Title - 'Sweetheartland'
Artist - Hope Dunbar
For those unaware, Nebraska-based Americana-folk singer-songwriter Hope Dunbar will release her brand new sophomore album, Sweetheartland, on April 2nd, 2021.
Recorded in Nashville before the pandemic hit, it’s her second full-length, and it was produced by Zack Smith (one-half of the celebrated duo Smooth Hound Smith), Jesse Thompson, and Dunbar herself.
After growing up in Mission Viejo, California, and study abroad in Paraguay during high school, Valparaiso University in Indiana beckoned Dunbar.
She met and married her husband there and moved with him to a small town in Iowa, where she started singing folk songs with a new friend at public libraries, farmer’s markets, and fairs. Before long, she was writing her own songs.
A move to Nebraska provided the perfect quiet place to pen her tunes. Drawing from Simon & Garfunkel, Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Lori McKenna, and other inspirations, she developed a distinctive perspective, musically and lyrically.
Her debut solo EP, Woman Like Me, came out in 2013. In 2014, as a participant in the “RealWomenRealSongs” project, she wrote 52 songs, one per week.
The following year, Dunbar recorded an EP, The End Of Wanting, and was a finalist at the Kerrville New Folk Festival. She took second place in American Songwriter magazine’s lyrics contest early in 2017 with her song 'We Want.'
Three Black Crows followed later in 2017, and when it was released the album inspired positive comparisons to Springsteen’s Nebraska. The Americana blog Mother Church Pew cited her references to “dusty roads, endless fields and massive starry skies,” to which she adds layers of meaning through her “visceral authenticity and raw honesty.”
American Roots host Craig Havighurst extolled her “incredible language and truth-telling” in the Bluegrass Situation. Off-Center Views called it a “masterpiece.”
2. 'What Were You Thinking'
3. 'Woman Like Me'
4. 'John Prine'
5. 'Dog Like You'
7. 'The Road Is'
On an album as rife with Candor, resignation, craft, and New American Prairie-style resonance aplenty as it is with hopefulness, energy and a vast array of troubadour wonderment, Hope opens with the Spring-has-sprung, waking vibrancy of the title track and never looks back.
Next up is the harmonica-driven, free flowing, early '90s alt-indie vibe of 'What Were You Thinking' which she backs seamlessly with the yearning tone of 'Woman Like Me,' her ode to the Maywood, Illinois-native, and two time Grammy-winner, singer-songwriter John Prine ('John Prine. John Prine. I wish your songs were mine") follows, and then we get the upbeat vibrancy of 'Dog Like You.'
Indeed, Sweetheartland takes listeners om a journey through stories lifted from everyday routine and secret dreams, perhaps none more so than on the David Lynch-esque 'Evacuate,' which is followed by the quieter hipsway of 'The Road Is,' with the album rounding out on the mid-tempo, heartfelt storytelling of 'Dust,' coming to a close on the gently euphoric 'More.'
“My mission in this project was to fully realize my own strength and identity as a songwriter,” says Dunbar. “I gave myself permission to have fun, to be humorous, to be frustrated and intense, to be sexual, powerful, hopeful, and sad."
"As a small-town preacher’s wife, I had been kind of tentative with my identity on my previous album, Three Black Crows. It just felt unbecoming for me to express feminine, sexual power on a record."
"But I’ve always had a sense of rebellion, so this time I just decided to put that out there, along with everything else. Three Black Crows has the spirit of asking for permission, a feeling of tentativeness."
"My intention with Sweetheartland was to walk in and say, ‘I’m not asking your permission. I’m doing what I want to do. I am fully empowered, and I’m choosing to make this record.'”
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