that relief from all that doom and despair is within reach – if only we’re willing to take advantage of the beautiful, brilliant light that radiates within each of us.” While this should be standard spiritual procedure during collectively anxious times, sometimes our animal instincts take over and we focus on the worst possible outcomes.
Since Keturah was raised in church in Brevard, NC and mentions God in two of the album’s most affecting songs (“The Show” and the haunting, spiritually questioning “Butterfly Wings”), we can confidently say “Thank God” we have artists like Keturah with the boldness to open our senses eyes to our deeper, higher natures so that we may, as she sings in another emotional centerpiece, the acoustic blues-driven anthem “Love, “Baby, it’s love that can show us a better way. . .Let it burn through the night/Lead us to a brighter day.”
Though Shine is definitely one of those albums that requires start to finish listening to really let your mind and heart grab hold of the artist’s fascinating journey, there are a few dynamic entry points worth considering if you choose to listen to a few tracks at a time. Keturah made that easy for us by digitally releasing three “teaser” lead singles over the past year. The first is the empowering “Sing Baby Sing,” a piano fired tune that was inspired by something her dad told her when she called him from a weeklong songwriters tour in Western North Carolina put on by the NC Songsmiths. She was encouraged to develop it by fellow songwriter Sarah Siskind, and we should be grateful Sarah pushed Keturah – because it’s one of the most chills-inducing, exciting tunes on the album, a soaring triumph that showcases the full majestic power of her voice.
The second single, the musically subtle but lyrically impactful ballad “Rosary Beads,” testifies to Keturah’s strengths as a narrative songwriter, using the character of a troubled young man to share her feelings about the difficulties people have overcoming past traumas in life – in the protagonist’s case, PTSD from being a war veteran. The third track she dropped, the aforementioned opener “Radio” is lighthearted by comparison yet makes meaningful sociopolitical points, like “We all need a little joy and inspiration to carry us through and heal this wounded nation.”
One of my personal favorites has Keturah finding her place among history’s “Peaceful Warriors,” using a charmingly nostalgic beginning to launch a resonant reminder about the power of love to change and heal us, with Keturah ultimately declaring that “I believe in the Power/I believe in the light/I believe in your beauty.” Other gems include the sweet acoustic, completely unabashed and vulnerable love song “Beautiful You” and the whimsical, largely autobiographical “Jug O’ Shine,” a high energy, front porch stompin’ jam dedicated to the enduring spirit of her great grandfather and set in the mountains of Western North Carolina.