The Golden West
Artist: Gayle Skidmore
Produced by: Raincoat Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Gayle Skidmore has been writing songs since the age of eight, amassing over 200 of thought provoking songs inspired by events in her life. Classically trained in the piano, she can also play over twenty other instruments, including the dulcimer, folk harp, banjo and balalaika. She has opened for such notable performers as Jason Mraz, Lisa Loeb, Sam Phillips and more and has recorded with The Softlights, Jason Mraz, Bushwalla and Tyrone Wells. An artist that delves in many fields, Gayle Skidmore also paints, bakes and makes origami (which also finds its way into Skidmore’s concerts).
In the spring of 2017, Gayle Skidmore released her twentieth independent release, The Golden West, a full-length album that also features an adult coloring book featuring pictures to depict each song. Finished only a week prior to her wedding which took her from San Diego to Amsterdam, The Golden West was perhaps one of her most challenging albums. According to the singer, “The week before my wedding I was still finishing vocals for the album, which was pretty insane…During 2015, I toured extensively, ending my last tour of the year in Eugene, Oregon. There I began an intense time of recording, fundraising, and gigging on the weekends. James Book of Ninkasi Brewing invited me up to record in Ninkasi Studios. We had initially planned to do an E.P. but we got a little ambitious and ended up recording ten songs.”
As soon as I listened to the first track of The Golden West, entitled Pale Ghosts, I was struck by the mystical vocals reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan. That thought process is helped along by the symbolism in the lyrics and the piano accompaniment. Pale Ghosts discusses burying the dead – as in the sad moments in the past, the loves lost, etc. – and moving forward in life. In fact, much of the album follows this theme, especially in the title track, The Golden West: “Let’s bury all we’ve put to rest in the Golden West.” Only Ever You is a heartbreaking look at love lost and the inability to let go of the memories. The victim of this emotional disaster can only repent for moments that will never be again. How to Let You Go is a somewhat angry version of the same, but in this case, the victim of the damaging relationship is asking for anyone’s help in telling her how to let go of this past lover.
But it is not all maudlin anguish over moving past demons. Moving On has an upbeat tempo, complete with banjo and talks of throwing back whiskey. In this song, the singer has made peace with her past and is celebrating life by moving on. This is one of three of my favorite tracks on this album – though I can honestly say that I enjoyed them all. Another great track is Hourglass, a sad song that reminds us life is too short and we should cherish moments we have with people we love before they are gone: “Don’t waste it. Don’t let it slip by. We are running out of time.” And my absolute favorite on this album is Beautiful Soul, a beautiful song in which the singer proclaims her love for someone special to her, proving to all that I’m a romantic mush.
Mainly folksy-pop with a little country mixed in, The Golden West was a great introduction to Gayle Skidmore for me. I enjoyed every single track on the album and have already listened to it five times now, having made it a part of the music I listen to while traveling back and forth to work. The music is terrific, varying in style and instruments, often containing those you don’t often hear in pop songs, like banjos, etc. The lyrics are intelligently written, thought-provoking and surprisingly memorable – I was singing along with the album after the second listen. The Golden West is a terrific album with music I wish they would play on the radio on the East Coast. I can’t wait to check out more from Gayle Skidmore!