Ana Egge sings with the cool confidence of a seasoned veteran; she’s been quietly releasing a series of excellent folk-country albums since the late 1990s. Egge is a singer-songwriter with a gift for telling stories and creating fully-fleshed characters within her lyrics. Bad Blood, Egge’s latest, draws a series of portraits of mental illness in different forms and from different angles. Written in response to watching several family members suffer from various afflictions, many of the songs featured on the album show a young artist coping the way she knows best.
Your flowers are growing wild in the west/They may be pretty but/they’re poisonous, Egge sings on Hole in Your Halo, a song inspired by a visit with a mentally ill relative in prison. A hard bass drum beat propels Bad Blood forward, a menacing, tremolo-coated guitar cutting the path for a song that personifies disease as an animal running wild through the countryside. When I wake up/Will I wake up? she asks in Driving With No Hands, singing from the first-person view of someone dealing with unpredictable mood swings and dangerous behavior. Evil paints a disturbing picture of a man compulsively driven to murder but unable to endure the guilt that follows.
The warm, down-to-earth production on Bad Blood comes from like-minded troubadour Steve Earle, who shared members of his band for the recordings and sings backup on several songs. On Your Voice Convinces Me, the pounding percussion and Egge’s lilting melody lift up the track as the album’s high-water moment. Half a triumphant march and half backwoods gospel, Earle lends his voice for support at the song’s peak, just before it breaks away to a euphoric violin solo. It caps the album on a much-welcomed note of hopefulness, a song about the ability to overcome difficulty, on an album whose many subjects never even stood a chance.
Essential Tracks: “Your Voice Convinces Me”, “Bad Blood”