On their latest release, signature harmonies are central, but The Early Mays have upped their game with first-rate arrangements grounded in old-time styles. Chase the Sun is a fine collaboration on all fronts with songs that range from traditional to modern in style, and from contemplative to barn raising in spirit.
On “Chase the Sun,” Emily Pinkerton, Ellen Gozion and Rachel Eddy showcase their song and tune-writing talents, as well as the debt they owe to North American musicians who have inspired them.
In the title track, Emily paints a picture of a dry, cracked earth where two people slowly begin to emerge from destructive patterns. Sinuous harmonic progressions, edgy fiddle and clusters of vocal harmonies bring the harsh dreamscape of the lyrics to life.
Little Pink, a beloved old-time song collected by Gerry Milnes, becomes a fiddle tune in the hands of the Mays, built around sweet vocals and stellar banjo by Ellen. Though simple in form, the lyrical and rhythmic detail of the song will have you listening over and over.
Mannington #9 tells the story of one of the worst coal mining disasters in West Virginia history that took place outside of Morgantown where Rachel grew up. It is a such an important part of her repertoire, that when she asked songwriter Keith McManus for permission to record it, he said there was no need to ask because “it was already hers.” The recording features Rachel’s powerful clawhammer style, droning harmonium (a pump organ used in Indian classical music) and solid, stacked vocal harmonies from the group.
The Mays have felt a burning need to share the new sound of the group since Rachel came on board in early 2016. Her strong voice and rock-solid instrumental chops have fused so well with Emily and Ellen’s songwriting and long-time love of traditional music. For Chase The Sun they returned to Broadcast Lane Studios in Pittsburgh to work with Lurch Rudyk (Sarah Harmer,
Kathleen Edwards) and send their songs through his vintage analog gear they’ve come to love.
The Early Mays love the camaraderie of the studio, the road, and rehearsals, and you can feel the gratitude radiate from whatever stage they are on, and from sounds of Chase The Sun.