Samantha Harlow

Air Date: 05-30-14

Like most love letters, Samantha Harlow’s new album is unflinchingly personal, filled with the sort of deep, dark secrets one normally spills to friends behind closed doors. For Harlow, a country singer/songwriter steeped in the tradition of Patsy Cline and Gillian Welch, those secrets are tuneful enough to share with a wider audience.

They’re the blood that pumps through her own Love Letters, a collection of country ballads, sad-eyed folksongs and rootsy rockers that explore everything from her upbringing in Minnesota to her bar-tending days at a Nashville honky-tonk. This is an album about heartache and hangovers, about boys and barstools, about looking back before you move on.

Kenny Vaughan -- acclaimed guitarist for Lucinda Williams, Marty Stuart, and dozens of other roots-rock heavyweights -- co-produced Love Letters, which was recorded during a four-day weekend and mixed entirely to analog tape. Other Nashville musicians chipped in, too, adding layers of pedal steel guitar and smokey organ to Harlow’s eight songs. On an album filled with top-notch players like keyboardist Jen Gunderman and drummer John McTigue III, though, Harlow is still the star, making Love Letters the kind of melodic missive you find yourself reading again and again.

“I came up with the title while we were tracking,” Harlow explains. “Album titles have always been the part that plague me; they have never come easy, but this one came out of thin air. Every song is a love letter to someone, whether it be someone who has passed through my life in an instant, or someone who has never left my side. There's a mix of sadness, with an undercurrent of joy and some sense of understanding that run throughout, much like love in real life.”

Download: Samantha Harlow