Tanya Gallagher : Carry Me Back To Old Virginia

Tanya Gallagher

Tanya Gallagher is as interesting of a person as is her latest EP Virginia. Originally from a small town near Pensacola along the Florida / Alabama line, Gallagher’s long road to Virginia started some 7 years prior to the folk record’s release.

Back in 2009 Gallagher moved from the Florida panhandle to Norfolk, Virginia for a summer to intern for NASA. To pass time in the evenings Gallagher began playing a small restaurant called the Pagoda. It was at the Pagoda that the singer-songwriter gained an affinity towards The Old Dominion State, as well as a comfort playing small gigs, a useful tool given the years that would follow.

Upon the autumn season Gallagher moved back to Florida to finish her Masters, where she would continue playing small gigs almost nightly to payoff her tuition. It was in University that the strange fortune of her advisor requesting that Gallagher fulfil their spot in the field for a week in Virginia, that her love affair with the state intensified. While filling the role of her advisor at their request, Gallagher spent considerable time playing music south of the Virginia state capitol of Richmond.

After taking a year off to pursue her passion of music (much of which was spent in Virginia), Gallagher decided (around 2013) to pursue a PhD in forestry. It was said that pursuit in forestry brought the folk artist to our fair city of Vancouver. Upon arriving in Vancouver Gallagher first penned the album Oh My Love.

Apparently fond of drawing inspiration from locales past, Gallagher does a good job on Virginia of conveying a solemn or longing emotive narrative.

The title track also being the EP’s opening song, “Virginia” serves as perhaps the most ‘catchy’ song of the seven-song batch. Gallagher’s cross vocally between a sullen Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell will resonate with any fan of the folk genre.

Having been written during the Christmas season of 2013 while back home on vacation, “Virginia” was written on her late friend’s old Martin guitar. Swearing that her deceased loved-one Dave Schlender whispered the chords in her ear, one gets a sense of just how in-tune and sensitive Gallagher is.

As a songwriter Gallagher is pretty sturdy and straight-ahead. It’s puzzling trying to identify Gallagher’s motivations when composing, perhaps simply a conduit to get to the point where she can address what she needs to vocally.

With a fairly straightforward tempo to the entire seven song Virginia EP, the record will never left-turn on you, or suddenly startle the neighbours.

Where Virginia excels however, is in lyrical content and emotive nature.

With Gallagher’s vocal delivery often as haunting as an unexpected whisper in the night, without a great deal of exertion or change in volume the resident of VanCity finds a way to transcend emotion to the listener. The longing and forlorn appreciation Gallagher has for the state and EP’s namesake has potential to have the listener look at Virginia with a renewed appreciation.

Lyrically beautiful, Virginia explores the melancholy that can often be found in the wake of life’s most rooting or blissfully soulful moments. Gallagher excels with her words, combining the Josh Ritter or Jeff Buckley-type honesty in her storytelling with the subtle but effective changes in her cadence.

Though at times Virginia can be a little too similar, for instance the transition from the “Monterey” to “A Farewell to Arms” where the latter picks up with a remarkably similar chord progression as the former. It is an odd choice of producer Brandon Hoffman to position such similar sounding tracks back-to-back on the EP. However, the effect that “Monterey” is actually repeating in one’s player is about the only decision production-wise, worthy of scrutiny from the clean sounding release.

Virginia serves as a very solid and emotive chapter from a person that becomes more fascinating the more rotations the EP is given.

Having hit the target on my one to three-track trial run of the artist, (thus deciding to write on her) upon the first full run-through of Virginia (weeks subsequent) the EP was largely overlooked. It was not until the second full run-through of Virginia, which effortlessly resulted in subsequent spins 11, 12, 13, (and so on) that Gallagher’s subtlety is truly appreciated.

Recommended for anyone that enjoys contemplative folk, or someone in need of a gentle and homely female voice lending a backdrop of soft-beauty to enrich a quiet tea at sunset, Tanya Gallagher’s Virginia is a must listen…Twice.