Martha Scanlan’s long awaited third release, The Shape Of Things Gone Missing, The Shape Of Things To Come, is already being heralded as her best work yet. Given the beloved status of her first two records, that’s a tall order to fill.
The album is the result of a relative hiatus from the road; five years spent immersed in working and living on a 120 year old small family cattle ranch in a remote corner of Southeastern Montana. Tongue River Stories was recorded on location there four years ago.
“I thought I was stepping back from music and writing,” says Scanlan, “but when these songs came together I realized that I have been writing them all along. There’s a beautiful congruence in music and working with cattle and horses it’s all about the flow, finding the current in things. I was curious about how that would translate in the studio, how the landscape would come through.”
She couldn’t have found better company for such an endeavor; producer and long time musical collaborator Jon Neufeld brought fellow members of Black Prairie and the Decemberists, Dolorean and Amy Helm together into the studio for four short days. The record was mixed and mastered within ten. “We wanted it to be a live, improvisational and collaborative process, to really let the current of the songs be the guide.” The result is stunning. The gift of a great storyteller is the bringing of the listener into the story, and the story into the listener. It’s not just the words of the songs that provide that rare lasting transformative alchemy that has become so characteristic of Martha Scanlan’s work, and earned her the small loyal cult following that seems to be steadily growing. It’s the space between the words, the current of things, the sound of the place itself.