by Ryan Doyle Elward
You must expect that out there in the world there are bits of knowledge yet to surface that would change the way you view a given thing, and if you aren’t already aware, here is a one that will change how you listen to this album: Roan Yellowthorn, of which both project and album are titled, is actually Jackie McLean, daughter of the author of famed song “American Pie,” Don McLean.
A fact easy enough to discover, though nonetheless one that sports a few interesting connections that provide a richness in understanding and a unique experience of the album that make this item worth mentioning. First, they share the same meandering way of quilting stories in delicate form, possessing of both social implications as well as personal meaning. And also, consider how long it took Don McLean to even write “‘American Pie.” How long did it take? It must have taken quite an amount of time, since the events that are told in the song span at least the better part of a decade. Stand this next to the incubation period for the writings of Jackie McLean to emerge later into her life, in this album, all for the first time. Seemingly they both have the rare ability to sit on their material until it has reached whatever height or accomplishment that suits only themselves and not any other sort of industry demand or societal pressure. Especially since by this point she has other establishments on personal frontiers such as having a family and earning a degree. So, really, receiving this music probably best serves to be thought of as a thing that is precious, the act bearing a gift like quality in having being given to us at all.
Because half of what has been said already has been in relationship to her father and his career and considering the tendency for comparison, it seems likely that for these reasons alone one might choose to work under a different name. Perhaps simpler though and with less evasion it is within the beauty of presenting any work of art that you have the rare opportunity to showcase it from the character that overtook you to make that art in the first place. Even if that isn’t the case here, it certainly feels that way when you say aloud that earthy, friend of nature inspired name Roan Yellowthorn. Moments from “Fragment” fitting into the likes of other key heavy artists A Fine Frenzy or Dark Dark Dark, or Gabrielle Aplin. Now, pair that alongside Celtic themes and a floating, youthful voice and it is all suddenly consistent. And then not totally, either. While its content was not surprising, it is interesting and it is relevant and considerate of other’s positions in life, and ultimately about dealings with love and other people’s love and emotion, and that’s not always especially popular to delve into when you just could skip over it and stay on the surface. Not to say these aforementioned artists did anything of the sort, but, she just as well could have and done quite well presumably. Most of these songs come across as poems, or bits of prose that show a beautiful extension of concern for others that seems to be in a state of poverty in many other’s music as of late where theirs is about themselves and their own despair but hers is so much about others and their circumstances of woe. All of which bring a certain appreciation for putting the album out to a much greater height.