Adam Remnant’s voice is one of the great instruments in folk rock. The former Southeast Engine leader sings with such a weary, weathered richness that a career in Americana was practically preordained. Two decades in, he’s built himself up a catalog with real character. He’ll add to it this Friday with his first proper solo LP, which is streaming early here all week.
Sourwood picks up where 2016’s When I Was A Boy EP left off. As a solo artist, Remnant has leaned away from the abstract literary and philosophical discourse that characterized his work with Southeast Engine and into more unvarnished personal talk. His album begins with the gently swaying “She Has A Way Of Finding Me Out,” on which he seeks salvation through vulnerability. “I want her to find me,” he sings. “I want to be found.” On the gospel-inflected groove “Giver Of Life,” he even addresses his wife by name: “Amanda, I need you more than ever/ Oh, giver of life, won’t you give it to me/ I’m not worried because I know you’ll be there for me.”
The album largely exists in that context, of family life in a small Appalachian college town. In “Ohio,” which serves as the climax of Sourwood’s second side, he seems to trace his entire path from heady undergraduate rocker to contented husband and father. Early on it’s, “Ohio, I’m gone with the spring and back with the fall/ The boy with the map no one can draw/ I thought you might still be a friend/ I thought you might take me in.” By the end it’s, “Ohio, break my heart/ Take me back to the start/ I still don’t know the difference between what I want and dreams/ But I think that I can finally tell the flowers from the weeds.”
One exception to this series of vignettes is “Sourwood,” the album’s title track and centerpiece. At seven and a half minutes, it most closely resembles the ambitious multi-part epics that dot Southeast Engine’s discography. Ryan Stolte-Sawa, whose voice and fiddle serve as Remnant’s foil throughout, leads the charge as the song’s sonic backdrop swells from straightforward roots rock to something more gorgeously grandiose. It’s a reminder that even in this settled-down phase, Remnant is capable of reaching for the heavens.
Below, hear Sourwood in full ahead of its release this Friday and check out Remnant’s Midwest tour dates.
08/18 – Athens, OH @ Athens Community Arts & Music Festival
08/25 – Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe
09/07 – Bloomington, IN @ Blockhouse Bar
09/08 – Louisville, KY @ Living Room Series
09/15 – Chicago, IL @ Burlington Bar
09/16 – Urbana, IL @ See You CD & Vinyl
09/20 – Athens, OH @ Stage Door Series (solo show with William Matheny)
09/21 – Dayton, OH @ Dayton Community Music Festival
10/13 – Champaign, IL @ Hogchute Opry Harvest
11/09 – Kent, OH @ Art House Kent
11/14 – Athens, OH @ Front Room Coffeehouse (solo show)
Sourwood is out 8/17 on Anyway. Pre-order it here.