The stories of artists making the most of their pandemic down-time and finding those proverbial silver linings creating special works they might otherwise not have are thankfully becoming a more familiar part of the indie music landscape. The takeaway is that creativity will always find its way around that rocky roadblock in the stream and find a way to inspire people when they need it most.
No Remedy, the latest full length album by critically acclaimed Americana husband and wife super-duo Mare Wakefield & Nomad, is one such emotionally transformative album, a collection of playfully up-tempo charmers and graceful ballads balancing extraordinary romantic expressions and passionately rendered narrative portraits of loved ones and family members both living and passed on.
The story goes that in early 2020, Mare (vocals) and Nomad (piano, accordion, melodica, bass, percussion) they were scheduled to quickly finish the album before heading out to tour the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and Canada – an itinerary typical for the duo, which usually travels six months out of the year and plays 100-plus shows. The couple quickly turned the COVID driven setback into a blessing, allowing them to, as Nomad says, “make the record we’ve always dreamed of.”
The Nashville based duo spared no expense gathering a powerhouse crew of veterans to help them flesh out the 11 tracks on No Remedy, which roll from the gently lyrical, accordion laced “Almost Mine” (a heartfelt lament about partners who can’t quite seem to make a fulfilling love endure) through the stark, poetically heartbreaking “Winter Rose” (which touches on Mare’s complicated relationship with her late father). The album was produced and arranged by Nomad Ovunc, mixed by Grammy-nominated engineer Bobby Holland (ZZ Ward, Maggie Rose, Wade Bowen) and features bassist Brian Allen (Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile), drummer Wes Little (Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys) and guitar, banjo and mandolin from Tim Galloway (Luke Bryan, Josh Turner).
For all that grand studio star power, it’s Mare’s soulful and heartfelt vocals, Nomad’s colorful array of instruments and the deeply penetrating yet fully relatable musical narratives that resonate most, as if the duo is extending an intimate invitation into their innermost thoughts about life, relationships, each other and the fascinating folks who are and have been part of her family. They start out with the lovelorn tunes, following “Almost Mine” with the briskly rolling and defiantly optimistic “Give Myself to Love” (the first single) and the cautionary, whispery acoustic ballad about how to keep a “Safe Heart.”
As compelling as those tunes are, the emotional core of the album is that sweep of family portraits, which pay wistful homage to her almost forgotten but not anymore half Cherokee great grandmother (“Her Name Was Mary”), a long lost but still cherished childhood friend she found had committed suicide (“Outfield”), her non-verbal autistic nephew (whimsically imagining what he must be thinking about in “My Room”) and her late mother, a dedicated “School Teacher,” who, along with millions of unsung heroes like her, are “part warrior, part preacher.”
Other highlights include “Home To Me,” a thoughtful prayer for the ongoing safety and safe travels of Nomad written when he was away visiting his home country of Turkey for an extended period; and the atmospheric, reflective title track ballad, based on encouraging words spoken to her by a teacher after a youthful heartbreak. That teacher’s words, channeled now through Mare, can inspire all of us to learn our lessons, rise above and be our best: “Your love is gonna light on fire/Your heart is gonna burn burn burn/Your dreams are gonna take you higher/Your tears are how you learn…”
Listen to "Give Myself to Love" here: https://open.spotify.com/album/634wabuse5WftB7K9xYzAA