MAGNET’s #25 Album Of 2017: House And Land’s “House And Land”

The past has a lot to say to the present, but what you hear depends on how you listen. Singers/multi-instrumentalists Sally Anne Morgan and Sarah Louise Henson are tuned in to the harsh realities and uncertain hopes expressed by old Appalachian folk songs. They hear how gender and class can box you in, making economics as important as hormones when you’re deciding whether to stick around the old homestead or run off with a handsome stranger. They hear that no matter what shaped your choices, you have to answer for them. And they hear how the drones and dissonances that folk singers have been savoring down the generations have laid the groundwork for the tonal layers and timbral clashes of current avant-garde practice. Everything they hear goes into House And Land’s music, which is as rich and rough as the hillside topsoil under your feet after a renewing season of fire and rain. Just as the protagonists of their songs assert agency despite their circumstances, the duo achieves great variety working with two voices, some stringed instruments and a wheezing squeezebox. —Bill Meyer