Rachel Anne Goodman is a sensitive soul, a fact that becomes instantly apparent courtesy of the gentle strains of I Still Do, the first track on her sumptuous debut LP, California Morning. Goodman’s delicate demeanor illuminates each of these offerings, but to her credit, hers is a quiet caress, one that basks in sincerity and simplicity. These are songs that speak to real life circumstance, doing so with an honest expression that never comes across as pompous or pretentious. Rather, they focus on home and hearth, from the scenic splendor of Goodman’s home environs to the need to trust one’s feelings, and find faith in the fact that love can blossom anew.
Goodman enlists ample support when it comes to sharing her sentiments, with John Reischman (mandolin), Niamh Arian-Barry (viola, fiddle), Gerry Osborne (6 and 12 string guitars), Donogh Hennessy (guitar), Joe Weed (fiddle), Steve Palazzo (guitar), Dan Frechette (banjo, guitar), Patrick McGonigle (fiddle), David Thiessen (mandolin), Laurel Thomsen (fiddle), Missy Raines (bass), James Blemmerhassett (bass), Martin Ditcham (drums), William Coulter (guitar), and Mark Simon (fiddle) all contributing their talents. Yet even spite of this sprawling cast of musicians, the arrangements never come across as cluttered or convoluted. Rather, they stay true to the sweeter sentiments expressed in each of the quiet, contemplative melodies. Songs such as California for the Rain, California Morning, Where Did the Animals Go, and, in fact, every other offering that make up this nine song set, are so beguilingly beautiful, it’s all but impossible not to be wholly enchanted, even on an initial listen.
Goodman’s wistful melodies often bring to mind Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Nanci Griffith, and Kate Wolf, offering the same sort of immediate allure that earned those artists their individual reputations as the first ladies of folk. So too, this stunning set of songs effectively captures the splendor of those sweet surroundings that Goodman proudly calls home. Even when she veers towards contradiction and confession, as on closing track, Tell the Truth, Goodman’s eager embrace doesn’t loosen its grip. The music is so remarkably radiant and effortlessly engaging, it effectively leaves the listener immediately asking for more.
Goodman’s bio mentions that while she was initially intrigued by the burgeoning music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area, she retained her inspiration from traditional country, old-time, folk, and bluegrass music, all the while finding her muse through down-home desire. Time spent in Appalachia inspired her to produce a series of radio documentaries centered around female forebears that took root in America’s heartland.
These days Goodman performs with a pair of ensembles, The Coast Ridge Ramblers and Stone Circle, a Celtic trio that includes her husband, Steve Coulter. Regardless, one can only hope that she shares more of her own songs soon. Based on what’s heard here, any new effort ought to be worth the wait.