At a pivotal time in Amy’s life – birth and death have intertwined – comes an album which manages to encapsulate the big issues in life. Opening track takes an Ozymandian approach to mortality, questioning what we build and what lasts set to a piano and orchestral sweep. “Grace of God” follows in a more uptempo waltz time, offering reflection on the vagaries of fate and the help of a fellow soul in surviving that process. “Ginger Ale and Lorna Doone”, a recent live staple goes deep into the process of mental consolation and stability as does The Icicle King, whereas “Pretty Girls” is straight out of the Janis Ian “At 17” playbook both musically and lyrically; there’s a great deal of cathartic release on display but it never drifts into self-pity but faces the challenges of the outsider head on.
“Standing Rock” is a companion piece to the title track, looking at how that which is essential survives, whereas what is transient and ephemeral is going to be defeated and forgotten, set within the context of the Trump administration and the Dakota pipeline issues. The concept of value is further explored in “Feet on the Ground” and “Back in Abilene” – normality and everyday experience and what it brings, not vanity, is the core of our experience. This reflective, evaluative view is also framed in “Some Dreams Do” and “This and My Heart Besides”, where the past is used to make sense of the present. The album’s second person closer “Kindness” is a summative hope and wish of what may come for Amy’s child and by extension the listener. There’s a great deal of soul-searching and logical juggling with time and humanity on this album and the whole piece creates a reasoned and impassioned argument for loving in the present and hoping for the future. A beautiful and adult album.