Growing up in a small town in the mountains, there isn’t much to do. On the melty June nights when we would finally be free from school and work, my friends and I wouldn’t go to concerts or movie theatres or bars. We’d climb into the car and drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was always a vicious fight for the aux cord. The aching blue night and jagged cliffside roads demanded a certain soundtrack. A specific atmosphere. Something that sounded like the Blue Ridge Parkway: vivid, longing, hypnotic. I wish we’d found Kelly McFarling back then. Her new single “North Decatur” would have been a perfect fit.
Got to know him/Every word in its passing
McFarling embraces a drifting, earthy texture in “North Decatur.” The song opens with gentle guitar plucks that carry through the rest of the song. A mandolin, played by Andrew Brennan, weaves over the guitar to create a yearning, emotive effect. It sounds like a meadow – the grass just barely trembling, the sky yawning and full. It feels like spreading paint across a vast canvas, watching the color sink into the lines of your palms.
All that I have/In the kitchen/Tap it out on the table/All that I have
McFarling’s voice is equally hypnotic. Her vulnerable tone and lush harmonies will remind listeners of Phoebe Bridgers, with a distinctly folksy twist. The banjos – which are played by Oscar Westesson – intertwine with the guitar, adding a swaying twang to the piece. Although percussion too makes a subtle appearance, the spine of the song is definitely in the vocals. McFarling’s voice is like cold water, sweet and cool and ever unfolding. This isn’t an upbeat song – it’s a song to drive in the dark to.
Painting light on the window/All that I have/My collection/Deep the habit, my memory
There is something relentlessly tender about the refrain of “North Decatur.” The line “all that I have” is repeated throughout to the point where it almost feels like a prayer, a gentle reminder of – what? Gratitude? Presence? Memory? The beauty of the line’s ambiguity is that it encompasses everything. The vocal rendition of the lyric mirrors this ambiguity, as McFarling’s tone seems both fond and longing. The following lines “my collection/deep the habit, my memory” builds off this idea of presence: it asks, what do I have and what does it mean now that I have it? What scars have I earned and inherited? What fortunes?
The closing section is particularly ethereal; McFarling’s vocals are winding, layered. This song made me want to go home, just so I could listen to it on a dark drive through the blue ridge.