Brought up on bluegrass and folk music by her musical parents 22 year old Canadian songwriter Bella White is already releasing her second album, which is maybe not surprising considering she’s a precocious talent who wrote her first song aged 7. Her debut album was self-released in 2020 and led to her signing for Rounder records. She recorded this new collection ‘Among Other Things’ with producer Jonathan Wilson (who has been working with many Americana-leaning artists lately like Erin Rae, Margo Price and Angel Olsen).
“I like to say that I have two modes of songwriting: I story-tell and then I feeling-tell. This album is a lot of feelings,” Bella said in a recent interview with Pop Matters. What may be surprising for the listener is how prepared she is to go to the dark places and show us the despair and struggles of life.
Country and bluegrass music is a natural home for someone so immersed in emotional truths but this record also finds her branching out her sound towards indie rock like Big Thief, whose guitarist Buck Meek contributes to the album. Songs like ‘Flowers on My Bedside’ and ‘Dishes’ are mournful and melancholy in the most mesmerising way. Her voice, battered by the years she’s not even lived yet, conveys grim realisations about love through every note, stretching even to what sounds like a yodel at times.
Despite all these gorgeous sad songs the stand out track of the record is the sole upbeat number ‘Break My Heart’, and even then the lyrics are about getting dumped. Another highlight is ‘Worth My While’ which really leans into that classic country sound, to stunning effect.
There’s wry self-deprecation running through the many of these songs, like on ‘Numbers’ where she offers a brutally honest take on the music industry and how the pressure to perform can be destructive to mental health.
The album finishes with the title track ‘Among Other Things’ where she admits ‘lately I’ve felt the world so bleak’ and wonders if anyone is even listening. Her sadness feels authentic, something she offers us in song so we can recognise our own.
Truthfully listening to ‘Among Other Things’ feels heavy at times, but in the way the best sad songs have to be. Bella White feels the pain and has transformed her hurts into a really beautiful collection of songs.
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