I don’t think I’ll ever stop being enamoured with, and enraptured by, the power that music has to bring us together. It has proven time and again to be a precious golden thread connecting us, especially so in a period that has left us all feeling isolated. A song can provide the same solace or release to countless people thousands of miles apart, it can forever imprint upon your memory a sense of time and place for moments shared, and when everything aligns sometimes one song is all it takes to fall in love. In this instance all it took was one demo finding its way to the right ears to forge a friendship, and ultimately lead to this stunning collaboration. Zach Wood stumbled upon Anna Manotti’s demo for ‘Water’ (under her moniker Hollan), and after several years of listening to each other’s music, the two friends finally met in 2019. New ideas flowing freely, but unable to take their creations on the road, instead they decided to hunker down and record what would become Cowgirland. The rest, as they say, is history, and through such fortunate twists of fate we were gifted with this superb record.
The duo’s voices work together in such perfect harmony that it feels like they must have been destined to meet. Between them, the two singer/songwriters make this EP a wealth of glorious contradictions. The vocals on ‘Fire Escape’ are just the right amount of rough around the edges to add some real heart and DIY charm, yet the vibrant hazy atmosphere on ‘Water’ is nothing short of immaculate, how it shifts and flows formlessly around you like an ocean current. The easy-going arrangement on ‘Milk & Honey’ is gentle and familiar, while ‘Rare as Gold’ is as dazzling as its name suggests with its lush lap steel and intricate acoustic flourishes. But it’s the bittersweet feeling that pervades the entire record that proves to be its greatest strength. Most prominent on ‘Water’, the song that started it all, there’s a feeling of being lost and uncertain, reflecting on who you are and your place in the world. There’s something about this record that feels like admiring the aftermath of a storm in the golden glow of sunset and finding beauty in the wreckage; something about it that bids you to look at all the broken things, both without and within, in that same light. It’s easy to see how such a track could connect these two people, as I’m sure its message will connect with many more down the line.
Fans of Daughter, The Oh Hellos, Local Natives and early Bon Iver should check out Cowgirland out now.